When Dean Cross was a kid, he remembers a huge storm at the family farm.
It was the middle of the night, and one of the farm sheds came crashing down.
"I remember waking up and thinking about seeing firsthand, I think for the first time, this fragility of structures," he says.
"As a young child, everything is permanent, and then here it was, this shed that I'd been in a thousand times, in pieces on the ground. That has always really stuck with me."
Talking to Dean Cross is a bit like walking through a museum of curios. Conversation covers Greek mythology, Disney cartoons, a British talent show, the Goulburn Society of Aeromodellers, gold glitter, and the plight of native bogong moths in the Canberra region.
In just 30 minutes, we've covered off Emerald City (the place where the grass is greener), Wile E Coyote (the way he plunges into the earth after falling from a cliff, before springing back up unscathed), and Darryl Kerrigan's Pool Room - the place where the protagonist of the beloved Australian film The Castle catalogues his fondest - and most painful - memories.
The multidisciplinary artist describes a faded Albert Namatjira print that hung in his aunt's laundry for years, both defining and complicating his own concept of art.
He talks about how he, a 35-year-old Worimi man, grew up in Canberra, on Ngunnawal/Ngambri land, disconnected from his own country, just like his father and grandfather before him.
He likens this to the maze built by Daedelus, the master craftsman of Greek mythology, from which his son, Icarus, flies too close to the sun on homemade wings, before plunging back to earth.
The story of Icarus is the inspiration behind Cross' latest body of work, commissioned by Goulburn Regional Art Gallery as part of The Good Initiative, a biennial $20,000 award to living artists.
The show, which opens in time for NAIDOC week next month, looks into the all-too-common experience of rural and regional people who need to leave their homes - their country - in search of opportunities not otherwise available.
"It's not really about Icarus, it's about his father, Daedalus," he says.
"When the Good Initiative came up, I had to think about, okay, what is Goulburn to me? It forced me to think about my upbringing, growing up, and what came to me was the remembering and the knowing - a lot of artists in Canberra have to leave."
Cross' first artistic career was in dance, via the Canberra youth dance company Ql2 when he was 14. His first taste of that world was, he says, an experience that completely changed the course of his life.
But as a fledgling artist in Canberra, pursuing a career in dance meant leaving town, and flying away.
He moved to Brisbane to follow that path, which led him, very quickly, to the career he wanted. But by the age of 25, he had travelled and performed so much that he was ready for something more.
"I made a one-man theatre show, and when I performed it, in Canberra and Sydney and in France, people kept saying, where's the dance?" he says.
"You're a dancer, you're a choreographer, where's the movement? And that really troubled me. I was only 25, and I just sort of thought, well, who are you to tell me what I'm supposed to be doing and what my practice is and what kind of artist I am?
"And so, a couple of years later I enrolled at art school and here I am."
He's now working in Sydney but has plans to move to the town of Braidwood, where his wife is from - a return home, of a kind.
"Now, returning, I guess, it strikes me as hugely problematic that people are forced to leave their home, their country, where they know, to pursue these things," he says.
"I think that it's sort of a trickle-down from this old idea that somehow things are better in the big smoke, which is another kind of iteration of 'the West is best', that somehow Europe or the Americas are better, and that the rest of the world is always trying to catch up."
It seems the only thing he's trying to catch up on for now is the pace of his own constant stream of ideas and concepts; he's had, by his own count, about 75 exhibitions since his first one in 2015, and now has works in several state galleries, including the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of NSW and Canberra Museum and Gallery.
"It still blows my mind, I can't believe it," he says.
But back to Icarus, Susan Boyle, Wile E Coyote, Darryl Kerrigan and Albert Namatjira, all of whom seem to slot naturally into his everyday discourse, so that you barely notice the incongruity.
Underlying all his work is his own connection - or disconnection - to country, and his view of the world through a post-colonial lens.
Icarus, My Son is, he says, no exception, but it's "more coded than that, and far more removed".
Part of the show involves the weathered Namatjira print that's been part of his life since childhood.
"It was the perfect kind of aspirational object. Everyone could afford the print, no one can afford the original - again, it's another coded thing," he says.
"My visual culture when I grew up, my parents were at Rex Battarbee's estate sale, Rex Battarbee being the man who taught Namatjira to paint. So I grew up with a whole suite of first-generation Hermannsburg originals on my wall, so my visual culture and everything that I've looked at from birth are with those paintings, and it's still hugely complicated around what is and isn't expected to be Aboriginal art.
"It wasn't until I started learning more about art more broadly that I realised that actually as objects, and as a person, Namatjira and his legacy [are] hugely significant and hugely complicated."
Beyond this piece, the exhibition is designed to be, as he puts it, "a democratic methodological art-making process, so all of the works I wanted to make, to include, I wanted them to feel and present like anybody could have done them".
"I think galleries, theatres, museums, they have a kind of pathos about them that it can be alienating for some, so I wanted the exhibition space to not be so much of a blank space to put things," he says.
"I want it exist as a psychological space, and so the exhibition sort of transformed into being inside Daedelos's mind. I describe it as like Daryl Kerrigan's pool room, these sort of mementos of his life, post-Icarus' fall, thinking about his own decisions and how they've impacted his son."
But hang on, isn't the pool room full of things Darryl's most proud of? Didn't Daedalus cause his son's crashing down to earth?
"Pride and pain aren't necessarily exclusive, and it's the same with this exhibition," Cross says.
"More broadly, it's a lamentation, the whole show. So it's not just about happy memories, I guess, but about a life lived."
And it's the moment in time, of Icarus crashing to earth, that brings to mind the battered shed on the farm during a storm.
"But also, I was thinking about Roadrunner cartoons with Wile E Coyote, and how he used to fall off a cliff all the time, and he would sort of plunge a couple of metres into the earth and spring back up ... relatively unscathed. So the [exhibition] space itself is almost like you're at that point where Wily Coyote has hit the point right before it springs him back up."
And speaking of a life lived, what's this about Susan Boyle?
He reckons the story of the Scottish singer who found her soaring voice during a single, glistening moment on Britain's Got Talent 12 years ago, is just about the most perfect encapsulation of the myth of Icarus that's ever been made.
Wait - Susan Boyle? The one who turned Simon Cowell's sneer into the dreamy smile of a mogul when she sang I Dreamed a Dream on live television and received a screaming standing ovation?
"Susan Boyle, and her audition specifically, I mean it's my whole exhibition played out in one moment," he says.
"This regional person goes to the big smoke to make it really big, and has this incredible moment, then gets the success that she perhaps wanted without realising what she was getting herself into.
"As an aside, I was living in Birmingham in England, and I went to the premiere of Susan Boyle's musical ... She sang I Dreamed a Dream and the crowd went absolutely wild ... it was complete euphoria. But that very night, on her way home from the theatre, she was abused by kids, teased ... and then had another breakdown and never performed again."
He fixes on the line in the song about dreaming of a life better than the one she was living, "that if only I wasn't stuck in this shitty place my life would be better, but would it? Nobody knows, but usually probably not."
In fact, he says, the Susan Boyle narrative seemed so damn perfect, he was tempted to just put up the YouTube clip of her audition and call it a day.
"The video is the perfect artwork, it's a perfect synthesis of form and content," he says. "So I just thought, how could I make anything any better? But of course I've been able to complicate it, by including the other bits and pieces that I have."
Taken together, he says, it's clear to him that he is both Icarus and Daedelus, trapped in a maze of his own making, or of circumstance.
"I think part of my thinking around it too is that now I feel... I'm in a position through my work and through my choices to reconnect through country, through culture, what I do, so perhaps finding a way out of that maze."
- Icarus, My Son, by Dean Cross, opens at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery on July 2 and runs until August 28. goulburnregionalartgallery.com.au