“Art making is a great thing, you can get so lost whilst working on a painting, when you come back the next day, pause and look at it, you realise you’ve actually resolved something maybe by accident.”
Making art is a “battle” and an “exhilarating place” for Mickey Egan.
“I had a tumultuous childhood, a lot of traumatic things happened. Drawing as a child was constant, it was my escape or refuge. I always came back to it. Eventually it became the reason why I went to art school. Art is a form of escape, composure and catharsis,” Mickey says.
Mickey’s drawings and paintings reflect his love of the natural world, and his fascination with how landscapes can connect us.
A current painting ‘Seeking asylum (Figures in Murnong Field)’ is a large dream-like oil painting which featured in a recent exhibition at Geelong’s Boom Gallery.
In it, a man walks barefoot across a lush field, carrying an empty kettle. Ancient manna gums stand behind him, and two masked lapwings are nearby. Murnong, or yam daisy, is a native tuber that was an important food source for local indigenous people.
Mickey was inspired by the “rich and poetic, vast landscape” of the Modewarre hinterland.
“There is a particular field past Mount Moriac that I’ve been compelled to keep going back to, where I like to draw. There is a pocket of manna gums that predate European settlement. They are wonderful continual life forms, with thick, heavy, muscular limbs. They connect us to a very different time,” Mickey says.
Having recently read ‘No friend but the mountain’ by asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani, Mickey’s thoughts turned to William Buckley. Buckley was a convict who escaped from
Sorrento in 1803 and lived for decades with members of the Wathaurong tribe around the Bellarine peninsula and Surf Coast.
“The figure in the painting isn’t Buckley, but someone like him, walking into an alien new world, absconding, alone, yet being watched, whilst seeking asylum or refuge. We are all the same. We all at some point, need to seek asylum. Boochani’s book made me think about the plight of a modern asylum seeker, in contrast with the historic story of Buckley and how he was accepted and granted asylum by the Wathaurong people,” Mickey says.
Mickey can spend months on a painting, adding and removing layers to create a finished work.
“It’s not an easy process for me. It takes time, and patience. There is often an element of incidental occurrence. That’s the really mysterious part about painting for me – a painting can get a life of its own. Certain accidents happen and you learn things, you accept mistakes and let new things reveal and unfold, I guess there is a certain alchemy that comes with the process,” Mickey says.
While Mickey has always made art since graduating from art school, he has also had a successful career as an art director in the fashion industry. Now he is interested to further develop his passion for fine art and history teaching.
“During this pandemic, more people are embracing this notion of isolation, and exploring creative pursuits such as art, music and literature, not such a bad thing! I’ve always loved helping and mentoring people, and that’s something I’d like to do more of.
“I can teach technique, and how to understand line, tone, form, shadow, light and dark, and explain the importance of taking the time to observe and practice. But to learn how to make art, you need to be willing to make mistakes,” Mickey says.
“In this digital world that we wade through, with everyone glued to screens and devices, there is a richness that comes with the distraction of moving paint across a rough surface of canvas in real time.”
Story: Emma Homes. Photos: supplied