Under the Dome of Heaven Crete to Georgia 2019

Exhibition  by Eureka "Under the Dome of Heaven" Midsumma Festival 2020 

Venue: Tacit Galleries 123a Gipps St Collingwood, Vic 3066 Melbourne Australia
Dates: Wednesday 22nd January 2020 to Sunday 2nd February  
OPENING NIGHT Wednesday 22nd January 630- 8PM

Time: 11AM to 5PM Free Admission 18 Plus, Warning Nudity 

International queer artist Eureka is back at Midsumma to share his queer exploration of the male portrait and of the spiritual traditions of eastern and central Europe. His subjects include queer men who took risks to sit for his photography and drawings

 As he spent time this summer drawing churches and mosques in Greece Slovakia Poland Germany Georgia and Turkey, he became aware that most religions in the region do not accept queer men, Eureka began to ask “Who is included under the Dome of Heaven?   The exhibition comprises photographs and drawings in response to this question. Eureka was inspired by the Greek poet Cavafy, the Greek visual artist Yannis Tsaroukis and the Polish artist Krzysztof Yung and his work also pays homage to them in both subject matter and colour choices.  Expect to see something different, be prepared for proud male nudity. All works are for sale as one-off drawings or limited-edition prints

Eureka (Michael James O’Hanlon) is an 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. 

QUOTE: “I use artmaking to come out as a gay man, a continuing process to counter the assumptions of everyday life.
As a queer artist my mission is to find and expose those things hidden in plain sight for example the homo-eroticism in much Christian art.  In the world I am creating with queer men we proudly claim our place Under the Dome of Heaven

Under the Dome of Heaven is dedicated to persecuted queer people around the world


My meandering Summer of 2019 through Crete Athens Bratislava Berlin Leipzig Krakow Wroclaw Warsaw and Georgia the Country 

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbours you’re seeing for the first time;
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

C. P. Cavafy, “Ithaca” from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems  (Princeton University Press, 1975). Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Translation Copyright © 1975, 1992 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

C. P. Cavafy
This poem by queer Greek poet C.P.Cavafy has inspired me throughout my meandering journeys in the European spring and summer of 2109,  beginning in Crete with an artists residency with Julienne at Event Horizions see.Artist in Residence Crete

I had been in Athens the year before and seen some magnificent icons from Crete in the Byzantine Museum, their beautiful pinks reds and golds inspiring me to seek out a residency there. I learnt that Crete was run by the Venetians for several centuries and the ikon painters had synthesized elements of catholic and orthodox styles, the most famous being El Greco who grew up on Crete and worked in Venice and Rome before settling in Spain. 

Presumed self portrait El Greco

 There is some evidence El Greco was gay,  addressed in this entertaining podcast  El Greco Gay

I organized a few days in Athens on my way to Crete  and visited the Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation.   Yannis Tsarouchis, 1910-1989, was an important 20th-century Greek painter, whose work moved in two main directions: toward the orientalist and sensual, with strong influences from Matisse, and toward the ancient Greek ideal as expressed by the Renaissance and the Baroque movements, 
The foundation is located in Yannis' purpose built home and studio. While there are insufficient funds to house original works there in museum conditions you get a terrific idea of how he developed his work 

and the studio he built with an overhead skylight 

to produce these wonderful works of art 

So here is the dilemma I want to address in my work - the most important modern Greek poet and Painter are both clearly attracted to men and arguably the most important Greek contributor to Western Art was gay and yet the country is still governed largely by homophobic sentiments fueled by the Orthodox Church and conservative politicians

I want to start by copying some of the poses of Tsaroukis using photo-montage as the medium rather than painting . I discover he poses the figure most beautifully.

Julienne the Director at Events Horizon Crete artist residency found me a model Jean and I collect textures from the local landscape using the same palette Tsaroukis did.

 Here are some of the works in progress from that shoot

Tsaroukis arranges multiple figures in space, an ability I am working on since last years breakthrough piece of mine  "Nightwatch"

at times directly quoting  religious imagery and composition as in his modern Saint Sebastian using modern Greek soldiers not Roman ones

I have worked with a model in Poland to develop some multi figure compositions as a homage to Tsaroukis   These are works in progress and I still have many  technical issues to resolve

I am also exploring the nature of the Icon, how they represent an idealized masculine and feminine image.

My residency was about a queer exploration of the male portrait and of the Christian tradition.
with field trips to Cretan sites, drawing en plein air and inside churches, photography and life drawing. For more details about the residency see my Testimonial for Event Horizon
Left Greece for Berlin via Bratislava.  In Berlin I attended the Queering Memory conference

While in Berlin I undertook two photographic shoots at an East Berlin studio exploring portraiture and the expressive body.

I also visited the Schwules  Museum that had a m amazing exhibition of drawings and photographs  by Krzysztof  Yung a polish queer artist working in the 70's and 80' s in Poland during the Soviet Occupation 

Here is information about the exhibition from the Museum's site krzysztof-jung

The focus of our exhibition is Krzysztof Jung’s Sebastian series, inspired by Derek Jarman’s 1976 film. Saint Sebastian preoccupied Jung from the mid-1970s into the 1990s. Like Jarman, he was captivated by the male nude, by submission to pain. Jung’s drawings range from the most refined pencil hatching to feverish oil pastels, tender rose watercolours and precise ballpoint. But in his variations the surrender to death comes about without a single arrowhead. Death is passed over, invisible. As the human immunodeficiency virus raged in the West, first and foremost among gay men, the Iron Curtain shielded Polish homosexuals from it. We are left to wonder whether AIDS played a role in Jung’s Sebastian works. The only obvious connection is their contemporaneousness.

and some photgraphs I took 

In Leipzig -caught up with artist colleague from Seville Maria Kim who guided me through the burgeoning art scene and completed a photographic shoot with new model Sean
I then went to three cities in Poland Krakow Wroclaw and Warsaw.

In Krakow I visited the Jewish ghetto, in Wroclaw I explored the themes of identity and ancient heritage through photography of the live model, in Warsaw I visited the National Museum’s world class exhibition of Medieval art

In Georgia I stayed in Tbilisi and used it as a basis to explore orthodox churches and medieval monasteries in the region,

  I also drew and photographed 3 models.  t moving to Merisi in the Ajaria region i was living in a rural hamlet with a family of mixed orthodox Islamic tradition

Final stop was Turkey exploring mosques and churches and Turkish views of gender and the body

I am currently in Sydney completing work from this series to be exhibited at Tacit Galleries in Melbourne for Midsumma in a queer friendly nudity friendly space.



Last Winter my friend and neighbour 
loaded up his ute with the best quality red gum and we, together in a show of gay manly pride, created a stack of wood in my garden.... to last..
the rest of that cold winter
I was warm twice, knowing I was cared for 

In early summer he visited and I drew him in his hat,  no clothes,  his hat protecting his English skin from becoming pinker 

He was in fine form building his new home by himself 

At Christmas he was diagnosed with cancer

In February we have a quick word while his intended is shopping.   "No Regrets Thank You" he says

by March he had married his boyfriend 

Then he moved north to be cared for by his new husband

It is Autumn, winter is approaching I will soon leave for Europe
Each log I place on the fire I  reflect on how his,  and my days are numbered.
 I am still proud of our friendship but I know I may never see his face again 

I am leaving tomorrow. I ring a former neighbour who says  “he is dead”.  I had always hoped he would beat it with his huge personal and financial reserves
I have missed the funeral

At the last minute I pack the portrait I  have painted of him – I will take him on my adventures and live my life with no regrets in his honour    

A Gay Romance

For a long time now I  have been trying to write a gay romance.  Several years ago  I stayed with my son in a hotel in West Wyalong a country town in outback New South Wales Australia

There was a stand alone bathroom with a lockable door,  big green bath and a 1930s style pedestal wash basin.  I had an overwhelm
Image credit State library of Victoria 
ing feeling that two men had experienced a powerful love for each other in that place

I did some on-line research and came up with two characters Richard a former RAAF pilot and Tom a trainee doctor at the local hospital.  Here is how I have imagined their story, drawing freely on my own family history of being publicans and my childhood years in country towns in the late 50s and 60s .   feedback welcome


The Balcony Rooms
Tom had the sort of looks that men and women took to without being threatened by. He was a redhead and redheads have their own type of beauty.
Although he was only 5’7” he was well-built with strong calves and powerful hamstrings, the product of success in schoolboy tennis. Tom was a scholarship boy at Xavier who had gone on to do medicine. He had come to the town as a locum doctor and been made so welcome by the townspeople that when a medical officer position came up at the Base Hospital he had applied for it.
Richard was blessed with the trifecta- 6’2”, dark Irish looks with a high forehead from a hairline that was gently receding as he aged, celtic steel blue eyes  with the added feature of  lips that were a deep red .  Everyone noticed when he entered a room. Tom envied Richard his height –one aspect of good looks age could not so easily diminish.
 Richard was a pilot who had survived the RAF.  After Australia had been invaded by the Japanese in the last war the government had decided that every square mile of Australia would be mapped from the air. This hot but friendly town was in the middle of his patch, an area the size of Great Britain and Germany combined.

The Hotel had been renovated between the Wars in Arte Moderne style –in the streamlining of the facade only the corner suite had been left with a balcony.  As it was at the edge of the commercial district there were no other two story buildings to obscure its view of the river or threaten its privacy.
Bert the publican of the Royal Mail Hotel and his wife Mae had that morning left the small suite of rooms on the corner of the Hotel to take a house in River St.  After years of hard work the business was thriving and they no longer needed to live on site. There was a large bedroom with a wash basin, a sitting room and the balcony, facing the morning sun and providing a cool breeze off the river in the evening.
Tom asked Richard casually – do you want to get that corner suite together? Richard felt a wave of excitement and anxiety at the prospect rise up from his balls and put colour on his cheeks. He agreed- saying it shouldn’t cost any more than the sum of their individual rooms put together and would give them a table for their frequent card games.

They had met one unexpectedly warm day last October
 Richard was forced to make an emergency landing in the only straight and even place available – the main street of a small town some 160 Miles out. He pushed the plane to the side of the one horse and cart fire station, hitched back to town and waited at the hotel while the Department sent a mechanic and parts to fix his plane.  

One week later he was making the rounds of people in the bar seeing if anyone was heading out in his direction. Tom had just booked into the pub-he had purchased a V8 Customliner on the strength of his new job at the hospital and was keen to give it a stretch.
Bert packed them a couple of beers they wrapped in wet newspaper and Mae made them sandwiches.  They left around noon and soon found themselves warming up in the heat. About half way there they passed a deep bend in the river that Tom remembered from his locum.

Richard took off his war issue leather jacket and pants to reveal a long pale body tanned only from the neck up. Tom dropped his khaki shorts and ran quickly to the river – he duck dived deeply–looking down he could see patterns made by the sun on the stony bottom of the riverbank, looking up he could see Richard floating head down arms out taking in the coolness of the river. He noticed Richard’s manhood  was undiminished despite the cold water. Afterwards they lay sunbathing behind some large rocks, the beer the sunshine the cool water and the complicity of their nakedness slowly loosening their tongues.

When they arrived to pick up the plane the publican had opened up the front parlour and prepared them a large dinner of lamb and roast veggies. He had rented out a room to the Department mechanic and the paper from the nearest regional centre had even sent a reporter out to cover the story –all in all a better week than he had in a while. It was really getting warm by this stage -they went upstairs to the balcony drinking a Rutherglen red that the publican had kept from before the war and looking out over the wheat fields and the silos. When Richard had wiped the claret from his mouth with the heavy napkin Tom was reminded of the priests he had seen cleaning themselves up from the altar wine, before facing the people for the farewell blessings.

In the heat of that summer they stayed in Coogee on the beachfront in a hotel frequented by local service men. Tom had been surprised to find Richard had booked them into a double not a twin room – it was the only one available he had said..
Richard’s company gave Tom  a deep sense of hope, of feeling special that he was no longer alone His dark good looks promised oceans of reassurance – he knew Richard enjoyed his company as much as he enjoyed Richard’s. 

They decided Richard would speak to Bert about the balcony room. Bert had been in the navy in the First World War and the home guard in the Second.   Richard was a man’s man and Bert was fond of him.  He caught Bert in the mid afternoon –always the best time. Bert started drinking about 2 – reached his peak for the time between 4 and 6 when half the town drank at his pub –and spent the evening drinking with the boarders – school teachers, bank clerks and other men like Richard and Tom with no family in town and no wife to care for them.

Bert I was wondering about the balcony rooms now you and Mae have moved out – do you have any plans for them?

Clean them up a bit and rent them out.

Tom and I were thinking we could share some digs for a while.

He looked up at Richard with a slightly puzzled look and then said with half a smile on his moustache clad lip.

There is a double bed in there now Mae and I brought a new one. I will replace it with 2 single
In matter of fact tone Richard said
Don t bother Bert, it will be fine as it is.  We’ve been mates for awhile

Bert knew from his time in the Navy there were many ways men could be together-having someone special that’s what counted.

 OK that’s settled you can move in Saturday. Go and get Tom and we’ll have a beer on it before the crowd shows up

That Sunday morning was spent reading papers on the balcony while the church bells from each denomination pealed in the background.

Every morning Tom had the ineffable joy of lying in bed seeing his Richard washing himself awake at the washbasin, his lean body now developing a deep all-over tan. 

The Measure of a Man

Being able to judge distances mattered a great deal to Richard. He lived (or died) by this ability and others too depended on his skills – each moment he was awake he was constantly estimating distances.
Richard now liked to keep his distance from other men; preferring solitude to company that would get too close and then be lost to to him 
Richard had been sent home to Sydney from the RAF base in England. He was living in Randwick Barracks while he worked out if he would stay in the RAAF or find some other way to keep flying.
It was a brooding close-in Sydney morning with a low sky. He needed some exercise to keep to his flying weight.  The only thing he had to do all day was turn up at the officers’ mess at 1800 hours
Passing Randwick race course he could see the ocean a couple of miles away
As he walked he remembered the names of all those Boys he had lost. 19 boys from his home town had perished flying, boys he had swum with in the River in summer or played footie with in the winter. There were many others he had been close, to including the 6 members of his crew who had perished when someone else took his place in the final stages of the war
 One friend Jack, a handsome lad with shining eyes and black curly hair that escaped his helmet had shown him the letter they all had to write to their next of kin.  He remembered one line Jack had written to his mother “There is nothing like the element of danger to seal a friendship”.
 How hard it was to forget friends he had wanted to keep for his lifetime!
He remembered packing up Jack’s things when he had not come back from a mission over Holland, especially the rosary beads that had failed to protect him. There would be someone else in this bed tomorrow night.
Survival was a mixture of luck and skill – a lot would be killed in their first five missions before they knew how to defend themselves  but even experienced officers with medals to prove it were shot down.. They would all be in the mess together before takeoff, 8 hours later there were 35 missing  
During the war Richard had learned to just keep going whatever happened to those around him. He had been postponing his grief until he had the solitude to deal with it. Now he began to allow himself to remember - one name every 100 steps was his rosary of grief
 He was not done when he arrived in Coogee. Passing the convent school on his left and the faded apartments on his right he walked out onto the Coogee concourse
The concourse was a grand sweep of beach. On the left was the walk to Clovelly along the cliff tops, he walked right to the Sea Baths.
Paying Tuppence to enter plus threepence for a towel and cossie he pushed through the rusted turnstile. There was a European looking man sitting naked in the change room catching whatever sun he could find. Richard changed awkwardly under the stranger's gaze bending lower then he needed to when changing into his cossie and turning his back while he carefully folded his uniform
When he emerged from his dive he felt warm soft rain falling on his head and shoulders as the rest of his body enjoyed the cool foamy water
The day became fiercely hot and by lunch time he took sanctuary in the pre war hotel whose main bar faced the surf. As the cold beer hit his stomach he slowed right down and turned in on himself He noticed the tiles on the outside of the pub were red and black bordered on a mottled background, inside they were a cool sea green.
At 6 O’clock he was on the street. As he looked back he saw in the first floor window a man in a dirty white singlet with a roll your own hanging out of his mouth, gazing out to sea.
On the cliff-top he suddenly wanted to be one of the Boys again, to lie in a cool green silence where there was no more struggle.
With a practised eye he estimated to the nearest foot the height of the cliff and then calculated the impact of his body on the rocks – and pulled back from the edge. He knew there was a chance he would survive and become a burden.
A summer storm lit up the sky and he saw that he must leave the war behind him - He took out his pipe and the small fire in his palm comforted him. As the smoke filled his lungs it was both a benediction to those he had lost and a reminder he was still breathing when so many others were not and he had better make the most of it.

In trouble for arriving back late and worse for wear, the charges he was threatened with only helped him make up his mind to leave the Air Force