Saturday, July 23, 2016


 Drone Life Shadow Play Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Media theorists have appropriated the figure of the drone to describe a process of "droning" - of life!* It is a way of describing the interactivity between the multitude of sensors we, either knowingly or not, engage with each day and the processes of data collection, monitoring, data mining and usage. It's not really just about collecting content, but also patterns of behaviour, preferences and so on. This data may be used by advertisers, policy makers, app developers and others to target individuals or groups of people with offerings that run a gamut of possibilities.  However, correlations between and amongst collected data may not be identified as useful until some time in the future. The future identifiers of these correlations may not be working for advertisers or policy makers, but possibly more interrogative, covert or malign entities. 

So where does the actual militarised unmanned air vehicle or drone fit in? It's all about its data collection capabilities, surveillance from a distance and its monitoring of data for targeting purposes - albeit a different kind of targeting to that employed by advertisers and policy makers!.

The military drone acts as a transmitter, receiver and collector of information. This information can come from its own cameras, or from data gathered from mobile phones, GPS systems, and other sensors and devices that help tract patterns of behaviour, as well as other more concrete types of information. The major task is surveillance in order to identify, monitor and target individuals or groups whose online, physical or other behaviour attracts attention for being aberrant or potentially so. In the military or counter-insurgency sphere a drone's sensor mode can turn very quickly into killing mode with the deployment of Hellfire or guided missiles. 

* Associate Professor Mark Andrejevic, from Pomona College, USA is someone who writes compellingly about what he calls the "droning of experience". In fact he has written an article called The Droning of Experience  published in Fibre Culture Journal. I urge you to read it. 

Droned Landscape Gouche on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

So, my paintings Drone Life Shadow Play and Droned Landscape are my imaginings of droning experiences! Rather than allude to a droning sense I have painted drones - Reapers actually. 

Drone Life Shadow Play - no matter where we are or what we are doing there is a likelihood that we are transmitting data - when we make a phone call, walk into a large shopping centre, drive through a toll way, buy something with a card, use a computer, drive our cars and so on. 

I imagine shadows dancing around us...shadows we cannot see, shadows from things we cannot see, actions we are taking that are unconscious yet prevail as tracks to be brought to light possibly in a far distant future. I imagine the collected data, stored in huge servers housed in massive buildings, like its an array of captured shadows - shadows caught before they could be cast. Yet, the data is not like a soul or memory or even a story. In a way it masquerades as a shadow that could be a door to a dark black abyss. Now there's a 'happy' thought!

In my painting the yellow drone casts a shadow. The yellow tree-of-life casts one too. One shadow looks like an abyss - the other does not.

Droned Landscape - I imagine the landscape covered with sensors and targets. It's like a landscape overlay that obscures where the horizon and sky meet. Note the tree-of-life standing as a beacon, perhaps a guiding signpost - if we bother to look up from our various devices and see. 



Monday, July 18, 2016


 Scoped Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

As regular readers know I am researching militarised technology for my M. Phil thesis. I am examining how two Australian artists represent militarised technology, such as unmanned air vehicles [UAV], commonly called drones, and night vision capabilities, in their paintings. The thing is - I am inspired by the reading I've been doing as I research drones, night vision, just war theory, the development of autonomous weapons, robotising the military and law enforcement...and...existential risk. The latter is where my academic research sprang from. I've been very interested in existential risk posed by emerging technologies for a long time. So, whilst my research topic was stimulated by my private interests expressed in my paintings are not part of the academic research. It is not a practice-lead degree. However, at the end of the degree I will have a body of work, mainly works on paper, that will reflect the research focus and process.  

Military drones operate in the sky - surveillance, monitoring, targeting and attack - currently aided by a team of remote human operators, but perhaps autonomously operated in the future. The aerial aspect of their 'vision' or scoping both intrigues and horrifies me. 

For decades many of my paintings have taken the aerial perspective. I've played with it and hopefully extended it into the cosmos as my interests in cosmology drew me into the close and far distances of the universe. I've often said and written that I believe we need to develop skills in 'seeing' multiple perspectives [literal and metaphoric], even simultaneously. I now think we need to develop these skills ASAP. Why? Because, the verticality of threat imposes literal boundaries on perspective. It also imposes psychological boundaries of fear formed by power structures that in many ways are also formed by fear. 

It seems to me that as powerful nations threaten silently from above, terror leaks out horizontally across the land in random acts - the randomness undetectable from above [or anywhere] until its destructive aftermath bloodies the landscape. As terror's fear closes perspective down. trying to engage in conversation, where differing perspectives of life can be discussed, becomes almost impossible. 

Literal and metaphoric perspective are both threatened. 

 Eyes In The Sky Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

In these three paintings you can see how I have played with aerial perspective. I've embraced my love of landscape, especially seen from above, to help develop my ideas of drone scoping. I call it 'scoping' rather than 'vision' because, for example, the function of the multiple gorgon stare cameras fixed to a drone are not really seeing - rather their lens infrastructure compels them to 'scope'. The word 'vision' is far too expansive in its multiple meanings to reduce it to functions of surveillance and targeting - cameras to guns/missiles. The word 'vision' also anthropomorphises the drone in ways I that demand critical analysis.

Eyes In The Sky refers to the name often given to UAVs or drones ie: eyes in the sky. Well, are they eyes in the sky? In a sense they are, but if you think about the idea of scoping, then they become something else. I propose they become scopes in the sky - camera scopes - gun scopes. My painting makes fun of the idea of eyes in the sky. There's more to this painting, but I will leave that to you to think about.

Scoped plays with perspective - are you above the drones looking towards the landscape? Are you below the drones looking up at them. The green glow of night vision capabilities seems to enable you to see targets on the ground, but maybe you can also see the outlines of clouds and targets amongst them? The area between earth and drone flight paths is a potential battle 'field'. Ah ha...but what about the satellites that transmit messages between drones and their operators? How far does the potential combat zone extend?

New Shoots is a positive painting! Here I have included my much loved age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life to indicate that whilst life seems to be targeted, its roots will spread out 'underground' - and ultimately new shoots will thrive. The drone could either be 'read' as being airborne or crashed!

New Shoots Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016



Saturday, July 09, 2016


 Expanded Zones Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

I've had a productive time in the last week or so. I presented a paper at a Media Devices Symposium at the University of Queensland yesterday 8 July. My paper "Militarised 'Vision' Through the Eyes of Australian Artist George Gittoes" was received very well. The two days of the symposium were filled with enthralling, provocative and stimulating papers all related in various ways to technological devices. The photo at the bottom shows me presenting my paper. 

As regular readers know, I have had a long interest in technology, stemming from my father's enthusiasm for HAM radio and in his latter years, computer and digital technologies. I've previously written about my childhood growing up on a grain farm, not only surrounded by endless skies and distance, but also seemingly endless gadgets, aerials, communication devices in our cars [even in the 60s] etc etc. My mother's interests in art, history, writing and culture, coupled with my father's interests, have manifestly contributed to how I approach my art and research studies.

The Media Devices Symposium was incredibly stimulating not only intellectually but also creatively. The reading group I attended for the 5-6 months preceding the symposium has also been incredibly stimulating. Then... all the reading I've been doing for my research...especially looking into militarised technologies such as airborne drones and night vision capabilities...has also fueled my mind and my imagination. Some recent posts are:

Boundaries Zones and Perspectives 
In Focus 
Horizontal of Vertical?

The three paintings here in this post are all inspired by recent readings and research. Cloud Storage is the most recent painting. Each painting has a 'dark' side...

However, I prefer to only allude to the dark side, rather than thrust it forward. Why? Once a viewer realises that the innocuous appearance has a dark underbelly it becomes evident that the innocuousness is actually a partner in a dangerous subterfuge. Looking beyond the surface is always an interesting thing to do, and I suspect we may not do it enough.

 Cloud Storage Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

I am not going to write about each painting. However, generally speaking when I painted each image I was thinking variously about surveillance, war and conflict zones, remote access, privacy issues, interactivity, data collection, targeting, monitoring - AND LIFE! Aestheticising the unseen aspects of technology that influence so much of our lives gives me a kind of contrary joy! 

The paintings can be 'read' as landscapes too - cosmic, aerial, body-scapes...the distance of the rural Queensland landscape - the flat tree-less Pirrinuan Plain where I grew up -  is always present in my work.

I have already written that each painting has an underbelly, so I will leave the rest to you.  

Data Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Me presenting "Militarised Vision Through the Eyes of Australian Artist George Gittoes" at the mdeia device Symposium Univerity of Queensland 8 July 2016. Image on screen is Discarded oil on canvas 1995 by George Gittoes.

George Gittoes is having an exhibition "Night Vision" in Brisbane 27 July - 20 August, at Mitchell Fine Art Gallery, Arthur St, Fortitude Valley. The opening is Friday 29 July and there is an artit's talk the next day. Check the gallery site for details HERE

George Gittoes' webpage HERE


Sunday, July 03, 2016


Interregnum Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

This new painting is a response to the Australian federal elections held yesterday, July 2, 2016. Today we have no idea which party will govern. Therefore, we have no idea who will be our next Prime Minister. There is no clear winner and we are waiting for counting to be finalised. This may take a number of days. 

So, in the meantime we are in an interregnum....WHAT A GREAT WORD! 

I have well known media commentator Annabel Crabb to thank for introducing interregnum to me. In one of her twitter comments posted today [3 July] she tweeted So we are going to be without a government for stretch. I remember the comparable interregnum in 2010 being quite restful. 

Well, I had to look up what interregnum means a period of time when normal government is suspended, for example between reigns or as a result of a close election, possibly causing a hung parliament. For more information, if you are interested, click HERE.

So, here we have Australia, seemingly cut in half, each section suspended. Ribbon-like lines create both sections of the continent as well as part of the background. AND, embracing my penchant for 'playing' with perspective you, the viewer, could be in a number of places - in front of Australia, above, underneath, viewing a cross-section, maybe even sandwiched between. Yet, metaphoric perspectives also abound, depending on your personal choices, viewpoints and politics. 

Interregnum  is a landscape, one of my ambiguous scapes that not only speaks about landscape but also political scapes. If Australia looks dislocated, how does the rest of the world look? Well, with Brexit, the madness of US forthcoming elections, Middle Eastern catastrophes, and European social, political and economic dilemmas I'd say the whole world is somewhat dislocated. I'll have to paint it! In the meantime just imagine Blood Connection [below] cut in half and the two sections misaligned. 

The problem is, however, that no matter which Australian political party,  LNP or Labour, is able to form a government [most likely with the help of independents] then dislocation continues. This generates a feeling of suspension - no one likes to be kept hanging! But, what if it is a global pattern? How does anyone or any country/nation break away from a pattern that seems beyond control? If it is a pattern, what does it mean? 

I have a few thoughts...and I am sure you do too! 

Blood Connection oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2011

Regular readers will know how I like to 'play' with the Australian continent, so my new painting will not be a surprise. Recent posts are:


Sunday, June 26, 2016


In The Zone Gouache on paper 24 x 32 cm 2016

Like many people in the world I watch current events and developments- everything from US elections, our forthcoming Australian federal elections, BREXIT, financial news and markets, world and Australian art news, environmental updates, the ubiquity of social media, fast paced development of artificial intelligence, weaponised technology, war and conflict in various places around the world, refugee news and lots more. There seems to be a tapestry of mayhem and uncertainty at the moment! 

So, I have been thinking about perspective...yes regular readers will know that ideas of perspective, both literal and metaphoric, have interested me for many many years. In the current world, perspective seems to have lost its scope! This is despite astronomers delving deeper into our universe, showing us that the literal distance of perspective is seemingly endless, and that the perspective of time is equally so. In doing so science has highlighted humankind's place not only within Earth's trajectory through time and space, but also the Universe's. Now that's very big picture stuff which should stretch our capacities to think deeply about different points of view...even as I have suggested before...maybe developing skills in seeing multiple perspectives simultaneously. Humankind's survival and the planet's sustainability may depend on it. 

Boundaries? Gouache on paper 21 x 29,5 cm 2016

Yet, the current world seems to be one where divides in beliefs strangle perspective and create abyss-like voids that seem impossible to traverse. These are potentially dangerous zones if caught in them. Perspective cannot wield its revelatory capacities in dark dark places where steep walls provide little opportunity for escape. The sky and the universe cannot be seen from deep within the abysses' darkness...perspective's, literal and metaphoric, agency is the dark it becomes difficult to see another's point of view...ignorance...

But, we know that for every abyss there is a tall mountain with expansive views  - the opposite also exists. Both the abyss and the tall mountain reminds us of human endeavour. It's all about perspective...really.  

I propose that art can provide a guiding light! And, in its own way partner with science's universal reach that teaches us about perspective's revelatory capacities. In doing so wonder and imagination work their magic - stirring spirit. 

It Depends on Your Perspective  Gouache on paper 24 x 32 cm 2016

These three works on paper are all landscapes in one sense but they are also many other things! Depends on your perspective!


Sunday, June 19, 2016


In Focus? Gouache on paper 24 x 32 cm 2016

This post and painting In Focus? links with my last post and painting Horizontal or Vertical? where I played with notions of perspective and orientation, ideas of landscape and signals. This new work on paper In Focus? also plays with landscape and signals as well as perspective and orientation, except it poses a question that provokes even more questions...who or what is meant to be in focus? Is being in focus about seeing a clear single target or is it simply about being able to see properly? Is it a literal target or perhaps getting a grip on a new idea? Are we talking about focusing our eyes, a camera, gun or a sensor of some kind? Any of these could have augmented vision technologies such as night vision and thermal imaging capacities to aid focusing in low or dark light. Maybe they could be connected to other devices that also need to be focused. After all, the world is a becoming a play of screens within screens, monitors within devices and devices within monitors, sensors galore! 

Why am I interested in these questions? Well...I am reading about militarised technologies for my M. Phil research...and ideas for paintings pop into my head all the time! I love that these ideas intersect with my prevailing inspirations of landscape, cosmology, symbolism, codes and perspective. So, with In Focus? I have tried to show how modern technologies penetrate. In this case the target is beyond the mountains or possibly inside the landscape. Not only is the land traversed by unseen signals that map various kinds of intentions that range from benign to malign, but the sky and space are also mapped in the same way. Where does this 'scape' of signals begin and end? We move through our environments unaware of silent and unseen signals, but there operative intentions influence our daily lives. 

In In Focus? I have tried to give the focusing scope a 3D effect, as if it has applied its own virtual environment onto an existing real one...the landscape. The simulated 3D effect contests the real multidimensional space. I ask, do modern simulations of multi-dimensional spaces play havoc with ideas and experiences of distance and perspective? In In Focus? It seems that the web of lines may go on and on, but do they? Or perhaps the window-like panes entice with promises of better things? The white and red lines seem to sculpt space as they seek...but what do they seek?


Saturday, June 11, 2016


Horizontal or Vertical? Gouache on paper 24 x 32 cm 2016

So, where did the idea for this painting come from? In a way it's a collision of many ideas and influences. I am thinking back to some of my early aerial-like landscapes that referenced ploughed fields, paddocks and fields of various crops, irrigation channels, roads and...traces of spirit. Then to other paintings that tried to critique the traction of mining, especially coal seem gas extraction. Recent influences propel the idea of 'landscape' into the cosmic realm where unseen quantum forces cause resonances that ripple across the vastness of time and space. 

Even more recent influences are contained within this new image. These include thinking about sight-lines of surveillance from above...drones, satellites, beacons and signals that traverse the sky and space to reach our devices that are embedded within our daily lives. Then there's the infrastructure of cabling that lies beneath the soil and sea enabling communication, surveillance, online transactions facilitated by algorithmic instructions. All the while every movement, communication, online action monitored into a deep pool of data that may or may not be 'mined'. 

The trajectories of signals and sight-lines for targets, whether mortal or virtual, come from many directions, hence the title of this painting Horizontal or Vertical? 

Are you, the viewer in front of a 'landscape' or are you above it looking down or below it looking up? Where are you? Is it a landscape of geography or one of signals and potential data? Is it benign in intent or not? Are you a digital node or a juncture facilitating the fast paced and constant movement of algorithmic forces? Are you still human?


Traces Of Spirit Oil on linen 55 x 80 cm 2002/3

 The Hidden Seen In My Mind's Eye Oil on linen 80 x 120 cm 2004

 Lifeblood Oil on linen 90 x 200 cm 2008/9

 $oils Ain't $oils Anymore 70 x 100 cm Oil on linen 2010

 Tree-of-Life Time Travelling Oil on linen 85 x 150 cm 2012

 When It Rained on Mars Oil on linen 85 x 150 cm 2012

 Entrance Gouche and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015

I am Am I? Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015

In Sight Oil on linen 50 x 0 cm 2015


Sunday, June 05, 2016


 Works on paper - in progress

It has been wet, cold and windy here in Brisbane this weekend. A good time to spend in my studio. And, this is exactly what I did - for part of the weekend anyway. 

The photos above and below are of work in progress - works on paper - in my studio. The one above shows the corners of three works on paper and the surface beneath them which is covered with layers of paint built up over many years. The photo below shows the three paintings in the above photo [on left] and two new ones lent up against the window. They are lent there so that when I enter my studio I see them with 'new eyes'. This helps me determine whether they are ready to be released from the studio. I am hesitant to say 'finished' because I don't believe my paintings and those of many other artists are ever finished. What do I mean? Well, I think every conversation and thought that someone might have about a painting adds to its story, so how can they ever be really finished?

In fact, I had someone today say to me, about a painting of mine she had bought a few years ago "I still my painting. I love looking at it." This was music to my ears. Sometimes paintings can just fade into the decor, but my paintings tend not to do that! Many people who have bought them comment about seeing new things in them all the time. I love that this happens.  

 Works on paper - in progress 

The painting below is one that has 'erupted' from a similarly prepared sheet of paper as seen in the first photo above. I did go somewhat crazy with preparations this weekend! There were sheets of paper on walls, on the floor, on my work space, all drying, dripping, soaking or whatever I had decided was best for each one. A couple have been torn up - yes - brutal endings happen to paintings I do not think are working out! However, Watching In All Directions worked - well I think so. 

Watching In All Directions is inspired by reading about surveillance. This reading is part of my M. Phil research at the University of Queensland. I am reading about all kinds of surveillance, but mainly drone surveillance - and targeting and potential killing in conflict zones. 

Watching happens from the air, it happens on the ground - watching can entail monitoring individual movements, phone conversations, text messages, GPS systems and more. Signals traverse space, even literal outer space where satellites orbit Earth, receiving and transmitting. It's as if new worlds are created - virtual ones that have great influence on real ones. The circles in the painting indicate the presence of these worlds. 

Watching In All Directions Gouache and watercolour on paper 24 x 32 cm 2016

The landscape is mediated by unseen signals that can penetrate its contours, geographies and physicality. This mediation has dual promises - one promises safety and the other 'promises' fears of being targeted. But, the targeting does not necessarily mean mortally lethal outcomes, but rather, targeting by advertisers, social media and others.

In Watching In All Directions I have played with landscape - in this case a fairly bland landscape, but I have transposed the unseen 'landscape' of signals upon it. I am really interested in making the unseen  - seen, by placing the unseen within an aesthetic frame. As regular readers know, I am particularly interested in painting binary code - the zeros and ones in bright colours, in strips that form colourful ribbon-like elements to my paintings. In Watching In All Directions I am pleased with the 'double entendre' of the sun-like sphere with emanating red and pink streams. it the sun, shedding its light, creating a more traditional sense of landscape? Or, does it represent another 'world' with apparatus for sending and receiving, watching in all directions?

This post illustrates the artist's process - in the studio - preparations - failures and successes - intellectual as well as creative inspirations - reconciling medium, process and ideas - and a lot more!