Painter Printmaker Musician Poet
The Mike Absalom story begins with music. That means rollicking live music and outrageous head shop performances for audiences as far apart as London and Athens, Belfast and Teheran, Gothenburg and the Costa Brava. The list goes on for forty years: Germany, Holland, Belgium, Vancouver, the Yukon Territory, Tierra Del Fuego, Paraguay, France, Montana, Nova Scotia, Chile, Newfoundland, California – up and down, back and forth, the gig list of half a lifetime. It has to be only half, because I am a painter now.
I am a country boy, but Arabic at Oxford put me for a while among the mighty and gave me the handful of languages that allowed me to live by my wits in those far off places from the pages of the National Geographic Magazine which had fascinated me since I was a young immigrant growing up a parson’s son in rural Quebec. After University, life in the 1960s was a delicious Niagara with no bottom. I tumbled along down, happily enough, living (and the living was easy) from hand to mouth. There were things to do and places to go. I was a bottle washer, a babysitter, a bodyguard, a busker, a bum and I lived and loved and was young. As a last resort, rather than stealing milk from doorsteps, I sometimes even taught. I had had the accidental foresight to buy a guitar in 1960, a little before everyone else did the same, and this became my passport to vagrancy. From it came song writing and music and, in the end, wild performance art. I moved upwards from the street to bars that had chairs; from bars to folk clubs; from folk clubs to colleges. I played the Royal Albert Hall, appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test and made LPs. The 1970s were an all night party that spilled over into the days. Afterwards I spent a lot of time on mountaintops ironing out the hangover.
I passed the next quarter of a century in Canada. In tune with the solid decorum of that country, I calmed down and became a pillar of the local community. During those years, I made my living as broadcaster, children’s entertainer, puppeteer, harpist, fiddler and Celtic bandleader. I also wrote newspaper articles, did performance poetry and toured North and South America as the male member of an all girl harp group. For a while, I resided in Paraguay where I studied harp and got up to no good, which, after Canada, was certainly worth it. I was dysfunctional and quite happy with the world and myself. Still, the life I had been living suddenly ended: World History gave North America a violent shaking in September 2001 and at the same time dislodged me. With my Welsh and Irish roots flapping loose, I decided it was time to replant them in my native soil and I crossed back home over the Atlantic. I craved old stones. It was a blind jump into the void and I had no idea what would become of me. As it was, I landed on soft ground, which in my Clare grandmother’s language they call Bog.
Now I paint, and though I live in the lap of what looks like a ruined countryside, the old stones are beginning to stir. After forty years of sound and fury, I am drawing up plans for the next forty. I have exchanged my guitar for a painter’s easel and a printing press, and I think that they will make a very good vagrant’s passport too.