Travels without my Aunt

Naomi Cass

Travels Without My Aunt is a procession of images and styles that points towards a precarious journey by the author and the notion of authorship itself. The journey is precarious because like a traveller the viewer must abandon cherished landmarks, such as homogeneity and unity of style, for the challenge of a new world.

This series is tooled with a multitude of images and styles yet Micky Allan works not as an archivist or a pop artist but as a Dilettante. The new world in this case is a daringly lateral and female evocation of what we already know. Familiar images here range from the corny to the exotic. Threads exist between the works in the iconography of cities and sea, in symbols of civilisation and of religion. But some sense of impending doom also emerges, surprisingly not from the many images associated with death and the afterlife, but from the questioning of authorship and style. This approach ultimately unifies the exhibition. So many copies, so many fakes, the artist locates the vulnerability and fallibility of style. But where is the artist's signature? Signature, like unity, is found in the imaginative space that exists in the wake of her journey; in the delicate placement of unlikely images together and the caring revision of their original meanings.

Travels Without My Aunt is contiguous with Micky Allan's earlier series. Varieties of media and style such as painting and photography were embraced with an enquiry into representation. This series differ, however, from her more recent work by the detachment of execution and a return to precision of theme.

In an attempt to find a more effective expression of a range of emotions, the artist has reintroduced rigorous content into her work. Titles and symbols more than playfully allude to the confluence between science and intuition and the discourse concerning the theory dependence of observation.

The corny and the cute are embraced as useful and expressive devices. Larger meanings are sought from weary images in an attempt to account for the extremes of spirit. The artist almost abandons the original meanings of the images to merely lend their significance in her work - grand themes and styles are fragmented and media are switched.

I Clutch My Ideas (catalogue No. 6) as I travel and I clutch my ideas as I make and view art. This work is reminiscent of a kitsch travel poster or perhaps the author's confusion, or even the island of the dead with boatmen ferrying souls and a funeral procession. This could be a parody of the Baroque or of eighteenth century Chinoiserie wall decoration with the characteristic absence of perspective and multiple foci and viewpoints scaling the wall.

In the nineteenth century, to copy was more than an academic exercise, to engrave from a travel sketch or travel description was to advance knowledge, as does Micky Allan when travelling without the authority of the usual prescriptions for art. Joseph Dufour wrote on the significance and function of his series of panoramic wallpapers Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique, 1804, loosely based on descriptions of Captain Cook's voyages and designed by Gabriel Charvet.

"This decoration has for its object the idea of making the public acquainted with peoples and lands discovered by explorers of the present era, and of creating, by means of new comparisons, a community of taste and enjoyment between those who live in a state of civilisation and those who are at the outset of the use of their native inielligence.1"

Naomi Cass, 1985


1. Historic Wallpapers In The Whitworth Art Gallery; Clare Crick Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester, 1972. p. 11.