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Wholey Cow > Alan Healy

"The Land" exhibition at The Milk Factory Gallery


Artist, Alan Healy, is exhibiting his unusual collection of works at The Milk Factory Gallery this month in the Southern Highlands. Estelle Pigot asked curator, Shirley Becke, about Healy’s retro rustic pieces featuring trucks, tractors, tools and the ever-present, recurring cows in his latest show, “The Land” .

This is the second Alan Healy solo exhibition at The Milk Factory Gallery in Bowral. The gallery has received a continual flow of enquiries for his art over the last three years, so he didn’t need to ask twice when the artist mentioned he would like to show there again. “Alan approached us to exhibit his works in 2010 and we were thrilled to have them as the ‘cow’ theme is always popular in the Southern Highlands.”

Healy’s painting also play on a rustic sentimentality for tools and machines.  “His work has a retro feel about it,” comments Becke. “Alan’s tractors, cars and tools are very reminiscent of the 1950’s and 60’s with the painting of a Bedford truck, a Morris Minor car and a Ferguson (Fergi) tractor as well as a 50’s style caravan, a hand drill as opposed to an electric one and a variety of spanners and wrenches.”  Becke explains that in his more recent paintings exhibited in this second show, The Land, Healy borrows from the Pop Art tradition with playful speech bubbles that burst from the mouths of characters in his paintings. “The wording can be read in a number of different ways and also has a humorous meaning to them however the theme of the cow is still central to the work.”   Of course, the ever-present motif of the cow.

The connection between the history of the gallery and the subject matter is not lost on Becke, “his style and subject matter is appealing to our audience. The theme is well suited to a former milk factory.”   Becke says the enduring appeal of the cow motif that Healy uses in his work doesn’t just appeal to country audiences. “We find the subject matter of these paintings seems to resonate with the general public perhaps due to the rural aspect.  We have continued to sell cow paintings to clients from Sydney, Canberra and Wollongong so it seems that it is the appeal of the cow; it attracts the buyer, not necessarily the environment from which the work is purchased.”

The exhibition also includes a number of sculptures of cows.  These sculptures range from papier mâché to hand-painted, resin pieces and are both visually and intellectually stimulating in particular the papier mâché pieces that have been created using text from Irish literature books and newspapers.

Alan was born in Ireland, and he cites James Joyce as an inspiration for his art. “As a painter, I am as much influenced by writers as by other artists; my work has many parallels with literature. My current cow paintings stem partly from the beginning of James Joyce’s, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” he explains. “Other influences touched on during the creation of this body of work were the works and philosophies of artist’s Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter and, of course, the cows roaming the fields near where I live played a great part”.



Exhibition: On until June 30, 2013

Where: Milk Factory Gallery

Time: The gallery is open from 10-5pm, 7 days a week


Image: “Queen of the Fair” by Alan Healy – oil on canvas – 217 x 156cm