Symphony for Prisoners

Symphony for Prisoners

‘Second Symphony’

‘Second Symphony’



"When Stuey asked if I was interested in responding to one of his photos I was immediately excited and a little daunted. Excited because I love his strange, oblique, and moody narratives, and also because am I always interested in opportunities to rattle my own habitual creative cage and see what arises. But also a little daunted as his photographs are already quite painterly as is…in a chiaroscuro, Gerhard Richter kind of way!

 On choosing my image I thought the best thing to do was to live with it for a while, tack it up in my studio and give it the occasional sideways glance as I walked by and see how it insinuated itself below the surface…I knew, of course that it wasn’t a matter of copying or re-producing the photograph in paint. But rather, like the musical compositional phrase, it needed to be a call-and-response…a reactive conversation with Stuey about his photograph.

 My initial impulse was to free those fish but quite quickly, as I began to paint, they transposed themselves into prisms of light. In retrospect a nod perhaps, though not consciously, to the photographer’s endless dance with light. 

 I also made the decision to work with my tiny, badly pixelated thumbnail image rather than ask for a proper one and to see how that informed the painting.

 So here is the Second Symphony…what would intrigue me, (yoo-hoo…) is how Stuey might photographically respond to this painting and so on and so forth and see how big the collaborative symphonic oeuvre might become….and where it might end up. "


Born in New Zealand, Michelle moved to Australia in 1985. She has been working as a professional artist since 1996 and has studied both in Australia and the UK.

She has been shortlisted for many major art prizes including the Jacaranda Drawing Prize, Portia Geach Art Award, (Highly Commended), The Bendigo Drawing Prize, the KAAF Art Prize, the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize and the Ravenswood Art Prize.

 Photographer’s Note: Originally, when I sent this image to Michelle, its prevailing colour was a yellowy orange, but as happens so much in my work (and probably art in general), over time, the colours changed as I worked with the image.

Looking at Michelle’s painting, I think maybe I should have stuck with my original palette. M’eh…c’est la vie.