Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vale Michael Callaghan

It is with great regret we note the passing away of the Australian artist Michael Callaghan (1952-2012). We were very proud to have been associated with Michael, staging his exhibition, The Torture Memo, in 2010. The gallery was looking forward to presenting his second solo exhibition in November this year, 2012.

It was an honour to work with Michael; a searing intelligence who applied his life to the creative arts in Australia, pushing the cultural envelope into political action.

Many will know Michael fought with illness and pain for the last 20 years, yet it was still a shock to learn of his death.

It was a privilege to attend his wake in the small Southern Highlands town of Exeter where amazing creative Australians gathered from as far as Darwin, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney to honour his life. Born in Wollongong, Michael, when a young teenager, discovered with his school friend Philip Batty the interventionist possibilities of Dada. Together they explored the underground art/film/political scene of Sydney and even did an art performance at the launch of the seminal book on Australian artists: ‘In the Making’.

From being a student at the National Art School, Darlinghurst in the early seventies through to his involvement with the Tin Sheds at Sydney University, Michael is remembered as having a sharp sense of design and style and just as sharp sense of literature and politics.

His political posters and campaigns for the Earthworks Poster Collective and Redback Graphix are now firmly placed in the collections of Australian cultural institutions.

In 2010, after a fellowship at the ANU, we staged the exhibition The Torture Memo: Recent Works, which was both beautiful in its style, finish and attention to detail as well as being confronting with its raw exposé of the Iraqi War.

I will remember it as one of the highlights of this gallery’s history.

The gallery’s association with Michael was to continue this November, 2012 with another solo exhibition of new work.  This time more three dimensional sculptural work was envisaged with the overall theme relating to the huge multinational armaments industry. Like all his work, Michael was researching in minute detail the labyrinth-like and brutal world of arms trading; guns and money.

The gallery, with the imprimatur of his wife Bronwyn Barwell, has decided to proceed with the exhibition, but now we will ask a number of Australian artists to contribute work based around the themes Michael was developing.

The opening will be Tuesday night November 13, 2012 - see you then. 

Damien Minton

Michael Callaghan in 2010 at Redfern