Saturday, September 24, 2016


Camouflage Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

As regular readers know, I am currently an M. Phil candidate in the School of Communications and Arts at the University of Queensland. My degree is a research one, thus I spend a lot of time reading and writing. My research topic came out of my own work as an artist and now the research is feeding back into my work. My practice is not part of the degree as it is not a practice lead degree. However, by the time I finish it I will have a large body of work that will reflect the research trajectory. Part of my studies includes research into militarised technology, particularly night vision capabilities and unmanned air vehicles [UAV], commonly called drones. Hence, my predilection for drones in recent paintings.

The initial impetus for my research came from my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies ie: those technologies not yet fully developed or even embarked upon. Whilst risk might be small, the possible outcomes could be cataclysmic. Thus, the risk is worthy of attention. For instance, there is risk in the coupling of AI or AGI with the development of autonomous weapons. Voila! You have a reason for why I am studying militarised technology...

Camouflage is normally associated with military tactics-uniforms, colouration and patterning on vehicles, decoys, undercover work and so on. It is a tactic taken from nature where animals and some plants change in order not to be eaten by predators- think stick insects, for example. In a sense even trying to humanise AI is a kind of camouflage, albeit a tricky and potentially dangerous one. Just think of Ava in the recent movie Ex Machina. By making her human-like normal safety alerts and boundaries became vulnerable to erosion because humans emotionally connected with her.

Ideas of camouflage intersect with my very long interest in the tree-of-life, an age-old transcultural/religious symbol. Its branching appearance is repeated across life, land and the universe in seen and unseen forces and things. For example, think about our vascular system and river networks, think about leaves and ice flows on cold planets. I wonder if the tree holds clues to the template for the universe? Its repeating patterns are far more than mimicry or camouflage. 

I have painted the weaponised drone in Camouflage [above-detail below] the same colours as the two cascading trees-of-life to suggest a warning.  


This painting is another of my dronescapes. They represent a sub-theme of my quest to re-consider what landscape means in the 21 st century. I suggest we need to untether landscape from earth-bound horizons by launching ourselves into universal distances, where we can evaluate Earth and humanity from new and multiple perspectives. The droning of the landscape, where surveillance mechanisms and infrastructure proliferate, is just but one of my considerations. 


Saturday, September 17, 2016


 Aeropolitics Imagined Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

In the last week an article appeared in media outlets. It got my attention. 

The writer is David Wroe and he was reporting about a topic discussed at the recent Land Forces Conference in Adelaide. That topic - drones or unmanned vehicles. These can include land, sea, undersea and air unmanned vehicles. The article also reports on discussion about potential autonomy of these systems. It also reports on Australia's position and fears that if we don't keep up with the technology, we'll be left behind. It's a race - it seems. 

Regular readers will know why I am SO interested in various aspects of this article and the conference. Yes - drones, autonomous weapons, Australian involvement in development and deployment of these systems, the accelerating international interest in unmanned and autonomous systems, how war and conflict are being reframed and so on. I am also interested in the rhetoric and the language used by politicians, systems' developers and the military. 

As an artist and a painter I am interested in the changing landscape - literal and metaphoric. The use of airborne drones changes the way the sky and space are perceived as increasingly political and strategic. Dual-use systems blur the line between civilian benefit and military benefit. Does this mean that landscapes of land and sky hold insidious dichotomies that require vigilance - thus forcing the civilian to take some kind of war-footing preparedness? If surveillance penetrates all movement and terrain, built and natural, where can we hide?

In various books and articles cultural theorist Paul Virilio writes about aeropolitical repercussions of threat from the air. His theories of accelerating technological speed intersect in ways that are, I think, revelatory [if people pay attention]. Professor of spatial and visual cultures, Eyal Weizman writes about the 'verticality of threat' posed by airborne surveillance systems that can assist target and attack. Philosopher Gregoire Chamayou also writes very succinctly about aeropolitical issues associated with the airborne drone in his book Drone Theory. 

What If? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

The two paintings above express a few of my responses to the plethora of material I have been reading. 

Aeropolitics Imagined plays with images of screen-based surveillance. The wide area surveillance systems used by drones mean that remote operators can focus, in real-time, onto one element of an image. They can then enlarge that particular spot, while keeping all other images and environental context in sight. In Aeropolitics Imagined Australia seems to be the enlarged image, with scoping signals embracing the continent, readying for closer scrutiny and possible attack. However, there are other possibilities. Maybe Australia has deployed a system of surveillance and attack protection similar to Israel's Drone Dome? The white 'signals' emanating from the continent could be deploying defensive positions. Maybe the drone is an Australian one - after all both the continent and the drone are painted red and green - they seem to reflect each other. If it is an Australian drone, what is its target? We are not privy to that information.

In What If? the continent of Australia is divided into sectors. A communications satellite and a GPS satellite hover. Two drones, one departing Australia and one seemingly arriving are silhouetted against the Pacific Ocean. The drone requires connectivity with space-based assets in order to operate, and to send and receive data. Similarly to Aeropolitics Imagined there are multiple possible readings for this painting. This is deliberate - regular readers will not be surprised by this. 

The accelerating pace of drone technology development is both fascinating and somewhat scary. 

Civilian use of airborne drones can be beneficial in times of disaster, for agricultural management, for environmental surveillance and for many other uses.  Drone racing, and other recreational and sporting options are becoming more popular. These all require various regulations, but is legislation keeping up? 

The dual-use nature of the drone, however, means that its use in war and conflict zones, by multiple parties that could include non-military players, creates concerns and anxieties. 

On that 'happy' note....


Saturday, September 10, 2016


Regrowth Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

I am very happy to report that my entry Where There's Life There's... is a finalist in the $15,000 Redland Art Award. This award is biennial. You can read more about it and see the list of finalists etc HERE I shall keep you up to date - winner announced 14 October. 

And, at the bottom of this post I have news about the Tattersall's Landscape Art Prize. 


As you can see I am still fixated on the figure of the drone - the drone in the landscape to be more precise. Both Regrowth and Drone Star  depict a drone with emanating signals that create a star-like appearance. These signals are representative of a drone's sensors which receive and transmit data. 

In Regrowth the drone's signals contrast with the emanating branches of the tree-of-life.  This age-old transcultural/religious symbol is the drone's target - for data and perhaps attack. The red box - kill box- around the lone tree indicates that it is a target. Yet, the tree defies the intrusion by sending down new roots. In my mind it acts subversively, but then again, having seen Australian bush regrowth, I know that where and when it can, life re-emerges. 

Drone Star plays with the viewer's sense of orientation. Are you above the drone looking down onto the ground or are you below the drone looking up to a sky. In either case the drone's signals have taken over, hijacked even, the landscape - skyscape. The vibrant colours act as a kind of camouflage sending a message of benign, or even fun, intent. But, is this really the case? 

As regular readers know, I have a delight in playing with perspective and orientation. The drone is giving me ample inspiration in so many ways. 

Here are links to some more of my recent DRONE paintings:

Drone Star Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


And, here's the news on the Tattersall's $30,000 Landscape Art Prize. The winner was announced on Wednesday last week. AND, congratulations to Ann Thomson for her win with Breakwater. Highly Commended to Melissa Egan and Guy Warren, Commended to Margaret Loy Pula and Members' Choice Award to Michael McWilliams. The exhibition will continue from 12 September to 23 September at the Riverside Centre, 123 Eagle St, Brisbane. 

My entry Privileged Landscape? [below] received some great comments from people at the opening. 

 Privileged Landscape oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2015

Sunday, September 04, 2016


Target Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Firstly let's start with some great news: 

 1. One of my entries has been selected as a finalist for the $15,000 Redland Art Award . Prizes will be announced on the 14th October and the exhibition continues until 27 November. 

2. My painting Privileged Landscape? is a finalist [by invitation] for the $30,000 Tattersall's Landscape Art Prize.   The prize is announced 7 September. The exhibition will be at the Tattersall's Club 5 - 9 September and then it re-locates to the Riverside Centre 12 - 23 September.

As regular readers know I have been thinking about unmanned air vehicles [UAVs], more commonly called drones. More particularly I am interested in the weaponised drone used for military and counterinsurgency purposes. These are operated by remote pilots. The system of operation relies on a vast amount of technology and connectivity eg: communication satellites, GPS satellites, ground based antenna systems and control stations. The drone, in flight, sits between space-based and ground assets, acting like a conduit or node. You can find more information about the connectivity required to operate a drone here.

But, the aim of the drone, or more precisely, the aim of those who deploy drones, is to target. It seems to me there are basically two types of targeting, one is to target via a drone's various surveillance sensors to gather information and data, the other is to target to kill. Obviously the first kind of targeting is related to the second type. However, as weapons become more autonomous, who or what develops aims for either type of targeting comes under scrutiny. Currently there is debate about the development of lethal autonomous weapons, with arguments that there must be meaningful human control - whatever that might mean. If you are not aware of these discussion a good start is the Future of Life Institute, especially the Autonomous Weapons: An Open Letter from AI and Robotics Researchers which is displayed on their website. 

Gregoire Chamayou, in his book Drone Theory (2015) describes the drone as a “projectile-carrying machine” equipped with an “unblinking eye” that enables a “24 hour constant gaze” to undertake its “militarised manhunt”.1  

If you read more about militarised drones you will come across various other very blunt descriptions of them. 

                                      Remote Control Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

So, you might ask, how can Kathryn find inspiration in such a macabre subject? Well, I do! 

I think about the drone with my landscape painter's eyes and mind, creating what I call dronescapes. I think about it in relation to age-old symbols, such as my much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life. I think about the drone in relation to my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies. And, I think about it with my fascination for cosmology driving my attempts to use multiple perspectives to engage with it. Hence, my recent paintings, like the two above, juxtapose the figure of the drone with the tree-of-life, against backgrounds that appear to be cosmic landscapes. The tree, symbolises all life and existence. It also acts as a representation of systems, its branching appearance acting as a template for both human-made and natural ones. 

The armed drone seems to target the tree - my representation of the tree-of-life. Yet, the cosmic landscape indicates, perhaps, that this painting depicts something from another world of time and place. Maybe the tree targets the drone?

Remote Control
I have painted a satellite antenna, a ground-based control station, a communications satellite, a GPS satellite, an armed drone  - and - the target. Its a system and even though the tree-of-life is the target, it represents an alternative system. One of the trees is upside down. Whilst it is a tree, it also has a root-like appearance contained within a white circle. Does it mean new life? Is it a homage to past life? I don't know! What do you think?

1. Chamayou, Gregoire. Drone Theory, trans by Janet Lloyd (Penguin Books: London, 2015) 27, 32, 38.


Sunday, August 28, 2016


Drone Exhaust Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 

We all know that various devices and systems collect the data we generate. We generate content data eg: information in 'cloud' storage or stored on our computers that may be accessible by others remotely or in-house. We also generate behavioural pattern data from activities such as:
  • how many times we might shop at a certain shopping centre based on various systems such as GPS and WIFI use. 
  • whether we access news online.
  • how often we fill up our cars based on credit card records or even on-board vehicle systems accessible by others including manufacturers. 
  • whether we surf the net at night.
  • 'likes' and clicks on social media.                

"Data Exhaust" is the data that is not core to a particular business or policy agenda - but might be in the future if certain correlations are exposed by algorithmic analysis. "Exhaust Data" is a byproduct that may be useful later. It can exist long after mortal death, so could be resurrected for what may now seem improbable purposes.

The term "Data Exhaust" has been around for awhile - here's an interesting article 5 Things You Need To Know About Data Exhaust that helps explain what it is and some insidious aspects of it.

So "Data Exhaust" got me thinking about drones and their data collection and monitoring capabilities via various sensors. Wide area surveillance systems enable a drone to monitor and collect data over wide areas, 24 hours a day. There must be a huge amount of "Data Exhaust"!

So, here is my painting Drone Exhaust where I have made visible - the drone and its multiple sensors, the wide area under surveillance, the significant data and the drone's exhaust data. I imagine a landscape strewn with digital data. A dronescape! Or a datascape!

I wonder what this exhaust might obscure?


I have again been invited to be a finalist in the Tattersall's Landscape $30,000 Art Award.

My painting is delivered tomorrow 29 August.

The exhibition will be at the Tattersall's Club, Brisbane 5 - 9 September and then it relocates to Riverside Centre 12 - 23 September. 


Sunday, August 21, 2016


 Strategic Landscape Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Broadly speaking the term 'strategic landscape' has both civilian and military connotations. The word 'strategic' signposts that agendas are inherent. These agendas deal with issues such as safety, security, economic advantage, future intentions and mitigations, demographics and so on. The use of the word 'landscape' can either refer to a literal landscape [eg: currently occurring issues in the Sth China Sea] or a metaphoric one [eg: political landscape].

Regular readers will immediately identify my interest in the 'landscape' focus. As a painter of landscapes I am intensely interested in how we think about landscape, especially in a cosmological age. By this I mean an age where the close and far distances of the universe are being explored by a variety of the sciences, including astronomy, nanoscience, astrobiology, astrophysics, quantum physics and more. 

So, I ask, if we speak about 'strategic landscape' are we containing ourselves to planet Earth and its geopolitical 'landscape'? If we think of the universe as a 'landscape' can 'strategic landscape' be expanded to include questions about how we use space, space assets such as satellites, optimal orbits, other planetary assets such as potential mineral deposits? Will space become a contested place where a military 'strategic landscape' draws forth a future where conflict, defensive and offensive systems are developed and deployed beyond Earth's atmosphere? 

  • Google "strategic landscape - defence - military" or similar and you will see that the phrase is used by the defence departments and those who provide academic, political or journalistic commentary on international relations, peace and conflict studies and military activities.  

 My painting Strategic Landscape [above] uses the figure of the drone to symbolise the ubiquity of 21st century surveillance, monitoring, data gathering and targeting. The drone is a conduit connected to ground-based nodes as well as satellites. Thus, it represents the space between the landscape of Earth and the 'landscape' of space. In my painting the scoping 'rays' of the drone's camera cast pathways across and landscape of land and sky. Yet, the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life casts its twisted and connected branches across the land and sky too. The tree is multicoloured to symbolise the nuances of life that cannot be detected by the drone's scoping devices. Things like desire, humour and soul are embraced by the colour and held close - safe. The boxes and cubes, perhaps representing individual lives, float amongst the drones scoping rays and the tree's branches. They are coloured too and I wonder why? 

Maybe scoping, which I propose is implied in the word 'strategic', means that agendas contained in 'strategic landscape' imperatives miss a lot? 


Sunday, August 14, 2016


 Scoping The Abyss Gouache on paper 19 x 22 cm 2016

Taking a cue from social media sites where headlines grab attention I've decided to channel the grab-line! Maybe not as successfully as most media sites, and thankfully for good reason.  I don't think "10 Things You Did Not Know About Kathryn" is really going to grab attention or "10 Things Kathryn Keeps Secret" or "Kathryn's Most Irritating 10 Habits: According To Her Children".

However, to tickle my own humour I decided that I'd list 10 things that interest, irk, inspire me. They are all related to my art practice either closely or tangentially. And, it helps me celebrate my 10th year blogging - posting consistently once a week August 2006 - August 2016!

But, before I go onto my list. Why did I choose the painting above Scoping The Abyss? 

The drone's scoping devices seek out the abyss where insurgency and terror lies, but I wonder if the scoping actually creates the abyss? Moving away from the military connotation let's think of the painting another way. The ubiquitous nature of connectivity, via an array of devices enable monitoring, surveillance, data collection, data retention and targeting. This creates a virtual abyss where, for example, misleading headlines about celebrities, politicians, events etc throw us into an abyss of superficiality and vacuous diversion. The result is a kind of inertia - maybe an abyss in itself?

Here's an example of being 'targeted' - I googled Suburu cars - yes daydreaming about a new car - and within minutes Suburu advertisements had appeared on my Facebook page. Helpful - NO. Diversionary - yes for a minute or two. Slightly creepy - YES!

Me with two paintings - I am 14 in this photo.
I exhibited in an adult show when I was 14 and sold my first painting at the exhibition.


I have been inspired by it for decades and I continue to  see how its symbolic potency intersects with contemporary life. It has meant something across cultures and religions for eons and I propose that we ignore it at our own peril.

Beacon Oil on linen 92 x 102 cm 2014

The scientific study of the universe across time and scale helps me with my fascination with perspective , literal and metaphoric. 

Cosmic Auroboros Oil on linen 120 x 150 cm 2012
This post for this painting is the most popular on my BLOG 

My current M. Phil research is focused on militarised technology, an incredibly fascinating but somewhat scary area of technological development. I have a particular interest in drones! You can see this in a few of the paintings in this post and in many of my recent posts. 

New Shoots Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

I grew up in rural Queensland. How we humans 'see' landscape is, I propose, an important element in how our species might survive this century. I combine the tree-of-life, cosmology, technology and more recently, militarised technology into my landscapes where I experiment with literal and metaphoric perspective. Disrupted Horizon [below] is one example of how I combine my various inspirations. 

Disrupted Horizon Gouache on paper 10.5 x 24.5 cm 2016

I have two spaces/studios in my house. One is the garage [two photos below] and the other is a funny room that used to house the hot water system. The latter is used for my works on paper and the former for my bigger oil paintings. Both a really messy. I love my studios.

I love painting. I have previously sculpted with various mediums [clay, concrete, assemblage]. I have also worked with etching, screen printing and lithography. I have worked in installation including one where video was an integral part of the work. I have had experience with photography as my brother is a keen photographer. As a young teenager he had a dark room in one of the outbuildings on the farm we grew up on. None of these mediums gets my daydreaming, thinking, problem solving like painting does. 

Painting at Kindergarten - a few decades ago!

7. VISUAL ARTS POLICY - This is an irk!
Two policies introduced in 2010 and 2011 by the Australian Labour Government of the time have severely and detrimentally impacted on visual artists' earning abilities, plus the flow on effect to various suppliers and dealers. The LNP Government, since election in 2013, has not addressed either issue. I get on my sopabox about these two things - but won't here. I'll just note what they are. These two policies are: 
  • 2011 Changes to the status of art/collectibles as an investment in Self Managed Super Funds. 
  • 2010 The introduction of the Artists' Resale Royalty Scheme. 

My exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation in late 2005 is a highlight of my career. I sat with the exhibition each day over two weeks and met the most amazing people from all over the region, Africa and Eastern Europe. The conversations I had with so many of these people, men and women, have had a profound influence on me. I KNOW that the arts can help create bridges across cultures - BUT unfortunately governments, especially Western ones, often see the arts as a show and tell type exercise or opportunity. I have witnessed this a few times...sadly.

At the opening of my exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation 2005. 
L to R:Clementine Fox,  Mr Khalfan Asst Undersecretary Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, Hon Rod Welford Queensland Minister for Education and the Arts,  Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox. 

I enjoy public speaking - weird I know.

10. M. PHIL
I am a full-time student at the University of Queensland and loving it - most of the time! I am investigating how two Australian artists George Gittoes and Jon Cattapan represent militarised technology in their paintings. ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING!!! Both artists are remarkable. 

The topic fed from my own work and now the research is feeding back into my work. Also, as I paint I seem to work through some of my academic ideas, which result in new insights. My own work is not part of the degree, but once I have finished the degree I will have a body of work that reflects how it inspired me. 

George Gittoes has an exhibition "Night Vision" here in Brisbane at Mitchell Fine Art Gallery right now - it closes 20 August. If you are in Brisbane you MUST go and see it. It's confronting, but the integrity of the work exudes - George has worked in war and conflict zones for decades and pays witness to the horror of war in multi-layered ways. 



I have again been invited to be a finalist in the Tattersall's Landscape $30,000 Art Award.

I deliver my painting on the 30th August.

The exhibition will be at the Tattersall's Club, Brisbane 5 - 9 September and then it relocates to Riverside Centre 12 - 23 September. 


Saturday, August 06, 2016


Two Worlds Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

On the 9th of August 2006 I wrote my first BLOG post. I have written a post once a week since then. That's 10 years this month - August 2016! 

The first painting Wonderful Possibility was uploaded on the 10th August 2006. And, here it is again below. This is what I wrote about the painting When I painted this painting my thoughts were about the abundance within our earth and the majesty of the Universe. I ask myself why is so much possibility squandered by focusing on differences when all peoples of the world share history/time.

It's 10 years since I wrote those words, but has much changed? Yes and no. 'Yes', to advances in technology. 'No' to the squandering of possibility, focusing on differences and ignoring that we all share the planet, history and time...and thus we should really get along with each other, because [for the time being] there is no other 'home' for us.  


In 2006 my tree-of-life, embedded within the Earth in Wonderful Possibility signified possibility, connectivity, hidden energy forces, the expansive nature of life. My interpretation of the tree-of-life is a continuous presence in my paintings, either as a cascading element, as in Wonderful Possibility, or as a beacon or signal for life. It acts as a beacon in one of my latest works on paper [above] Two Worlds 

Wonderful Possibility Oil on linen 120 x 160 2005

I've chosen Two Worlds for this post, because I feel that it represents one of the biggest changes that has occurred in the last 10 years...the feeling that we a are living in...two worlds.  

When I painted Two Worlds I was thinking about how digital technology has created almost another universe where algorithms reign - where data is monitored and stored - where connectivity is about devices rather than us - where digital profiles can go on existing long after we die - and more. In this painting the drone, representing a kind of Big Brother element as well as its military intent, is scoping - monitoring - perhaps targeting. Is Big Brother targeting you to sell you insurance, hamburgers, clothes or something else - OR - is the 'eye in the sky' targeting you to kill you? 

In Two Worlds a drone is scoping, but it seems to miss picking up on the nuances of life. 

Both paintings are landscapes or what I like to call 'cosmic landscapes'. I have a quest to un-tether landscape from Earth-bound horizons. Why? To force new perspectives that take into account our universal environment - to perhaps make it obvious, that for the time being, Earth is our home - situated in a universal environment that, as yet, has not offered us any real alternative. 

Perspective, in all its literal and metaphoric possibilities, is a key element in my work.



In late 2014 I received a request from the State Library of Queensland to have my BLOG archived n perpetuity on PANDORA the national archive of online sites of significance and ongoing research value. Needless to say I was delighted to have been acknowledged.