Monday, January 07, 2019


Nowhere to Hide: Memorial Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2018

Surveillance in the 21st century is pervasive, persistent and increasingly ubiquitous. Cameras, sensors, monitored devices, and the collection of various kinds of data contribute to modern day surveillance. Facial recognition, gait recognition, social media use, shopping habits, web browsing and much more feed data into the surveillance net. 

I am interested in how surveillance by cameras and sensors changes our perceptions of landscape. The focusing and orienting markings on camera lenses and computer screens create a digital overlay, one that represents new kind of topography. It is the topography of simulation and computation. Signals that connect devices and enable networked systems also create an overlay of the landscape, an invisible volumetric overlay that extends from Earth to satellites in space. Networked systems enable the persistence of contemporary surveillance.

There is nowhere to hide.

These new and largely discrete or invisible new landscape topographies act like nets or webs. This webnet captures us, holds us hostage...but, do we realise this? Has this insidious infiltration of life and landscape changed perceptions of landscape, environment? If not, will it? How conscious are we of any changes?

In Nowhere to Hide: Memorial the crosses can represent a few things - cross-hair focusing/targeting on a camera or a gun lens, orienting graphics on a computer screen, the digital division of landscape into zones or maybe the digitised structural components of a simulated landscape. The crosses indicate a process of uniformity, a flattening of space and experience. Does this mean the real landscape, in all its wondrous diversity, becomes alien? Does it mean we feel there is nowhere to hide, to be private?

The crosses also act as a kind of memorial to the loss of freedom.

But, I like to think that, as a painting, this image acts subversively!

There is a lot more I can say, but I will leave you now to wonder....


* I have previously written about the contemporary hostage situation HOSTAGE


Friday, December 28, 2018


It's Everything Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 

Historian, Yuval Noah Harari has written an article, "Moving Beyond Nationalism: Three global problems create a need for loyalty to humankind and to planet Earth"published by The Economist. The three global problems Harari identifies are "nuclear war, climate change and technological disruption." That these three issues require global attention and co-operation is clear. Each pose major risks, even existential risks, to humanity and the planet. Combined, they pose a hellish picture of the future. 

As Harari notes, a retreat into nationalism does not protect nations from risks posed by nuclear war, climate change and technological disruption. He writes "We need to create a global identity and encourage people to be loyal to humankind and to planet Earth in addition to their particular nation."

I like the idea of being "loyal to humankind and to planet Earth." Regular readers of this blog will know that this kind of sentiment underlies much of my work. My use of the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life, depictions of Earth as a pale blue dot, and my use of cosmic perspectives, coupled with visual signs and metaphors of contemporary risks, are attempts to focus attention on humanity and the Earth. Visual questions about militarised technology and the militarise-ability of technology, pose questions about the future of humanity and the planet.

The medium of painting moves thinking away from what artist and writer James Bridle in his fascinating book [do buy it!] The New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future calls "computational thinking" eg: data driven computation, computer simulation/modelling. The act of painting and the medium of painting can help remind us of alternative ways of thinking. Ways that may assist us in creating a loyalty to humankind and Earth. Ways that can critique contemporary technology - without using it for creation, exhibition and storage.*     

So, for the arrival of 2019 just a few days away, I have decided to upload a selection of my paintings where, variously, the tree-of-life, the pale blue dot, cosmic perspectives and images of airborne weaponised drones may induce thoughts about loyalty to humankind and Earth. 

 Future Oil on linen 91 x 102 2015

 Australian Landscape Cutout Oil on linen 55 x 80 cm 2015
This painting is a reflection upon how nationalism might work, or not work, in the 21st century. It reminds us that all nations share the one planet.

 Beacon Oil on linen 92 x 102 2014

The Birth of Landscape oil on linen 138 x 168 cm 2014
A small tree-of-life is cradled by the emergent landscape, at Earth's beginning. Ultimately life, including humankind and the planet are entangled.  

 Pale Blue Dot Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2014

Reading/viewing the painting above with the two below triggers a few questions about what kinds of risky anomalies are we not noticing. I propose human imagination can take us to revelatory perspectives.

 Anomaly Detection [No 2] Oil on linen 120 x 180 cm 2017

Anomaly Detection Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Happy New Year,

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Droned 21st Century Vision oil on linen 40 x 50 cm 2018

The term 'drone vision' is different to 'droned vision'. 'Drone vision' ascribes vision capabilities to a drone, a machine. This is something I have previously critiqued.* The latter, 'droned vision', is about how human vision is changed as a result of ubiquitous images viewed on screens, for example, camera screens, mobile phones and computers. The flattening of an image, the pixellation of an image, the cross-haired focussing to generate and view an image, all contribute to 'droned vision'. The simulation of perspective is a trickery that implodes both literal and metaphoric perspective. The latter should be the ability to cast critical eyes and intellect to penetrate the digital data that makes up 21st century imagery. I fear this has been eroded. 

In Droned 21st Century Vision the red overlay presents a flattened perspective, the orienting lines mimicking surveillance and targeting co-ordinates. The grid of squares, that seemingly continue beyond the painting, establish zones of reference, a kind of pixellation of space that enables extraction of data. Here I expose the way new and invisible topographies are imposed on the landscape. These new topographies include invisible signals that ricochet around the world and into space, from node to node. Signals enable increasing surveillance as they wrap the planet in nets that we cannot see, but hold us hostage.

Are the cross-hairs those of a camera viewing screen or do they represent a weapon? The dual-use nature of contemporary technology, however, blurs the separation between civilian/domestic and militarised use and intention. The hostage situation becomes clearer! The very recent deliberate disruption of Gatwick airport by civilian drones demonstrates that no contemporary technology can claim to be neutral. 

In Droned 21st Century Vision I have placed two trees-of-life, one pale night-vision green and the other red, within the flattened plane of gridded squares. Another tree-of-life, a white one, is positioned on a hillside in the background landscape. This tree reveals the insidious trickery of droned perspective. It represents a resistance to the norming of droned vision. It stands as a beacon, both as a warning and a guiding light. It retrieves real landscape and the depth it provides - perspective - from the 21st century simulation.

* One example post is The Drone: Do Not Embody

On a more happy note. I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas, and a happy 2019.


Friday, December 14, 2018


 Cosmic Testimony Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

As I mentioned in my last post, I am on crutches with a full leg brace. It is difficult to stand and sit at a desk for a long period of time, let alone sit in a car. I am 1.8 m tall with long legs and when one of these legs cannot bend and the other has a slight injury, even simple things are difficult. I hope to get back to my studio practice asap though!

In this post I present three paintings from 2017. Each of the paintings includes leaves. In my mind they are leaves that have fallen from the tree-of-life. Each of these paintings also include figures. As regular readers know I do not often include figures as I am careful not to appropriate other people's stories. However, the tree-of-life is often my figure substitute, a symbolic representation of human life and all life, at the same time.

The Leaves are Leaving Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Each of the three paintings also include radiating lines that appear like the rays of the sun. But, are they? Well, they could be, if that's what you want to believe. However, for me, they are the surveillance and targeting signals of an airborne drone.That the signals take on a fake sunshine appearance is deliberate.

I ask, what are we not noticing? What risks are we oblivious to? Are we noticing the effects of ubiquitous surveillance? Are we noticing what is happening to the leaves of the tree-of-life?

Leaves can fall off a tree because the tree is deciduous. The fallen leaves provide mulch on the ground. A cycle of life continues as the tree, in springtime, sprouts new leaves. But, leaves can fall off a tree due to lack of water, heat stress or poisoning. The leaves fall as the tree dies.

The leaves in my paintings are metaphors.........................................


Can the Leaves Still Dance? Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Monday, December 03, 2018


Scopic Gaze - 21st Century Oil on linen 36 x 36 cm 2018

I have fractured my left patella and injured other parts of my body too. Long story involving a cat, a ledge and a flight of stairs. It is difficult to sit at a desk with one leg up. Thus this post will not be too long. 

Scopic Gaze - 21st Century connects to my last two posts and paintings Fake Eyes: In The Sky and Seeing Through the Fake Window. It also connects with a number of other posts and paintings where I reflect on ideas of 'drone vision', 'machine vision' and other anthropomorphic terms applied to contemporary machines and systems, particularly militarised and militarise-able ones. 

The scopic perspective is offered by cameras and guns. Cross-hairs and other focusing mechanisms scope space to identify targets to capture, to shoot. Both words, capture and shoot, apply to cameras and weapons! When cameras and weapons are combined, for example in an airborne drone, the capturing and shooting are amplified.

In the 21st century we are increasingly accustomed to images, more often than not, viewed on a screen of some sort. The edges of the screen render the peripheral unseen, in a way mimicking the scopic gaze of the camera and weapon. Digital images on screens comprise multitudes of pixels, tricking us into believing what we see. Yet, each pixel is bordered by its edges. Without companion pixels the image disintegrates. Each pixel is like a micro - scope capturing data that is only meaningful when positioned with other scopic - pixels. Do we really see or are we detecting?

Does the 21st century scopic gaze, which we are incessantly exposed to, change the way we see, what we believe, how we imagine and dream? Does it condition us to view the screen as a window - albeit a fake one? 

Scopic Gaze - 21st Century depicts a blood red tree-of-life as a target. Is it a camera targeting to take a shot, or a weapon targeting to take a shot? What if it is both camera and weapon? 

There are a lot of questions I ask myself as I write my post and paint my paintings. But, underlying everything I love that painting can visually pose and penetrate questions - without employing the the digital and cyber systems used by scopic mechanisms. 

Oh, and the tree-of-life is always a symbol of hope!


Saturday, November 24, 2018


Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky Oil on linen 30 x 45 cm 2018

An airborne drone is sometimes called an 'eye in the sky'. In fact, there is a movie called  Eye In The Sky . Starring Helen Mirren the movie presents various dilemmas associated with targeting and attack decision making by remote drone operators and other defence personnel. 

What sort of questions are posed by calling an unmanned air vehicle, which is remotely piloted and weaponised, an eye in the sky? Firstly there are questions about attributing the machine with animal, human or a non-human, abilities ie: seeing. Can a drone really see? Is imaging technology really representative of an eye, or a set of eyes? Is machine vision, in terms of autonomous reviewing of image data collected by a drone feed, another kind of seeing? What are the existential implications if we ascribe human abilities to increasingly autonomous machine systems? Do we inadvertently relinquish something?

I have previously written about the  the word 'vision' used in terms such as 'drone vision' and 'machine vision'. Vision, when associated with human vision, is not only about seeing, but also dreaming, imagining and visionary thinking. For example,. I 'see'pictures in my head when i read a book, even a non-fiction book! Can a drone dream, imagine or come up with some kind of visionary idea? The answer is no. Can machine vision, tasked with reviewing image data, imagine or dream? No, it scopes rather than sees. If anomalies are detected does machine vision then imagine outcome scenarios of what might happen, like a human would imagine? 

Ascribing human abilities of seeing and vision to the machine may, paradoxically, blind us! That poses the question, if a drone can see, is drone blindness also possible? This, I think, really penetrates the question, can a drone see, because blindness is about not seeing rather than being turned off or being dead. Human blindness does not exclude other kinds of vision - dreaming, imagining and visionary thinking. That a drone cannot dream, imagine or come up with visionary ideas indicates a kind of blindness that raises further questions about ascribing human abilities of sight and vision to the machine. 

There must be alternative words to describe a drone's imaging capabilities and machine vision capabilities - the one I have come up with is scoping. Scoping does not indicate abilities to imagine or dream, but it does indicate abilities to target and attack. 

Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky
In my painting Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky two fake eyes hover, each painted with small 'pixels'. The red and green colours indicate night scoping and infrared technologies. Drones are not 'eyes-in-the-sky, they are scope-in-the-sky! Each fake eyes' pupils are centred in a scope's cross hairs. These eye-drones are clearly scopes, camera and/or weapon, their signals aimed at the tree-of-life, a white beacon in the distance. 

That the tree provides perspective is indicative of hope. 

Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky is another dronescape, plus it is a cosmicscape. Apart from being an exploration of contemporary weaponised technology, it is also a landscape. 


My last post was called Seeing Through the Fake Window
You might also like to read The Drone: Do Not Embody


Friday, November 16, 2018


Seeing Through the Fake Window Oil on linen 30 x 46 cm 2018

Fake stuff is happening everywhere! Fake news, fake videos, and now there is a thing called "deep fake". "Deep Fake" uses artificial intelligence to create images or videos the depict seemingly real events, with depictions of real people, sometimes even with fake people. So, for example, videos of politicians saying and doing things they have not said or done. Here are two interesting articles that discuss fake phenomena and artificial intelligence, and "deep fake":  You Thought Fake News Was Bad? Deep Fakes is Where Truth Goes to Die by Oscar Schwartz in The Guardian, and What You Have to Fear from Artificial Intelligence  by Ryan Metz in Current Affairs: A magazine of Politics and Culture.

Paul Metz writes: "If you think “fake news” is a problem now, just wait. When an image can be generated of literally anyone doing literally anything with perfect realism, truth is going to get a whole lot slipperier."

Fake news clearly has political, social and security issues, but "deep fake" takes these issues even further. Used indiscriminately, "deep fake', to my mind, is a threat to civilisation as we know it. 

Fake news, and particularly "deep fake" are intrinsically linked to digital and cyber technology generally, and the screen more specifically. The screen is the "third" or "cathode window", as Paul Virilio, called it in interviews and text. Jean Baudrillard also proposed a loss of reality delivered by the screen. His "perfect crime", the death of reality, may reach its ultimate prosecution in "deep fake". 

So, to my new painting Seeing Through the Fake Window. Obviously I am playing into the news about fake phenomena. I am also playing into the idea of the screen being a window, a fake one. Without the ubiquity of the screen would fake news and "deep fake" pose threats to the fabric of society? The screen is ubiquitous because it is the computer screen, mobile phone screen, or other device screen. The screen is, however, also associated with the camera and the weapon, surveillance and targeting. 

In Seeing Through the Fake Window. you can imagine yourself looking through a fake window, aka screen. Maybe it is an airborne drone screen, one of its many multispectral cameras perhaps ? Or, maybe you are looking at a remote drone pilot's screen. Or maybe, you are looking at a television screen, watching news of a true or fake story about a true of fake drone strike? I have painted a dark blue square in the middle of the night- vision green 'cloud'. Is that a new window? Maybe, maybe not.

Seeing Through the Fake Window is not only about giving an impression of looking through a window, a fake window. It is also about exposing the fakery, critiquing the fake window that delivers fake news into our private and public lives. 

As with many of my paintings, I have painted lines that crisscross a landscape. These lines are signals and computer graphic-like markings. They create a new landscape topography, one which is normally invisible, except perhaps on a screen, maybe a remote drone pilot's screen. It is a fake landscape! As I have previously written, nets of signals that enable connectivity and networking, wrap the planet, extending from land to satellites in space. Theses signals transmit news, stories and images - real and fake - around the world. 

"Deep fake" is a potentially disastrous 21st century tactical weapon, deployable via our nets of signals.

On that happy note!


Thursday, November 08, 2018


Beware the Shadow Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2018

As a metaphor, the shadow represents the dark side. 

In my painting Beware the Shadow a shadow drone appears to be armed. The dark side, armed!  Does this mean that the shadow reveals the truth, that the white drone is weaponised with concealed technology that can target and kill? Does the shadow reveal a blindness to reality? In Beware the Shadow, the weapons are metaphors too.

If you stand back from your screen, this painting appears very 3D!

I have previously written about drone shadows, for example, Shadowy Drone Play and Drone Life Shadow Play

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

Shadowy Drone Play Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016