An Aussie twist on old masters

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PRINCESS ANNE, a corgi riding side-saddle behind her, rears her horse; the hounds are off, and the hunt is on.

Acclaimed Queensland artist Melissa Egan’s art is part realism/part satire and sending up the Queen’s daughter was meant to have been just one of a number of royal-themed pieces.

“[But] after one princess I thought, ‘I can’t do any more’,” she told the Voice.

Instead The Good Life is an eclectic mix of people, scenes and animals. Dogs feature prominently, which was no surprise as Egan’s four-legged friends were in her studio for a chunk of the time it took to paint the works.

Her oils and acrylics on linen have a surreal, olde world look, with timeless themes that could be Australia today, or the UK a couple of hundred years ago—except perhaps for those with planes and cars in them.

The colours are sensuous and romantic. “I’m influenced by Renaissance art…[but] I like to blend with contemporary themes.”

Lady and the Quokkas could be Lady Caroline Lamb at table in the 18th century, except for the quokkas cavorting amongst the wine, cheese and grapes, thanks to a visit to Rottnest last year.

“I always put elements of Australian wildlife in my paintings,” Egan notes.

Once in painterly mode nothing exists for the artist outside her studio.

“When I work, I work, it’s lockdown. I don’t leave the house for months.”

Egan’s career spans more than 25 years and her works can be found in private and corporate collections nationally and internationally.

Her style has morphed over those years, a process she says is necessary to any successful artist.

“You become complacent if you don’t try to stretch yourself. Every day you develop your technique more.”

A finalist in a multitude of art awards throughout her career, Egan was in the final count for the Archibald Prize last year, for her portrait of Australian artist Charles Blackman.

Portrait painting really “stretches” an artist, she says. “Doing a face for months, not moving on. You can focus. You start looking more than seeing. You see things differently when you really look.”

The exhibition title, The Good Life, reflects the Australian lifestyle, Egan says.

“We are pretty fortunate in Australia, we live in paradise.”

It’s on at Linton and Kay Galleries, 137 St Georges Terrace, Perth, until June 6.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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