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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Michael Shannon

In their own words

Recorded 1965

Michael Shannon
Audio: 2 minutes

To me, it became increasingly important that the sort of pictures not only that I enjoyed painting that I felt were more, shall I say, less superficial were the pictures that derived their starting point, at any rate, from the lives that I lived around me. In other words, in a way one could take Van Gogh as an ideal here, who literally just painted anything that happened to strike his eye.

After a brief flirt with abstraction painting, I decided that that was certainly not the way I wanted to paint, and in the last four or five years, my style has been fairly consistent and my subject matter has been mainly drawn, as I said earlier, from the life I live round me. I walk around the streets, walk the dog, look at buildings, and I don’t consciously ever look for subject matter. There’s always something that strikes the eye and I think, ‘Yes, I could use that, I could use this, that might come into a picture’. I’m inclined to see these subjects possibly more visually than emotionally. I see them in terms of, almost as [though] they’re already framed as pictures. So, in consequence the way in which I paint is gradually getting, I think, at this stage any rate, more and more realistic, and so my style at the moment is what would be called in present parlance fairly conventional.

However, the subject matter as I said is mainly the local scene. I also paint portraits of the people of the local scene, the man across the street, the youths that ride past on their motor cycles, the people that tinker in the street with their Mini Minors. All of this seems to me a most marvellous and vivid world.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Michael Shannon is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

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Michael Shannon

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency