On a Clear Day

Christina Balcombe Davidson

"I wanted to honour the forces and rhythm of nature, their constant flow of transformation and change and the mysterious order deep within apparent chaos, with which I felt in dialogue, co-creating my life." Micky Allan, 1991

The French artist Yves Klein is said to have meditated in the gallery for some hours before the opening of his 1958 exhibition Le Vide. The space which was to all immediate appearances empty, was in his estimation filled with the substance he named Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility, the mainstay of his practice. In some of these brilliant new works by Canberra based artist Micky Allan that iridescent ultramarine Klein named International Klein Blue, lights skies and beats torrents of rain. Whilst Allan has long aspired to represent infinity in the everyday, these works do so in a far more direct and physically embodied way than in her previous work. Whereas Klein meditated in his gallery space these are very material and direct works. They appeal to our eyes as well as to the inner eye and heart, to a felt sense of their energy and ambience. These are paintings about opening our eyes. About opening to drink in the fullness of the immediate moment and the brilliance of the world before us.

Centred geographically around both Uluru, at the country's physical heart, and Canberra, it's political centre, these landscapes are virtually devoid of human presence. Humanity features here only indirectly, implied by the shimmering lights of a city in the background, by cars circling in an evening sky and by those very concrete yet mysterious satellite dishes scanning the night sky in Violet Night. Echoing here through the darkness the satellites speak silently to a universe alive with colour, energy and a deep stillness. Like other works in the exhibition, Evening, or the etched glass panels of night, this is a deeply silent picture. A hymn to the rhythm of nature and its enormous abundance, today usually only visible in such fullness in remote preserves. In this universe humanity remains but a small presence, one part of a larger whole.

In earlier works Micky Allan has often focused on the everyday and on representing life cycles of birth, maturation and decay. This was evident in the hand painted photographs and installations, which first put her art on the national agenda in the 1970's. The human life cycle charted in the photographic series Babies (1976), Prime of Life (1979) and Old Age (1978), and the family line reproducing itself over time in The Family Room (1982). In The Live in Show (1978) Micky Allan physically inhabited the gallery space for a two week period. This early impulse to represent the everyday world and human life cycles owed much to her involvement in the burgeoning women's art movement. Later as she moved to painting in the 1980's, exhibitions including Travels Without My Aunt (1985) and Places in Space (1988) incorporated diverse iconography and an increasing employment of spiritual symbols from different cultural contexts, as in the major 1990 installation For Love of the Divine, at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

These current spare, landscape pictures, mark a new era and are very much works of the early 21st century. Humble and exultant pictures made against a background of darkness in the world, they sing out a message of celebration and hope. Of the spirit embodied within the material world, in its teeming alive fecundity. The eternal is alive in the present through the cycles of life reproducing themselves, generated by rain and sun and moving through Dawn, Midday, Dusk and Night. As with the experience of a natural childbirth, that most physical and immediate of encounters with that which is larger than one, this exhibition celebrates the incongruous wonder of the spiritual within the material and everyday - that is, the numinous.

On a clear day you can see forever.

Christina Balcombe Davidson
Quietly, Infinity in the Everyday, exhibition catalogue, 2005