"It's About Time" - Ian Milton's Artistic Journey

On Friday 16 October, an art show will open at Paddington’s Percolator Gallery, featuring over 40 recent works from accomplished 73 year-old artist and Deaf Services Life Member Ian Milton.


Ian won the prestigious Goya Art Award at only 19 years of age and studied under some of Australia’s great artists including Jon Molvig and Roy Churcher. The most exciting part of this exhibition, however, is not Ian’s artistic pedigree, it’s that this is—amazingly—his first solo showing.

Despite being interested in and practicing art all his life, Ian has not had the same access to economic and cultural opportunities as many of his peers. As a Deaf man growing up in the 60s and 70s, Ian faced daily barriers to communication and accessibility, forcing him to put his art to one side to prioritise work and community advocacy.



Children Playing Under Waterfalls (2019)


While some people may describe this as catching up on lost time, it’s clear that nothing Ian has done has been wasted. Growing up without access to Auslan (Australian Sign Language) interpreting or any support services, Ian relied copying written English to progress through his school life.

With a natural aptitude for mathematics, Ian began work at 16 years of age as a cadet draftsman, and retired 48 years later after a distinguished career as a civil designer with Brisbane City Council. It was only after retirement that Ian was able to devote himself full-time to art again.

Some people may describe this as catching up on lost time, but it’s clear that nothing Ian has done has been a waste. Through his work, he contributed to many major Council projects, all the time advocating for better workplace accessibility.

Ian instrumental in the provision of Auslan interpreters for Deaf rate payers and at staff meetings, and was the founding President of Deaflink, a predecessor to the National Relay Service. Ian also served as a board member to a number of other Deaf organisations including Deaf Services, and devoted much of his time to empowering the lives of the Deaf community.



Left: The Perfume Shopper (2019) | Right: Crowded Swimming Bath (2018)


“My motto is self-discipline,” Ian explains. “If you want something, you just have to do it. Every life is a journey. You take diversions from where you want to go. Being Deaf, spending much of my life with no interpreting, I did unfortunately miss a lot. But I also experienced a lot. Although it has been difficult to communicate and collaborate with other artists, but I’m fortunate to have arrived at this stage of my life.”

Upon retirement, Ian and his wife undertook a “treechange”, moving from Brisbane to an idyllic half-acre on picturesque Tamborine Mountain, where Ian now paints daily in his studio overlooking MacDonald National Park, using his woodworking skills to frame his paintings once completed.

Ian’s upcoming show will feature over 40 artworks produced in his studio over the past three years, all exhibiting Ian’s unique semi-abstract style of dynamic and expressive figures and faces alive with abstract motion and controlled colour.

Ian is particularly excited to learn what visitors to his exhibition make of his work.



Grandfather's Painful Bedtime Stories (2019)


“I don’t like telling people what my art is about,” he says. “I want them to bring their own experiences to my work, building their own meanings and narratives as viewer and subject observe each other.”

The opening night of Ian’s show will be officially opened by Greg Lund, one of his closest friends, who is travelling in from his home in Japan to attend. Ian and Greg’s friendship was formed in primary school, and despite Greg’s career as a foreign diplomat keeping them often apart, they have remained close.  

“I am so proud Greg can travel to Australia to launch my show,” Ian says.

When asked to sum up the exhibition, Ian simply smiles. “It’s about time,” he says.


Ian Milton’s exhibition runs from Wednesday 16 October to Sunday 20 October at Percolator Gallery, 134 Latrobe Terrace, Paddington. Opening Night is Friday 18 October, 6:00pm-8:00pm. More information HERE.

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