Anubis, swathed in bands of Egyptian gold, journeys across time and mountainous terrain from the land of those living to the Afterlife. His figure is silhouetted against a scene from the Algerian war, an ancient silver-point etching bought by a traveller on the banks of the Seine.
Shipwreck. A journey gone wrong. Death by drowning. The navigator has lost his way. "I hardly had eyes to look up when the seaman told me she was sinking ... my heart was as if it were dead within me, partly with fright, partly with horror of mind, and the thoughts of what yet lay before me."
Detail of a Renaissance Landscape. Copy of a postcard. "The path climbed on. Soon it bent again and with a last eastward course passed in a cutting along the face of a cone and came to a dark door in the mountain side."
I Clutch My Ideas. The attempt to chart one's course, find one's place. Things are every which way. Is the destination Melbourne, Paris, Venice... ?
A Place in the Shade. A place of pure magic where the senses run free, where spells are woven whilst the golden moon rises in the sky.
Like every traveller's inevitable pile of picture postcards or photographs, Micky Allan's Travels without my Aunt captures memories, impressions and images in a fragmentary and idiosyncratic fashion. The shift in style and appearance between the images is startling. But there is an underlying theme in this discontinuous and broken narrative: it is the theme of journey across time, terrain and water, across the history of art, and the boundaries dividing the original from the reproduction. It is this which accounts for the pervading sense which flows throughout this disparate work, of movement and the passing of time.
In some senses, the series can be seen as an intensely personal work reflecting in a non-expressionist manner an artist's private journey through life. But Allan's eclecticism and her appropriation of images points to a much wider condition within contemporary art: of a world flooded with reproductions, where originality is a myth but where the artist's creative freedom is found in an ability to construct and invent, to spin a story or to weave an open-ended and multi-layered narrative. Distinctions between the "false" and the "true" are dissolved and there is play with deceit and invention. Direct copies (forgeries?) of antique engravings, postcards and paintings both contemporary and old are placed in an equal relationship to works of pure fantasy where the artist acts as poet and visionary.
It is in the capacity as poet that Micky Allan builds a complex fabric of meaning in her art, leading the viewer on a journey through her work. The path is a circular one with no beginning, no end, no point of departure or place of arrival. Despite the diversity of images, each has been chosen with keen consideration for the way in which it contributes to the lyricism of the whole. Meaning remains elusive rather than fixed, but the viewer is left with an unerring sense that there is meaning there to be found.
Travels without my Aunt Catalogue, Melbourne 1985