Eureka (Michael James O’Hanlon) is an Australian artist and queer activist who has completed artists’ residencies in Berlin in 2014, Venice in 2016, USA in 2017, Spain in 2018 and Greece in 2019.
I studied at Footscray Community Arts Centre Melbourne from 2007-9 achieving a Certificate in Further Education Art Studies and also have an Arts Degree, a Social Work Degree and a Business Masters. I am a professional Member of the National Association for the Visual Arts (Australia) and teach art in Melbourne Sydney and at festivals and workshops in regional centres. I am fascinated by photography as a basis for telling a story especially through photo-montage.
As a queer artist my mission is to find those things hidden in plain sight. I use artmaking to come out as a gay man, a continuing process to counter the assumptions of everyday life. I like to create new possibilities through my work imagining a future freer and more inclusive than the present.
I have been an activist from my teens when I ran 4 youth groups in a disadvantaged part of Melbourne and then began work as a social worker at the age of 20. Everyday thousands of people use public buildings, libraries, aged care centres and childcare centres I commissioned on behalf of the various local governments I worked for. When I came out a gay man in my early 40s married with children, I used art, particularly collage, to construct a new identity for myself. Now I have retired from full-time paid work I can make or teach art full time while pursuing my activist agenda of creating a freer more equal world – a common thread through all these years is my commitment to social change – working with many groups over 40 years including queer people, people with mental illness, people with disability and their carers, low income communities and disadvantaged cultural groups.
My process involves
- regular life drawing of the nude male figure – it is the foundation of all my art making
- sketching both indoors and out where I learn about local textures colours and light effects.
- regular journaling -I write and sketch in my journals which then become themselves a work of art. A selection of my text and image reflections are available on my blog blogspot.com.au
- attending residencies in various countries to broaden my understanding of art and culture and to develop concepts for exhibition
- recruiting and photographing amateur and professional models
- Digital processing of selected images including construction of photomontages
- posting works in progress on social media platforms for feedback and networking with other queer artists and models
- printing, framing and exhibiting selected works
Here are three of my works:
This piece (Colbinabbin Pieta) was shortlisted for a queer art award being a finalist in the Australia Post Midsumma Art Prize 2018. It is a very personal work about my return journey to the town of Colbinabbin in Central Victoria, Australia where I spent my early childhood.
It is about the dark things that happen in small country towns.
There are four layers of meaning to this work, a photomontage.
The first layer refers to the two male figures, sportsmen form opposing football teams. They belong to a sporting code Australia Rules Football that is deeply homophobic, a code where no player has ever publicly acknowledged being gay, so just posing two footballers in an intimate pose is transgressive. It also has a Romeo and Juliet quality of star-crossed lovers
The second layer is a religious one, a pieta is a pose usually associated with a dead Christ being held by his mother and /or disciples. Queer people in the Australian countryside have high rates of suicide and depression – homophobia has tragic consequences for queer country folk
The third layer refers to the pedestal the figures are placed on, it is the faded sign on the local store I used as a child. The sign- which used to read “Boomerang” located inside the graphic of a Boomerang is a typical example of how aboriginal culture has been appropriated by settler cultures- I used this layer to provide the blood on the pieta figures and to refer to the bloody history of colonisation of indigenous people in Australia
The fourth layer refers to the secrets of seemingly idyllic country towns. As a child I was sexually abused by a much older intellectually disabled boy who no doubt abused many others. As a victim I was blamed for this event and nothing was done to stop the perpetrator. The early abuse delayed my coming out as a gay man and has had a profoundly negative affect on my ability to achieve intimacy with men, the pieta therefore artistically represents my own sorrow and the sorrow of all those suffering child abuse.
More context of the work can be found at https://eurekamichael.blogspot.com/p/journe.html
This work (Cubist Portrait East Berlin) is about the male portrait and about Internet censorship and my hashtag #sorrytohidethepenis
This work was taken in Berlin part of a portrait series recently exhibited in Melbourne exploring other ways to conceive the male portrait, influenced by a Central and Eastern European aesthetic and a commitment to making oppressed queer groups more visible.
I developed the concepts for the exhibition during my residency at Event Horizons Crete. While the uncensored work was shown at my Melbourne Exhibition, the censored work was shown on Instagram part of my ongoing campaign of disruption and resistance to the puritanical censorship of the Facebook/Instagram monopolistic regime #sorrytohidethepenis .
As a queer artist my work is frequently denied opportunities for display I have given examples of this on my blog at https://eurekamichael.blogspot.com/p/fighting-for-artistic-freedoom.html
Eureka has also kindly contributed a video piece/performance titled Video of Performance and Opening Night Scarlatta Midsumma Exhibition 2017.
Please view the work on Vimeo at >>> https://vimeo.com/210892074
This work was filmed at the Abbotsford Convent Melbourne where I have my studio a former convent and girls’ reformatory and now Australia’s largest multi arts precinct
Credits include: Artist Director and Visual Artist Eureka (Michael James O’Hanlon) / Audio and Video Production Conor O’Hanlon and Marcus Salvagno / Performance Development and Production Kris A Tremellen / Exhibition Curators Domi Córdoba and Angela Hernandez / Exhibition MC Rev Dr. Michael Bernard Kelly Catholic Activist and academic / Performer Nathan Smith
SCARLATTA, in Venetian dialect means an object or woman of great beauty
This exhibition celebrates our desires, carnal spiritual and artistic that persist despite every effort to suppress them. Conceived during an artist’s residency at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice in 2016 Scarlatta juxtaposes images suppressing freedom with those celebrating it.
Curator Domi Córdoba wrote about this exhibition
“Scarlet, the colour of the heart, interrogates notions of both shaming and religious authority. Back from his 2016 summer Venice residency, Eureka poses the unclothed male figure within Tridentine visual dialectics, exploring tensions between the carnal and the unearthly, veiling and unveiling, exclusion and acceptance and male and female identities “
More information about the exhibition and performance at eurekamichael.blogspot.com.au/p/scarlatta-midsumma-2017
COPYRIGHT: all works are copyright Michael James O’Hanlon known as the artist Eureka.
To explore more queer contemporary art please visit www.balaclavadotq.net.