Author(s): Eureka (Michael James O'Hollaran)
Melbourne had one of the toughest pandemic lockdowns in the world. Unable to go to my artist studio, I found myself, on iso walks, enjoying the modernist influences of my neighbourhood Essendon, renamed ‘Essendonia’, especially the modernist gardens with bold-shaped succulents, flamboyant flowers and hopeful post war architecture.
I also turned to British Queer modernist painters, especially Duncan Grant 1885 -1978, John Minton, who took his life in 1957, the year I was born, and David Hockney born in 1937 and still making art.
These artists are all gay men and share a focus on the male figure, significantly, as homosexuality was only decriminalized in Britain in 1967. Their work is figurative, not abstract, with an innate sense of pattern often against decorative backgrounds, most famously seen in Hockney’s figures immersed in the sunlit swimming pool. These artists are my queer ancestors, affirming my obsession with men as subject matter and my textured and highly patterned approach.
Growing up in the 60’s, Australian codes of masculinity made anything floral strictly taboo. Inverting these codes, flowers are a key feature in these works. Sometimes enormous flowers engulf the male figure or are floral backgrounds. Or the flowers form regal headdresses, reflecting the double meaning of ‘corona’ as Latin for ‘crown’. Or flowers are wielded as tender tokens of a liberated masculinity. The flowers accompanying these male nudes point to a masculinity and sexuality that is both earthly and heavenly, sensuous and holy, pleasurable and mystical.
The six-month lockdown gave me time to do 4 COVID-19-adapted photoshoots and 22 online life drawing sessions, and return to thousands of past photographs to develop new ‘second chance’ works. In returning to these photographs, I felt moved by the trust life models have had in me, including a trust in what I would create with their images.
Enjoy your queer modern voyage into Essendonia.
Initially trained as a social worker Eureka began as a visual artist using photography to put his drawings and collages work on line. This has evolved into a fascination with story-telling using multiple layered photomontages.
Eureka uses art-making to come out as a gay man, a continuing process of countering the assumptions of everyday life. As a queer artist, his mission is to find those things hidden in plain sight, such as his exploration of the homoeroticism in Catholic art. He likes to create new possibilities through his art, imagining a future freer and more inclusive than the present.
For the past 5 years he has had a studio at the Abbotsford Convent but when the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, he has worked mainly on-line and from his home in Essendon, a mid-century suburb of Melbourne Australia.
He has completed artists’ residencies in Berlin in 2014, Venice in 2016, USA in 2017, Spain in 2018 and Greece in 2019.