Thursday, November 12, 2009


Spring: September, October 2008 - below is a series of journal sketches followed by mixed media works on paper exper-imenting with ideas using pods and seeds picked up locally. The second sketch is a photo-shopped abstracted pod drawing overlayed with a sketch inspired by a Blossfeldt image and the quote taken from Humboldt's 'View of nature' The works on paper were an exercise in composition, colour and form in preparation for applying various ideas to large canvas works.

This last work is a small 13 x 18 cm oil painting on canvas board that I've kept as a personal symbol from 2004. It had a certain cocoon-like quality that gave it a strangely totemic feeling - quite a subjective response, but nevertheless it is always to be found in the studio reminding me of the symbolic thinking around seed pod forms. The quick sketch from a journal shown at the top of these images deals with dispersion in the more abstract sense. The 5th image from the top in warm red tones is the one still to be painted that I am probably most interested in. As a visual idea it correlates strongly to the work on the theme of fluidity carried out in Newcastle going back over a period of a few years. The dispersal of seeds is hinted at as is the cyclic nature of the seed.

Monday, November 2, 2009


 - Biography -

Searching for images sometimes makes one realise how easy it is to fail to get things documented at the time they are completed. So... I have filled in a few gaps by taking some photos of work still at hand. Its was interesting to note the biographical element of certain works. Above is a work on paper completed in 1990 in homage to my father who died in 1972. He was the pilot for a photographer who was commissioned to take aerial shots over the Clarence River in Northern NSW in the early 1950's. I was lucky to have in my collection in 1990 a copy of the book produced with black and white images of the spectacular Clarence River and Valleys. The book was actually a very modest soft cover edition...rather worn and somewhat faded. Working from this book was filled with nostalgia...the faded pages an echo of fading memories of growing up in this region and of the father who'd not been there to see his four children finish school and leave home. The Clarence was a river of epic proportions, especially in flood. The strongest of memories are mostly of the rains that would come out of the blue and last  until the entire river system would break its banks, build till it peaked, then subside to leave its chaos behind. The river was a force to be reckoned with and it marked one's childhood with its drama and moods.

These 2 works represent a meditative practice I found consolation in when reflecting on change over years - in particular the act of relocating and the resulting process of coming to terms with confrontation of the new, loss of the old, and skills needed to cross that bridge. I learnt that there wasn't a common household name for the phenomenon of significant upheaval through repeated dislocation/relocation, although sociologists and various professionals were naming it. At some point it struck me this situation went largely unnoticed in mainstream culture - colloquial concepts weren't hitting it on the nail. The experience of change and unplanned disruption could be seen all around. Homelessness was the cracks bursting open. I pondered the fine line in the build up of pressures that sat a step away from  break-downs of support.
I could well understand critical needs of migrant communities, especially refugees, to have layers of support structures to aid their settlement into a new life. What really concerned me were gaps lurking for people born or 'settled' in this country. Whist relocations for me involved enthusiasm and support, at times life barged in with a plan of its own, no time for planning, no financial considerations or readiness for change. Huge lessons resulted and understanding deepened re the potential or actual vulnerability of so many round the globe. Many years I simmered away wondering how an artist might speak to and of this pattern. Still it sits as a huge question mark in a world where the collective blindspot so hides this spectrum of vulnerabilty. 

below: pages I have recently worked on in a friend's Altered Book Project- revisiting memories.

Blood transfusion: section of a large canvas painted on coming home in Feb, 2008 after 15 days in hospital

Sunday, November 1, 2009


AQUA August 2008 Christina Mitchell Gallery, Albion, Brisbane

After relocating from NSW in May, 2008 an exhibition of work was shown at a new Gallery on the inner north side of the City. Aqua was the title given as part of the show featured work from the coastal/ fluidity series alongside work newly completed since arriving in Brisbane. The emerging work was based on pod forms and seedpods. *Apologies for quality of images

'beach rhythms' 180 x 100 cm Acrylic in canvas, collaged onto canvas

left:'ocean baths vista' 120 x 30 cm, acrylic on canvas, collaged on canvas
right: Pods, canvas board series, 10 cm sq, acrylic and ink

'Ocean Baths Reverie' 70 x 100 cm, acrylic on canvas

'Paekakariki'  1m sq, acrylic on canvas

pods, ink on gessoed linen

 tryptich  - 'seedpod forms'  30 cm sq, ink on linen

'animated particles II' acrylic on canvas, 50 x 70 cm

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the highway poem

Overland travels one January - the highway poem

In the previous post on this year's Victoria University Artist-in-Residency a somewhat autobiographical work was included. It featured addresses of places lived in since since birth to date. This act of painting lists of places has been something I have returned to over 3 decades of moving house and relocating across distances at times to live interstate, overseas at one point, moves prompted by work and other opportunities.
In this work posted here the list is of highways travelled on from a trip taken 4 years ago in January with Sydney as the starting point. Its was a memorable trip that took in as many alternative main roads as possible to avoid the Hume Hwy and to experience places of geographic diversity between Sydney and Melbourne, including the Snowy Mountains and venturing also across to the Grampians of Western Victoria.
Rather than name places, towns and villages passed through or stayed at, it seemed fitting to commemorate the roads travelled as it was the road trip itself that was so unique about this holiday. A camera was rarely used, several drawings done, but much of it was an experience committed to memory and the reading of each road's name serves as a remarkable prompt for those memories to come flooding back. 
Whilst at the wheel of the car colours and shapes and details were captured... 18 days of shifting landscapes, climate and terrain. Below is the painting after being photo-shopped last year on completion of the work, painted almost 3 years after taking the trip.
Perhaps many would prefer a photo collection, postcards and souvineers. For me this painting holds the feelings of places, of movement, of approaching and leaving...memories so much more vast and complex than a photo could represent.
The totality of the experience is there and the parts. It is my poem for the way through many places.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

artist-in-residency, Victoria University, Melbourne 2009

January 5th - 31st 2009 Artist-In-Residency : Victoria University, 300 Flinders St, Melbourne. The School of Creative Industries 17th floor studios was the location for the residency, with views across the city in all directions. The space was flexible due to partitioned walls which could be moved - thus the studio expanded over the 4 week residency as the work developed and ideas came to life on paper, cardboard and canvas. 
The series of images below is a reflection of the various directions the work took. The first week was by far the most challenging for several reasons - dramatically different climate, accomodation and work areas to become familiar with, and 3 days bed-ridden with illness (a planned operation occured 5 weeks later!)That aside, the 4 weeks were an extraordinarily productive period - after a slow start. Initially the environment was something of a shock. As shown in the images below being 17 floors up in the midst of city buildings was in stark contrast to the lush green subtropical  outlook and domesticity of my home studio in Brisbane. I had gone from responding visually to the vegetation around my Queenslander home to needing to interact with stark geometric lines in profusion everywhere I looked.I was reminded that when I left Melbourne In 2000 to relocate to Newcastle, NSW it had taken quite a long time to loosen up and move on from the geometrical forms that seemed to follow me from Melbourne and to find my way into a preoccupation with water and ocean and swimming had brought a flowing element into the work. The fresh bombardment of City shapes and colours and lines...everywhere lines...were what started my hand moving and filling pages with spare elements at first and then gradually filled in forms. After a week geometry made sense. And the jazz-tinged rhthym of life in inner Melbourne was having its effect on me.

Reconnections with friends and places long familiar to me in the past began to thread old stories and new together. I then found myself turning to an autobiographical series of simple works on cardboard that involved listing in chronological all the addresses I had lived at from the time i was born 50 years before. I had come to melbourne and lived for 5 months aged 23, loved it, but been too unsettled to stay where it was all so new! I returned to live in melbourne in 1988, aged 30 - just arrived home from 2 years in London. This time I was truly enamored with this city. I stayed till 1998 when at the close of my business - Themata Studio - I spent 4 months in Brisbane with family considering relocating  to there. But no, back I came for a new start in Melbourne - my third effectively. I commenced a Diploma of painting at Victoria University in 2000 and 4 months into the course  a house-fire  led to the huge decision to leave this place I had been so attached to and move back to NSW.
Hence the autobiographical work in the second week of the old steps were being retraced and connections remade. Very much a processing of the different eras in my life and the associations with place - geography, experiences, people and ideas. This actually wasn't a new idea for me. Iin my 20's i had moved quite often for various reasons - often work related - and mapping or listing them addresses had been a way of making sense of change. In the photo of myself midway through the images I'm standing next to a tall list of locations I'd lived at... a list which never fails to be a catalyst for musing on so many different experiences ...and considering the impact this can have on shaping one's life. Being at the 17th floor studio added a particular perspective to this recounting of biography.
A curious discovery was how this open-ended 4 weeks allowed one the freedom to explore a number of quite different ideas simultaneously. Not needing to produce a tight body of work for a set goal I felt free to allow room for threads of ideas to lead of in different directions. And so -  I did some work with the seedpod form, the bio work, city geometry inspired explorations,  light-hearted, quirky works on brown paper and  finally several large works on unstretched canvas starting out with a palette knife - something not common for me to do. I was resistant - however much I referred to the lines of the city in these large works - to get too focused on hard lines and tight geometry.
The final work 'City Rhythm'  was completed using ink and acrylic on a clear ground on linen. This was given as a gift to the University. A rather more precise and tightly constructed work than others done over the previous 4 weeks,  it did rely heavily on layering to convey the density of city buildings and transparency to add to this energy.
Nine months later it is interesting to reflect on this 4 week residency. Illness and daily challenge to keep on top of that did not stop me from relishing the sense of expansiveness and pushing through that this time allowed. Long hours painting, by day and by night, weekends even, sustained by naps if necessary in bean bags found in storage, access to a library and reading in breaks, running out for coffee and sushi, late night tram trips home on days when temperatures climbed well into the 40's...and the studio was the coolest place to be!
Perhaps the best learning was being reminded that out of stillness and then letting the hand find its way on the page all else follows. I loved emptying out all the "shoulds" and letting what needed to enter the space enter!

NB:  The formatting on this post has not been remotely co-operative... items therefore are placed randomly... not by design! 

The 4 weeks of the residency combined with the freedom of the huge and expandable studio space allowed for the pursuit of various different lines of exploration at the same time. The organic pod forms and the geometric had long vied for equal attention - sometimes seeming like a clear split and other times overlapping.

The work below 'City Rhythms' is now in the collection of Victoria University, Flinders S, Melbourne


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Blogging for me is an extension of keeping a journal which I have done in various forms over the decades. The difference being this is not a closed book! I like that it offers an opportunity to explore that which concerns me as an artist and as an individual about living and participating in this vastly complex, unquestionably exciting yet unnerving time in human history. Through the blog I hope to increase the possibilties for cross-pollination which I believe can strengthen the sense of being part of something both personal and universal that is vital, expansive and refreshing.