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