Thursday, February 23, 2017


Diorama - The Future? Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Firstly, I want to report that my reading at Wild Readings earlier this week went very well. I read short paragraphs about three of my recent paintings, New Sky, Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell and Through the Mists of Time. I then read a slam drone poem I have written. 

Here's a photo of me reading. The painting you can see is Through the Mists of Time.

Diorama - The Future? is not unlike two earlier and smaller works on paper Fragmented and The Tree-of-Life Sends its Energy Underground

The patches of red in Diorama - The Future? can indicate a few things - blood lost, life's fertility, energy lost, or maybe energy dispersed for later retrieval. These red patches act as landscape elements too, albeit possibly cosmic landscape ones. They could be mineral deposits, contour indicators, pools of energy, multiple glimpses of sunsets, bomb blasts on distant and close horizons....

The oscillation between positive and negative interpretations is deliberate. It reflects the ambiguity of orientation in the painting. Is the viewer above the landscape or are they looking down upon a landscape, or are they in front of one or maybe behind? This sense of flying around the landscape, and importantly the Reaper drone, forecloses any priority that might be given to the drone's so called 'vision'. 

The viewer's orientation is disturbed by the upright and upside-down trees-of-life, the two white ones and the row of yellow ones. The white trees act as illuminating beacons. But, the drone is also white? Ah ha! Its failed attempt to camouflage itself is revealed! The emanating rays that appear on the top left look like the rays of a sun - but - they could be the scoping signals of a drone. They contrast with the upside down white tree with its emanating branches that reveal a more complex array of networks and systems than those signaled by the emanating drone rays. Again, perhaps an attempt to camouflage a drone's intrusive surveillance and possible targeting capabilities is revealed. 

By playing with orientation and ambiguous perspective the viewer becomes the 'eye in the sky' even if its in your mind's eye - imagination. Given the title of the painting Diorama - The Future? maybe the viewer is transported to the future - in imagination? Given that developments in militarised technology, such as increasingly autonomous systems, are already focused on perceived future of war needs, thinking critically about how the future might unfold is important. In some ways it is already militarised and in some minds so is imagination!

Rather than the word 'vision' to describe a drone's surveillance and targeting capabilities, I prefer the word 'scoping'. This removes the questionable habit we humans have of anthropomorphising non-human and non-living things. Scoping is a more technical term- related to targeting and surveillance. Vision, however, implies a lot more that we humans need to retain for ourselves, particularly imagination - our mind's eye!

 P.S please take a look at my new DRONESCAPES page.

Friday, February 17, 2017


Secrets Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Upright and upside down trees-of-life - roots - multiple mini landscapes - emanating pink rays - glistening stars or are they galaxies?  - skies - clouds - landforms - the cosmos - and ---- secrets!

If you are new to my blog you are likely to 'read' this painting quite differently to those who visit often - initially anyway. 

For those who do visit often they will notice the absence of airborne weaponised drones. They will, however, think twice about the emanating rays in the distance. Are they signs of hidden drones loitering beyond sight, their long range and long dwell capabilities enabling persistent surveillance? Or, are they evidence of suns in the far distant reaches of the universe? Regular visitors might also notice how these rays contrast with the pale green roots, and the upright and upside-down trees. 

New and regular visitors will notice an ambiguous perspective - are you above, below, inside, outside, in front of a landscape? Is it a 'scape' of the land or of the sky? Maybe, it's a 'scape' revealing multi-universes? 

I called the painting Secrets for a few reasons. One is to remind us that keeping secrets in the cyber and digital age of the 21st century is very difficult! Whether secrets are revealed now or at some time in the future is largely out of our hands. Algorithms will trawl through data and come up with correlations that 'reveal' biases, likes, dislikes, habits etc whether we like it or not! 

But, a painting with upside down trees, an ambiguous perspective, emanating pink rays, pale dots, green roots and an overwhelming sense of beauty keeps its secrets by being enchanting, even beguiling. Whatever secrets it might hold, they are there forever - so I am told!  

Once an artist has a body of work it is exciting to see relationships between works, even over decades. A body of work is a dynamic entity made up of equally dynamic parts. Yes, individual pieces can be appreciated separately, but connections between works can sometimes reveal - secrets!

P.S. Please check out my new DRONESCAPES page here on my BLOG and my updated 'galleries' on my website

Saturday, February 11, 2017


Cradle Gouache and Watercolour on Paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

As I sit here in my office in sweltering heat I ponder the state of the planet. Here in Brisbane we have experienced days of drastic heat - one after the other. All over Australia people are sweltering under record high temperatures. The odd hot day or two is bearable, but day after day of heat + humidity is debilitating. The relentlessness of the heat is significant, because to me at least, it demonstrates change in weather patterns. I grew up in Western Queensland, Australia. Then as an adult I spent 18 year further west, before moving to Brisbane 16 years ago. Yes, it got hot out west, but I don't remember weeks of relentless heat - like we are experiencing now. I noticed it last year too, but had not previously noticed it 

So, are we humans like a frogs put in water that is slowly brought to boiling point - but the frogs do not notice they are being cooked?! Maybe?

In the 60s and 70s when I was at primary school we learnt about pollution; air, water, soil, land etc. Yet, here we are a few decades later still talking about the effects of pollution - humanmade pollution! Even if humankind's pollution is ultimately not a major contributor to climate change/global warming it cannot be helping! Even if it is a minor contributor, what if it is the thing that causes the balance to tip - the last ingredient - AND - so something that demands to be addressed - by all of us? Arguing about addressing human generated pollution seems pointless because one way or another it is a major problem.

Added to environmental turmoil the world is also experiencing other kinds of turmoil - economic, political, social and cultural. My guess is that they are all connected.

So, I painted Cradle with humanity and the tree-of-life linked in a vast landscape as a way to envision Earth - our planet - our home. After all, it is ACTUALLY our 'cradle' as it nurtures us in every way. Let's look after it and each other....

Below is another 'cradle' work from 2015 In the Cradle 

In the Cradle Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015


Red Rain on the front of Hecate and What I think About When I am Planking featured on conference material. February 2017

My painting Red Rain  is featured on the front cover of HECATE Hecate is a journal that prints material relating to women. It is is an internationally circulated refereed journal. It is published twice a year by Hecate Press, in association with the Research Group for Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change Research, in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland.

My painting What I Think About When Planking  is featuring in printed and online material for the international conference Excess Desire and Twentieth to Twenty-First Century Women's Writing  

P.S Please check out my new DRONESCAPES page 

Sunday, February 05, 2017


 Manhunting Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


1. I have made a designated DRONESCAPES  page here on my blog. There are 18 of my dronescape - cosmic landscape paintings.

2. My painting Red Rain  is featured on the front cover of HECATE Hecate is a journal that prints material relating to women. It is is an internationally circulated refereed journal. It is published twice a year by Hecate Press, in association with the Research Group for Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change Research, in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland.

3. My painting What I Think About When Planking  is featuring in printed and online material for the international conference Excess Desire and Twentieth to Twenty-First Century Women's Writing  



I first came across the term "manhunt" in regards to airborne drone surveillance and targeting in French philosopher Gregoire Chamayou's book Drone Theory. He makes the startling and horrific claim that in the age of the drone the whole world is potentially a manhunting ground.(Chamayou: 38, 52-53) And, let's not forget that in some parts of the world 'manhunts' conducted from the air already occur. In many cases targeting is based on patterns of behaviour or data collected from devices such as mobile phones, GPS and so on. In these cases a target may not even have a name - this is called a 'signature strike' rather than a 'personality strike'. (this information is available in numerous places including newspaper article as well as books like Chamayou's Drone Theory)

I have come across the idea of manhunt/manhunting in other articles and books a number of times since reading Drone Theory. The threat from above informs architect Eyal Weizman's theory of the verticality of threat and international relations academic Alex Danchev's provocatively titled article Bug Splat: The Art of the Drone . Media studies academic Mark Andrejevic writes about the ubiquity of targeting surveillance in a number of articles and essays. And, there are others.

In the last few weeks I have read two articles by lecturer in human geography at Glasgow University, Ian Shaw. These articles are The Great War of Enclosure: Securing the Skies and The Urbanisation of Drone Warfare: Policing Surplus Populations in the Dronepolis . Both of these pieces are wake-up calls about the threats posed by accelerating technical, operative and usage developments in drone technology. Increasing autonomy and swarm capabilities trigger many questions about drone use in both military and civilian situations. The insidious thing is that the divide between civilian and military is becoming increasingly blurred.

Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2016

Manhunting and Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell 

I painted Manhunting after reading Shaw's two articles and I painted Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell before reading the articles. Shaw's ideas about the reduction of some populations to a "surplus" category where data often acts as a proxy for the human really resonated with me.

Binary Code
Both paintings depict life and humanity in painted binary code. How? In Manhunting I have painted Human in binary code at the bottom of the painting, over and over. This represents a population under surveillance, potentially targeted.

In Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell I have painted the word LIFE in binary code at the bottom of the painting. And, the word DRONE is painted in binary code on the Gray Eagle drone.

In both paintings 'signals' emanate from the drone, a Reaper drone in Manhunting.  They are simultaneously surveillance and targeting signals, on the one hand 'sucking' in our data and on the other hand perhaps lasers pinpointing targets? Both the Gray Eagle drone and Reaper drone are armed with missiles. They are ready to attack. The targets below the drones are strings of binary code acting as proxies for humanity and life. There are no names, just contained in the reductive 'space' between zeros and ones.


I have deliberately painted the binary code in attractive colours to make the strings of code look like ribbons, to inject personality, to stir the pot so-to-speak. Hand painting the code also means the zeros and ones are not perfect. Can code really represent life and humanity in all the foibles and amazing attributes that come with flesh, blood, emotions, spirit, creativity...?

In Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell I have also included trees-of-life to act as beacons to guide us. In Manhunting there is no tree. But, I look at the empty space on the far right of the strings of binary code in two ways. One is that human life completely ceases and autonomous artificial life systems rule the world! The other is that life covertly goes underground, ready and waiting for regrowth some time in the future.

A Selection of related posts.


my 'gallery' DRONESCAPES


Saturday, January 21, 2017


Through the Mists of Time Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 75.5 cm 2017

As regular readers know, my recent paintings have been influenced by my M. Phil research into contemporary militarised technology. Recent work has featured the figure of the unmanned air vehicle, commonly called the drone, often in juxtaposition with my interpretation of the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol. 


This new painting Through the Mists of Time does not feature a drone. Rather, it focuses on humanity - unplugged from all cyber and digital technologies.

A result of my research focusing on contemporary militarised technology is a counter balancing re-focus on questions associated with what it means to be human in the 21st century. That's why the tree-of-life figures so strongly in my work, with or without drones! The tree, as an age-old transcultural/religious symbol 'speaks' of all life and its systems. 

In Through the Mists of Time I wanted to place humanity, as represented by the male and female figures, in a cosmic seemingly timeless landscape. The figures seem to 'cast' a tree-of-life shadow, or new root system, at the same time as they project a tree-of-life into the sky - the endless future. A 'stream' of leaves gives the impression of time passing, the white oval shape alludes to renewal and birth, while the small round tree hovers like a fire fly, ready to illuminate, play, guide, tease. Small dots make up various parts of the painting - are they stars, new universes, energy particles, past and future histories? 

I am interested in investigating human agency in an age where unseen algorithms influence so much of our lives. I suggest that in an age of increasing automation, and developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, questions about human agency are important.

I was a fare way into completing this painting - and it did take some time - when I decided to re-read some of my Mother's and Grandmother's poems in their joint anthology Out There (1986). Well, one of my Mother's poems 'sang' to my new painting. In fact, I took its title from a line of my Mother's poem. The poem is:

Grafting Time
by Elsie Brimblecombe 
Published in Out There by D. E Ross [my grandmother] and Elsie Brimblecombe, Elise Publishing, Dalby, 1986.

If I squeeze the golden fruits
Of time, and suck the juice
Till from the leathered skins
The pith and core and rind
   fall free

The seed beyond the centre
Of that fruit will score
Their mark and drop
Beyond the pearly orchard gates
   and grow

There is this land crossed by days
And falling within the season's drop
Those fruits will bear
Upon the hour, the stop
And go of earth's frantic measure

But if I could graft the trees
Of time and from that union
Spring a growing season
Rooted in the current flow
I would grow and tree of life
   beyond record

A tree whose branches spread
Beyond our lives and those gone by
A tree which blossomed
Through the mists of time
And set its fruits to ripen
In the thinking of the wise.


Please check out recent and older posts for more on my work figuring the drone, the tree-of-life and cosmic landscapes.


Saturday, January 14, 2017


Shadowy Drone Play gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

What was I thinking about when I painted Shadowy Drone Play? The answer is, a lot of things. 

I was thinking about the literal shadow a drone might cast. Perhaps the dark blue drone is a shadow? But, it cannot be the shadow of the checked drone, because they are going in opposite directions. Is there another drone above us that casts this dark shadow? Maybe it is not a shadow at all? Maybe it is a drone, camouflaged against the blue sky - a droned sky. The checked drone mimics an expression of pixels, possibly camouflaging itself for virtual representation? Or is Shadowy Drone Play a 'screen shot' of a game or possibly a remote pilot's screen where the digital signal is disrupted and the image begins to break down? 

Are we looking down upon these two drones or are we looking up at them? If they are, however, on a screen  we could be receiving images from another drone who is beside them or a even a satellite image which has been rotated? Maybe we are seeing only two drones of a much larger swarm of them, our image received by another swarm member? Regular readers know how I love to play with perspective. 

The word shadowy has other connotations other than casting a literal shadow. Words like covert, secret, clandestine, furtive and stealth come to mind! Yes, politically charged! Maybe the pixelated drone is expressing some kind of stealth capability with the other drone as a decoy? Lots of possibilities. 

This painting is deliberately ambiguous! That's not a surprise. I like ambiguity, because it holds the potential to open out into possibilities I have not thought about - by you! 


Sunday, January 08, 2017


 Sky - Drone - Net gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Surveillance is a hot topic. Cyber-hacking, data collection, Big Data, device monitoring, video surveillance, tracking by GPS systems, drone surveillance and lordy knows what other kinds! We have stories of the recent US election being influenced by another foreign country's surveillance, hacking, stealth! And, closer to home, after browsing the internet for holiday accommodation, I have social media sites advertising special deals in the very same places. There are some hot deals in Port MacQuarie!  Oh, and we now have a tracking device that we can attach to our cat, the one who thinks he is a person and sometimes a bird. This device can be monitored by a mobile phone. Even pets are subject to surveillance! Actually, this is going to make life a lot easier - I hope...

In this post I have two surveillance paintings. As regular readers know I am fascinated by the figure of the unmanned airborne military drone. Its surveillance, monitoring and attack capabilities are both sophisticated and alarming.There are many moral and ethical questions associated with remotely piloted unmanned drones, especially as autonomy in many of their operative systems increases. Political questions collide with moral and ethical ones. Various interests and debates seem to fall into a quagmire, but research and development into increasing autonomy, stealth capability, non-reliance on GPS or communications satellites etc continues. Politics, and definitely the law, play a game of constant catch-up!

In the meantime the public is subject to persistent surveillance. In some parts of the world ie: Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, this surveillance takes on life and death perspectives.

I imagine an array of signals forming a net across the sky. Here, I take cultural critic Mark Andrejevic's idea of "the droning of experience" and call our contemporary skies "droned skies". In my imagination the sky is diminished, its endlessness restricted as fear mingles with the signals to create a tight and opaque 'net' the obscures perspective, distance, imagination.

Now that does not seem such a happy note to end this post on!

Please focus on my two paintings Sky - Drone - Net and Swarm Surveillance. In both it is unclear whether you are above or below the net of signals. There's hope! 

Swarm Surveillance Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Monday, January 02, 2017


Scoping New Skies Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Ubiquitous and persistent surveillance via visual and data monitoring creates a new layer of 'reality' whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Most people, however, are aware, albeit in varying degrees. People in Yemen, Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan are aware in an extreme way as they experience remotely piloted airborne drones that hover above their homes and territories. These drones provide surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence to other, mostly western authorities, in the name of activities such as counter-insurgency operations. These drones can also target and attack. In a way the sky falls in! 

People in the west are monitored and surveilled via their use of digital devices, their movements across the world caught on surveillance cameras, their cars tracked by GPS devices and so on. Perhaps, rather than a new sky it is a whole new world? If it a whole new world, it will have a sky of sorts...? But, maybe this new sky acts like a blanket, a mechanism of suffocation. After all virtual reality gives the impression of 3 dimensions, but this is an algorithmic instruction. Maybe the 'sky' really has fallen - into the reduction that lies between zeros and ones? Here it is sobering to think about a statement made in 1994 by cultural critic Paul Virilio, in an interview with visual artist Louise Wilson. 

These new technologies try to make virtual reality more powerful than actual reality, which is the true accident. The day when virtual reality becomes more powerful than reality will be the day of the big accident.(1)   

Scoping New Skies plays with all the thoughts expressed in the above paragraphs and more. 

In the painting, the drone scopes using co-ordinates, multiple electro-optical and data collection devices. It is also equipped with Hellfire and guided missiles. The tree-of-life sits atop a planet, maybe Earth? The tree's roots seem protected by the arced dome-like shape of the planet, but...maybe its actually more interesting than that? Maybe the dome is a kind of cosmic protector - one that the drone's surveillance systems cannot penetrate or even detect? The cosmic sky is a reminder that there is a universal space beyond the drone-space, and the orbits of GPS and communications satellites currently used to support a drone's operation. 

And, there's more...
But, I'll leave it to you now!

1. Paul Virilio. Interview with Louise Wilson "Cyberwar, God and Television: Interview with Paul Virilio", C Theory, December 1, 1994.  


Please check out another 'sky' post and painting NEW SKY 


Please check out my last post A VISIT TO THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL