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Michael Chavez used to drive a 1964 Holden EH sedan similar to the ute that appears in his recent paintings. "I liked the boxiness of it," he says. "They handle like a stone wheel and they don't brake too well, but they look good." Despite the Melbourne artist's affection for the vehicle, it represents for him an era of conservatism that is making a big comeback in Australia and the United States. "I write ironic statements like 'Lucky Country' or 'I'm Alright Jack' on them because [those who've] got it good are not really concerned about anyone who's got it tough." Chavez, also known as Migs, was born in Manila and came to Australia as a toddler. Graduating from the Queensland College of Art, he honed his drafting skills during four years animating Saturday morning cartoons at Disney's Sydney Studios. "It was like an animation sweatshop among the rag trade sweatshops of Surry Hills," he recalls. "It was good drawing practice, I got lots of pencil mileage before everything went digital." The prolific artist's career is revving up in the wake of the 2006 Art Melbourne and Art Sydney fairs, where buyers responded warmly to his graffiti-flavoured blend of politics and funk. "The genre I've found myself lumped in with is kind of young, urban, neo-expressionist pop," he says. He has solo shows in Perth and Sydney scheduled for early 2007.

Dennis Chaplot

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