High Song, Serious Play

Micky Allan's work, since I first knew it in the late 70s, has been open-faced. It is not always easy (though in fact it is rarely difficult), but it is never hermetic and never aloof. It almost always has an air of being for-the-viewer—a gift, a presentation, an entertainment. In this there is a degree of display and performance. The works typically offer a number of passages, of vignettes and of modes and sources. Their discontinuity and disparateness are part of their humour. Their presentation is guileless but is also a simulated ingenuousness (that is not deceiving, not faux naive disingenuousness): innocent, even daffy ideas are offered, to be entertained, tried for fit or feel. They are offered with mixed irony and belief, willed even. Valley of birds is my favourite in this regard. The birds seem almost to say Aren't we absurd, being here, like this? But they know they are winning, are too invincibly cute, and cannot be denied—just like the luscious evocation of Chinese painting—and of fabric, even—that occupies the amusingly uncertain space behind them. All elements seem to be stand-ins for the terms of an equation, something from advanced physics, maybe. Think relativity, chaos or string theory—and Tao. This tone, of serious parody, has been a facet of Micky Allan's work since the mid 1980s at least. I remember an early series of drawings of incredibly friendly, benign (sometimes benighted) space creatures that seemed to be appearing before one, dazed or beaming and saying 'hullo', or staring back quietly. Soon after came ambitious pictures with synoptic, 'large' visions in them—whales, configurations of the night sky, zen signs and tiny scenes of everyday life (Melbourne sky line, a cyclist pedalling past windblown suburban palm trees) all composed together, overlapping, neighbouring. Allan habitually utilizes, alludes to and mixes genre conventions: the picturesque, the Sublime, orientalism, Post-painterly Abstraction. Many in this exhibition invoke Sci-Fi fantasy art's lurid picturesque, offering both sides of the coin: a degree of banality and beauty. 'High Song, Serious Play' was the phrase used of that show I think. It remains an accurate description of Micky Allan's work overall.

Ken Bolton
Quietly, Infinity in the Everyday, exhibition catalogue, 2005