Capturing a moment in time in Canberra

26 Sep 23 | By pp-admin

At this time of the year, when those out cycling are dreading swooping magpies, there’s a local Canberran who looks at them with a different mindset.

And that’s the mindset of an artist whose aim is to get rid of the ‘Canberra-bashing’ and show the real Canberra.

Michael Ashley, a born and bred Canberran who – unlike many who won’t cross The Lake – has lived and worked across the territory, says  “Artists are observers and you can use your art to make a comment and tap into a point in time”.

“What I try to do in my art is take things I remember about Canberra and that people will relate to – some are transient and my artwork can be a memento. I guess I’m a bit of a quasi-historian, sometimes showing Canberra as it was, and tapping into some of the institutions we’ve lost but also recording things that are new” comments Mick. An example of this is his Attack on Northbourne (pictured) showing how Northbourne Avenue looked before the light rail.

Having lived in Canberra most of his life and with that sharply observant artistic eye, it didn’t take long for Mick to make Canberra his art niche.  “Take coffee shops for example” says Mick, “ looking at those, leads to bicycles and Canberra is good for cycling so that led to me creating a lot of cycling related artworks.” Although he does also suggest that MAMILS – middle aged men in lycra – are too shocking and scare the kids!

Mick has been creating his distinctive art for around 13 years and says there is still so much to explore in the urban landscape and with our birds and animals.  What’s important to Mick’s art is finding “the evocative, satirical and very special and quirky Canberran sense of humour.” He points out that the ordinary can be different – for example, a bike in front of the Lyneham book shop has a Parisian-like reference, but is quintessentially Canberran.

In his observations, he has found many scenes that are typically from Canberra. “It doesn’t need to have Parliament House in it for it to be obviously of Canberra.  Floriade is a good example, as are our flocks of cockatoos and corellas. And of course, our cycling obsession.”

Mick is about to launch his 2024 calendars – which naturally has cycling covered and includes a classic magpie-cycle picture – at Paperchain at Manuka today.  You can check out all his artwork here.