Berlin Manifesto

Written After completing a 3 month artists’ residency in Berlin March to June 2014

Some things I have learnt

1. I will again never apologize for using the male nude as the major subject of my work. In the history of art it has been one of the most important subjects across the Greek Roman and Renaissance times and through religious art in such subjects as the Crucifixion, The Baptism of Christ and the Resurrection.

2. I will go multimedia, go mixed media - keep drawing keep photographing but exploring video and written narrative

3. I will comment more on the process of what I do, demonstrate the process, play with the process, explore the process, subvert the process -make explicit the controversial and edgy aspects of my  work for example the sexual attraction, money, body image, exhibitionism and shame-overcome of the model procurement process

4. I will bring all my history, all my skills and knowledge from social work business and literature from whatever discipline I have worked into my work  

5. I will not be afraid of eroticism in my art but I will transform it into something more than porn! 

6. From now on my exhibitions will be different, they must include a performative element and a multimedia one. I must signal that I am to be taken seriously as a contemporary artist, even as I reference the history of art and religious imagery

7. Material circumstances cannot stop me making art, in fact often it is when I am living on the edge way outside of my comfort zone and with very few resources

that I conceive and execute my best work

o dome sublime

There is an excitement in  drawing a dome you take amazing risks making preposterous curves that cant be true but mostly workout there is no room for timid strokes or fuzzy outlines . If you commit the pen  you can do it ! my love for the dome comes form a lifetime in Melbourne where my favourite domes I have drawn and photographed include  the Exhibition buildings
the State library
former Howard Arkley studios Chapel street
and especially Flinders Street Railway station!

Model Behaviour Exhibition Berlin

Held at the Institute Cervantes in the Centre of Berlin this exhibition was the result of a collaboration between myself and 6 other artists selected internationally. .
These were

 Left to Right

Beth Dillon, Australia Peter Biggart USA, Amie Lin, USA, Michael O´Hanlon Merlin Carter Germany Raquel Nava  Brasil and Tomás Espinosa. Germany.

I collaborated closely with  the other artists contributing my knowledge of socio-drama and psychometrics in a performance as part of the final exhibition called Model Behaviours and held on 5th June 2014

Where does Art intersect with the Social? - the question posed by AFFECT in this first module with this group developed quite surprisingly, taking the residents, the facilitators and the team of Agora to unexpected results.
The artists, together with their facilitators took part in workshops, curatorial visits, walks, viewing art, talks and public activities. We danced together, shared meals, agreed and disagreed, worked through conflict and  found consensus in the time frame of 12 weeks to prepare Model Behaviours, this collective project presented at Instituto Cervantes Berlin and also produced  publication edited by Broken Dimanche Press.

 As a result of my time at Agora and contacts I made I also provided pro bono training and support to not for profit providers based at Agora seeking to engage with local disadvantaged groups.

On the night of the exhibition I welcomed guests to the exhibition and asked them to rate their level of social comfort  on a scale of 1 to 7 represented by 7 figures on a large chart. They were then reinvited to rate themselves at the end of the exhibition. People readily engaged with task and were grateful for the personal contact . I intended the performance to comment on the place of evaluation and measurement in art making and exhibiting- a theme that I constantly grappled with working with a small arts organisation but coming from a managerialist perspective

People really enjoyed the playful aspect of the process with one person coming back to rearrange all the postings into faces etc while I was enjoying a  glass of champagne !


Europe a state of remembering and forgetting

I have just come back from 5 days in Prague . Like Berlin the air is thick with Remembering and Forgetting .Unlike the Berliners their  decisions meant they kept their jewel of a City intact but there was a heavy price to pay
The young Czech guy who drove me to Prague explained that the then Czechoslovakia chose to acquiesce to Hitlers demand for Sudetenland which had a sizable ethnic German Population  at the urging of the Allies even though they had a strong army and industrial base on which to fight. In the end they were occupied and became a key part of the German war machine.

They also chose to become communist after the excesses of facism.
After the war all Germans were expelled from Sudetenland ,the Jewish community had dwindeld to 1% and the Czech Republic for centuries a place where all Europe met and traded is now more monocultural than ever before.

Every decision has a consequence that echoes throughout subsequent decades centuries and millenia. It is unacceptable for Germans to act in a way that can be construed as racist but so many immigrants tell me they are discriminated agaist personally and systemically and that Germany, unlike the US or Australia, does not allow for social mobility for immigrants even after several generations in Germany.

I suuggested an exercise that would allow people to confess the things they were gulity about and then be assisted to produce a Video to the German Chancellor asking for Action .

While the other artists and the curator were well within their rights to  question the subtlety and artistic merit of my proposal they went further and claimed that we artists as foreigners had no right to address such issues in our art
I objected  to the idea that artists should not be allowed to address such issues in their work and explained my proposal would give People the opportunity to identify their own issues and assistance to do something about it. I was also told that direct quotation of religous symbols such as the confessional were also not appropriate.

Here is a visual represntation of the act of Remembering and the many ways we try to Forget

Second Time Around

Michael what´s it like being on an extended overseas adventure the second time around ? You are 57 now and travelled the US and some of Europe in your mid 20s over 30  years ago.

I am attempting something more difficult this time living and working in a country where English is not the first language. Not all Germans speak English especially where I'm living which was in East Germany. As an older traveller you are much more invisible, the plus is that you can observe more closely what else is going on around you the minus is that it can be quite lonely in a city like Berlin where almost everyone seems young and beautiful. Physically I have to pace myself more-I can do most things I want to but it takes more effort and planning

  What are you learning about yourself this time around ? At the moment I am spending a lot of time alone. The residency has about 5 to 10 hours contact time and we see each other occasionally socially but I know no-one else in Berlin. My short term rental on my flat is up next week and I will enjoy some hostel living for a while- I loved living with Glendyr and the kids and don't really want to live alone ..and kids and animals are your best friends travelling as language is not a problem !

 Because I have always had a keen sense of injustice and with confidence coming from my varied life experiences, my qualifications and professional achievements I am more likely to pull people up if I think I am being treated without respect or care. This has mostly been successful -there was some assertiveness required at the residency program at Agora when I expected more support as the last person to join the program now I am beginning to feel comfortable and getting a lot from the experience. The residency is based in NeuKöln one of the most disadvantaged parts of Berlin with very high rates of unemployment amongst the Turkish community. Agora the place where I am doing the residency looks like a collection of 30 somethings running frantically in and out of communal workspaces to answer their mobiles, purpose unknown. I have a meeting tomorrow with a director to see what their relationship with the local community is like.

 This time I am travelling as an out gay man something I deeply regret that I could not do last time. It's not easier doing it as an older man. Any gay man can achieve a measure of sexual contact but intimacy is much harder. Is gay culture the only culture where it is possible to have sex with someone without even meeting them?

How is all this affecting your art?

I am definitely being influenced by the works I have seen in the museums especially the Holbein portraits in the Gemaldegalerie such as this Portrait of Georg Gisze of Danzig (1532).

I am exploring secular symbols through two shoots with men who are posing unclothed with items related to their passions -the first a trapeze artist posed with his ropes and harness, the second a DJ with his favourite vinyl and headphones, the third a young man wanting a career in architecture but aware of its potential for heartbreak

I am exploring the potential to see these images projected onto a ceiling- here is an example of how it might look

I have begun to respond to the fabric of the City.
Here is a small tribute I paid to the people taken away to concentration camps by the Nazis - their names are embedded in the pavement outside the place where they  lived in my street ,Kopernicusstrasse.

I left a grave light on these plaques because it is unlikely they will have a grave site and its even more an atrocity that they be robbed of the afterlife as well as their mortal one 

 I have begun drawing Berliner Dom the City's major protestant cathedral-its dome reminds me of Flinders Street Railway station in Melbourne - and as always I am doing life drawing mostly with models I organize myself

Textures of Morocco

Morocco is so vast and with such a distinct culture, I have been struggling with the right way to represent it. The Islamic prohibition on pictures of the body massively influences my options as generally people prefer not to have their picture taken I even experienced difficulty in photographing mannequins
I thought I would begin with some textures that reflect the enormous richness of geography and history of the country

every where you go there are cats but few dogs who are thought of as unclean by Muslims

Here are some of my favorite moggies
 finally here are a few mannequin pics part of my long running fascination with  these projections of our desires

the child image is from Qatar 

Berlin Residency: Social art making in Berlin at the Agora Collective

Happy New Year  from a very warm (42C) Melbourne.

I am applying for an artist in residence program called AFFECT at the Agora Collective Berlin

The application is in 5 parts -this post is to support my application especially with images of my work etc 

Why did Affect Program call your attention?

Germany is where the Reformation began and Berlin is the epicentre of Expressionist art from Max Beckmann and Franz Marc to neo Expressionist artists like Rainer Fetting today.  
Melbourne like Berlin is a city that constantly reinvents itself and has a rich and evolving urban culture.  It is the home of Australian Expressionism.  Australians are in a unique cultural position- although predominantly European we occupy a land at the opposite ends of the earth to Europe.

Gay men are also in a demanding position - while often culture makers we can experience isolation and oppression from mainstream society and religions.
After coming out as a gay man with children in my mid forties I have used art-making to make my own Reformation- reinventing my Catholic traditions into a contemporary approach to being a European in the Antipodes.

On a previous trip to Germany 5 years ago I was impressed with the sense of freedom and self determination of the Germans I met and the works I viewed at the Neue Nationalgalerie.

For the past three years I have worked alone in my studio and I am very excited about the prospect of close collaboration with other artists as well as the opportunity to be mentored by senior artists from several countries. 

A residency with Agora will help me integrate  all these strands together and take my practice to the next level, providing an opportunity to link my experience in practising and teaching community development more directly with my art making and with exposure to the international art scene

My definition of social art is art that is
·         connected with social or political change
·         collaborative with communities of interest
·         trans disciplinary 
·         interacts with the built as well as the natural environment
·         includes a component of research and interrogation of the subject matter
·          validates the individual’s right to experience deeply and to belong
·         examines hierarchies based on gender power race and money

As a qualified social worker whose consulting and teaching practice involves working collaboratively to improve services and achieve social change both my art and my community development has these dimensions. The Agora program can help me integrate these streams in my training and practice without sacrificing the quality or integrity of either.

A recent project I facilitated WESTANDPROUD that involved my social work students collaborating with a filmmaker contained each of these elements and I want to learn how  do more projects like this 

Describe your artistic way of working; what distinguishes you as an artist; what would you like to get from this program and what are you ready to share? 
My way of working

I write/ create in my journal several times a week and also use it to explore new themes in both my life and my art. I use the journal process to help me observe life more closely, to work out issues with my life, to cope proactively with change in relationships or work.  Journals vary from 30 -60 % handwritten text, the rest is drawing, collected materials including poetry or material I have photographed or downloaded and printed on my quirky inkjet printer and pasted in These journals have become works of art in their own right and were exhibited at Joel Gallery in January 2010.

Most of my figurative work is done in my studio in inner city Melbourne.

 Here is a video about my studio practice made by filmmaker Caitlin Bryan as a part of the WESTANDPROUD series establishing a queer archive for the West of Melbourne

Interview with Michael James O'Hanlon in his studio in November 2013 West Melbourne Australia  

 Work in progress is posted to my deviant art site where I currently have 3,249 images on line and where my work has been viewed almost 26,000 times.  Almost 300 other artists watch my work regularly and their feedback helps me select work to refine and develop for exhibition 

Recent exhibitions include both community based galleries such as the Joel centre that I helped establish and commercial galleries such as Red Gallery

My art interrogates the traditions I come from – religious cultural gender and political.
Sometimes just making images of men in a loving intimate pose is challenging mainstream assumptions - this image has had over 1300 views on line 

Drawing and photo montage are my primary art-making processes but I also have done installations, video, life drawing and run creativity workshops

The major motifs in my work are
The unclothed male especially as a metaphor for personal and political freedom

this image Bush Concerto is the most commented on at my deviantart site 
this image of freedom is also very popular

The Word made Flesh – historically the pre-eminent image makers for the Catholic Church have been gay men, Michelangelo Da Vinci and Caravaggio for example, and yet the Church continues to oppress gay men while relying on their services at all levels of the church 
My work aims to  uncover connections between a gay aesthetic  and the art of the Catholic church in the form of photo-montage of contemporary gay men using the iconography of the Church

recently I have begun to commission material  objects to explore these issues  for example this priest's stole made of leather and other items of gay fetish and satin  comments on the dual role of gay men in the Church

The mannekin for its commentary on body image and the nature of being human

see video at 

Melbourne grungeglam – an exploration of Melbourne’s urban architecture

Heartland – exploration of my family history and the rural heartland that surrounds Melbourne

I have work ready for exhibition in Berlin but I am also open to exploring new subject matter and new forms of art making

My artist Profiles are at

What distinguishes me as an artist? 
I keep making figurative politically aware art working from the traditions of catholic art in the context of an Australian contemporary art scene that values abstraction detachment celebrity youth and novelty

I am used to working cooperatively with a wide variety of urban professionals including architects city planners and librarians and have achieved success in related fields which I am now bringing to my art.

 My social interventions are a form of my art that involves intense team work and detailed planning for example I set up the Melbourne Multicultural hub that has more than 70,000 visits a year.

Another of my projects was was to organize a GLBTIQ archive for the western region of Melbourne so our role in the community over many generations could be acknowledged and to provide role models for people wanting to come out in this disadvantaged area 
Here is a link to the WESTANDPROUD website explaining how the project was designed and including two  short films documenting lives of GLBTIQ people in the western suburbs of Melbourne

I value both personal feeling and social responsibility
I have life experience which brings a humanist perspective to my art
I possess social research community development and business skills which add dimensions to my art 
I have a Bachelor of Arts, Melbourne (Australia) and Auckland (New Zealand) Universities, Bachelor of Social Work Melbourne University and a Masters of Business, Victoria University as well as visual arts qualifications.

I am ready to share
·         community development research program evaluation and Community engagement skills (see my company profile Eureka Community Development Services )   
·         Knowledge of group dynamics
·         Teaching and facilitation skills
·         Art-making skills
·         Ability to work with different disciplines and cultures
          (See letters of support FCAC and RMIT University sent by email ) 

Here is a list of selected exhibitions In Australia 

The Convent Gallery Daylesford Victoria August 2012
Selected Group Exhibitions
2013 Red Gallery Fitzroy North
2012 Pick’n’Mix Thousand Pound Bend Gallery CBD Melbourne
2012 GoWest Queer Culture Art and Stories Joel Gallery Altona
2011 Current 10: DUEL Roslyn Smorgon Gallery, Footscray
2011. GoWest Queer Culture Joel Gallery Altona
2010 GoWest Queer Culture Joel Gallery Altona
2009 Whole or In Part Footscray Community Arts Centre
2007 Big Brother BigSister Exhibition Dante’s Gallery Fitzroy
2006 Mis-en-scene Footscray Community Arts Centre,

Private Collections
Professor Martin Comte OAM
Irene Clarke Painter Melbourne and Berlin 

How do you intend to fund the program?
I have these funds at hand in savings but will apply for funding from the Australia Council and other sources –please note I am self funded and I can afford the program without government assistance

I am both an Australian and Irish citizen so I don’t anticipate the need for a Visa in Germany