Sunday, March 18, 2018


Fake Tree Oil on linen 25 x 35 cm 2017

In a world where terms like 'fake news' are bandied about I thought I would enter the foray with a painting called Fake Tree. I had fun with this one!

Regular readers will know that I often paint strings of binary code into my paintings. They are often colourful strings, always hand painted, and, thus not perfect. By not expressing perfect zeros and ones the 'code' could be described as fake - but - does the imperfection actually expose the role algorithms play in the creation of virtual, unreal and fake worlds? 

In Fake Tree I have painted the word FAKE and the word TREE in binary code. These 'instructions', which is what code essentially is, straddle each side of the green tree. So is the tree fake or not? My deliberate play with entendre extends to the fact that the binary code creates what appears to be an horizon. But, is it a fake horizon? Here, the horizon can be viewed as a real or virtual landscape element, or perhaps an existential horizon of the future. Fake Tree suddenly becomes a possible visual representation of the future, but does this future include humans? If not, what brought about the demise of the human species?

I have used shades of a night vision green to accentuate the appearance of fakeness, but the visual entendre here is that the green also signifies some kind of surveillance. Is it human surveillance or machine surveillance? 

The tree could be one of my trees-of-life, a virtual representation of a tree [real or symbolic] or a tree-of-life pretending to be a virtual representation. The latter perhaps demonstrating human ingenuity or rather, life's ingenuity? Maybe, however, it demonstrates advanced machine learning - artificial intelligence - finally surpassing human intelligence? 

The radiating lines emanating from the tree pose more interesting possibilities. Are they a tree-of-life's roots, camouflaged as surveillance signals or even targeting signals to avoid detection? Or, are they, in fact, surveillance or targeting signals emanating from a fake tree, thus confirming that it is actually fake. If so the tree represents a node in the interconnected technological infrastructure that permeates our world? Nodes include such things as land-based, sea-based or airborne drones, and space based assets such as communication and GPS satellites. They can also include various other devices such as phones, vehicular GPS systems, computers and other everyday devices in the increasingly IOT world. 

The radiating lines could also be furrows in a ploughed paddock, even furrows where new shoots of a life-sustaining crop are appearing above the soil's surface - maybe?

And, the background red - I have used it to accentuate the green - playing to the strengths of complementary colours. Red, though, conjures ideas of blood, passion, anger, hunger, destruction. It is a great colour because it can symbolise a multiple of meanings, even contradictory ones. Thus, it helps open Fake Tree to a multiple of 'readings' - even contradictory ones! Maybe contradiction opens up a space for critical and deep thought. Here, I suggest contradiction offers a way to pry open what philosopher Jean Baudrillard, in 2003, describes as a "reductive yardstick"*. He wrote that our coded future is one where it will be “possible to measure everything by the same extremely reductive yardstick: the binary, the alternation between 0 and 1”.*

*Jean Baudrillard, Passwords, trans. Chris Turner (London and New York: Verso, 2003), 76.


My exhibition
opens on March 29 
continuing until May 21
Arts and Community Centre
Western Queensland, Australia.

I am excited about this exhibition for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that Miles is the birth place of my Mother. I remember visiting Miles to see my grand-parents. It has been years since I have ventured out that way. 


Saturday, March 10, 2018


Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples oil on linen 40 x 56 cm 2018

Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples 

These are my words from my Instagram page - As Australia dissolves it sends ripples across the Earthly and cosmic landscape. The night sky has fallen, the stars dispersed. Trees-of-life stand as memorials to a time past. The new 'currency' is a 'flood' of eroded land and politics.
The painting's aesthetics clearly belies a dark underbelly!
 Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples relates to my earlier work Run Off  [below] which, at first glance, is signalling a flood situation, climate change and extreme weather events. It does, however, also signify eroded politics where diversionary issues hijack political and public attention. The erosion gauges into public confidence, sovereign integrity and global signification. 

In Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples I have continued my multiple entendre of political critique in conjunction with signalling the effects of climate change. Of course, the two cannot really be untangled. The plodding nature of climate change mitigation draws us closer to potential disaster. 

The title Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples plays with the saying 'dissolving into a flood of tears'. Here, in my painting, the tears are so voluminous that they surge across the earthly landscape as ripples. They extend into the cosmos washing away the night sky, scattering the stars, leaving only memorials to a time past. These memorials, symbolised by the trees-of-life, act as beacons on a new horizon - maybe? Where do the ripples stop?  

Run Off Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Both Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples and Run Off, are part of my ongoing interest in rethinking what landscape means in the 21st century, an age of new technologies, accelerating population, perpetual war, climate change and agitated politics.

I have a solo exhibition 

Cosmological Landscapes 

Dogwood Crossing, Miles, Queensland, Australia
29 March - 21 May. 

Details are available HERE 
And, opening night details etc are available HERE

Cheers, Kathryn

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


 Details of Drones and Code: Future Now

 Drones and Code: Future Now Oil on linen 40 x 56 cm 2018

I have been preparing my presentation for the International Studies Association conference in San Francisco in April. I have been invited to speak about my own paintings on a panel called "War Art: Museums, Militarisation and Militantism". I have decided to speak about how I attempt to resist the creeping and insidious militarisation of imagination which, in turn, hijacks, infiltrates and colonises  both the present and the future.

I will be speaking about my use of cosmic perspectives, and my painterly invitations to fly around drones or indications of their presence. I will also talk about revealing invisible signals that connect nodes, such as satellites with airborne drones, with mobile phones, ground control stations, computers and more. I will discuss how I believe these signals create new layers of topography in the landscape, and how human movement and behaviour are altered to accommodate the persistent surveillance these topographies enable.

I will also speak about the medium of painting and its historical and operative distance from contemporary technology.Painting does not rely upon digital or cyber systems, software or algorithmic instruction for creation, exhibition and storage. This provides an independence from interconnected and potentially appropriated contemporary technological platforms. Rather than thinking of painting with a nostalgic turn, or with accusations of anachronism, I propose that painting by a human being, in humanly accessible dimensions of time and space, offers subversive agency in the digital and cyber age. That a painting can depict and critique contemporary technology, without actually needing it for creation, exhibition and storage, heightens this agency. This becomes more pointed when the visual critique focuses on contemporary militarised technologies, such as airborne drones, their persistent surveillance systems and increasingly autonomous capabilities.

I have uploaded detail shots of my painting Drones and Code: Future Now to give an idea of the painterly quality of the image. The background of the painting was created with random splashes of colourful paint. Over the top of this I painted drones and satellites. I did, however, wipe out the colourful paint to help create the dark continent of Australia. After painting this and the binary code 'instructing' LANDSCAPE around the coastline, I then added more colour to the background with deliberate placements of colourful dots. I wanted the Australian continent, at one instance to be seemingly set against a sea, and at another instance, set against the universe. This is an example of my love of the cosmic perspective - one that does provide the viewer with a freedom to fly - and to perhaps see things differently. I have uploaded a detail shot of my recent painting Drone Spiral 2 as another example of cosmic perspective, but also to focus on the paint.

Drone Spiral 2 oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2018


Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Drones and Code: Future Now Oil on linen 40 x 56 cm 2018

Recently there have been articles* in Australian news outlets reporting on the Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell's statements about Australia's preparedness for the future of war. This future is one characterised by advanced robotic technologies and the utilisation of artificial intelligence in a range of military and associated activities - eg; surveillance, data monitoring, battlefield support, targeting. 

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell seemed keen to re-enforce that robotic and autonomous systems would assist and support human soldiers. The participation by a human being in decision making loops is one of the hotly debated issues raised by the development of increasingly autonomous lethal weapon systems. The Chief of the Army also expressed concerns about Australia's ability to keep up with foreign adversary capabilities; state, non-state and rogue. These concerns were also about Australia's ability to assist allied forces, as well as Australia's abilities to protect its land and people from less ethical forces.

I read the news articles, and a couple of things came to mind. I understand that defence forces compare their capabilities with those of other forces. In the contemporary case it seems the focus is on potential future capabilities, where emerging technologies, accelerating at a fast pace, offer marked strategic and tactical advantages. When a focus is on the future and comparing capabilities, do we have an arms race?  

My new painting Drones and Code: Future Now is an Australian landscape, seen from a cosmic vantage point. This cosmic vantage point could be both spatial and temporal. Is this landscape a contemporary one, or is it a future landscape? Surely, if military minds and imaginations can  project into the future, so can I? Indeed, one could argue that militarised imaginations pave a path into the future. In doing so they militarise the future too! Are we aware of this though? 

For me, the cosmic vantage point can help us think critically about the future and how rhetoric surrounding the 'future of war' affects humanity now, let alone in the future. The big cosmic picture offers multiple perspectives that can draw in the past, the present and the future, and even a more distant future than the one militarised imaginations have occupied. What does the far distant future call to us? Surely it is imperative to follow militarised imaginations into their future, and then to proceed beyond it, in order to gain a temporal perspectival advantage that might offer a new imaginary? If we can return from the far distant future, carrying our new imaginary, how would that affect life now?

In Drones and Code: Future Now the continent of Australia presents as a black hole, as if the land mass has fallen away from the universe. Is the continent real? Binary code, wrapped twice around the continent's edge, instructs LANDSCAPE: 01001100 01000001 01001110 01000100 01010011 01000011 01000001 01010000 01000101. This may indicate that the Australian continent is a simulation? Has physical landscape been replaced by virtual landscape? Or, is it a subterfuge, a continental camouflage designed to protect land and people? The presence of weaponised drones certainly suggests a contested environment. Three red drones depart Australia - have they achieved their mission or are they Australian drones offering protection? One dark drone moves toward Australia. Again, its intent is ambiguous. Does it represent a malign force or the return of an Australian drone from a battle of robots?

The presence of the satellites indicate the inter-connectivity of technological infrastructure and therefore, the insidious creep of militarising capabilities. They also demonstrate that the viewer [you] is hovering above them. Your vantage point is revelatory. The fact that two satellites and one drone are darkly painted, like the Australian continent, perhaps suggests further stealth, simulation, but also possible signs of annihilation. 

Drones and Code: Future Now is an ambiguous Australian landscape. If it is a future landscape it is necessarily ambiguous because speculation calls for ambiguity, but also provocation. It just depends on whether the painting presents a near future or a distant future - tomorrow, next year, a century away or a billion years? But, given the current rhetoric about 'future of war', debates about lethal autonomous weapons and the role of artificial intelligence, and research into existential risk posed by emerging technologies, maybe Drones and Code: Future Now is actually a contemporary landscape?


Saturday, February 10, 2018


Drone Spiral 2 Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2018

I have been working on Drone Spiral 2 [above] for some time. I started it last year. And, now I think it is finished. As you can see from the image below, this new painting relates to an earlier work on paper called Drone Spiral. This painting won the inaugural World of Drones Congress, Art Prize, held last year here in Brisbane. The organisers are gearing up for the WOD2018 congress

In my new painting I wanted the image to look like an overview of a new leafy suburb, with houses, gardens, parks etc. But, the houses are replaced with weaponised drones! I wanted a landscape-type appearance in order to generate questions about our Earthly environment generally. I also wanted to visually suggest that new technologies, such as unmanned surveillance and weaponised airborne drones, are changing landscapes and, thus, how we might operate and live in them. 

The spiraling appearance of the strip of droned landscape gives the impression of falling - but is it falling to Earth or away from Earth? Earth - here - being the pale blue dot! Also, maybe it depicts just one drone, demonstrating the different stages of falling - or - maybe there is a swarm of drones. If this is the case, maybe they are not falling, but in formation to optimise mission outcomes. 

Whether falling to or away from Earth, or on a mission, there is a sense of constant motion, even dizzying motion. This dizziness reflects the fast paced nature of drone technology development, including increasing advances in autonomous systems. Policy makers and lawyers are finding it difficult to respond to rapidly developing systems that impose potentially new impacts and risks on society and humanity.

The dizziness and sense of falling - to or from Earth - signifies that maybe we human beings are on a metaphoric precipice. As Lord Martin Rees wrote in his fascinating book Our Final Century  

I think the odds are no better than fifty-fifty that our present civilisation on Earth will survive to the end of the present century. Our choices and actions could ensure the perpetual future of life (not just on Earth, but perhaps far beyond it, too). Or in contrast, through malign intent, or through misadventure, twenty-first century technology could jeopardise life’s potential, foreclosing its human and posthuman future. What happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.

Martin Rees, Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in This Century—On Earth and Beyond (New York: Basic Books, 2003) p.7-8

A plethora of thoughts tumbled through my head as I painted Drone Spiral 2. I do not have space to write about them all here - plus it would make for a long winded post. However, regular readers will identify that the viewer enjoys a cosmic perspective - my favourite perspective. The viewer is not caught in the spiral, but is, in fact, witnessing it. Have you fallen away from earth too or have you deliberately propelled yourself, in imagination, to a vantage point where you can turn the surveillance back onto the technology? 

What do you see? What do you dream? What to you imagine?

  • Drone Spiral 2 is another cosmic landscape, and a dronescape.
  • I've depicted a pale blue dot in many of my recent paintings. This references the famous photograph taken in 1990 by Voyager 1, as it started to leave our solar system. its camera was turned off soon after, to preserve energy as it departed on  its interstellar journey. Carl Sagan's sage words are an inspiration.

Drone Spiral Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Friday, February 02, 2018


Various oil paintings in my studio aka: garage.

I have been busy in the studio and my office over the last months, and weeks. 

The photo above shows some of my recent oil paintings, done over the last 6-7 months - the one on the easel is underway. Since completing my Master of Philosophy [Art History & Cultural Studies], University of Queensland, I have returned to my oil paints - with gusto. While I undertook the degree I painted only on paper. I did this because a work on paper is easier to leave and come back to. [see photos of works on paper below].

As regular readers know, my academic research included examining the various legal, ethical and political issues surrounding contemporary militarised technology, particularly the airborne drone. Regular readers also know that I examined various technical aspects of weaponisable airborne drones - not a normal art historical approach! However, I believed this kind of research was very important. Why? To equip me with specific information to assist my visual analyses of paintings, that depicted aspects of contemporary militarised technology, by Australian artists George Gittoes and Jon Cattapan. 

The stimulus for my academic research came from my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies. When I was offered the post-graduate degree opportunity, I knew I wanted it to include a multi-disciplinary approach. I wanted a major part of my research to feed back into my studio practice - even though the degree was not a practice lead degree. The research into ethical, political and legal issues surrounding contemporary militarised technology is valuable, but the technical research into weaponisable airborne drones and their capabilities, has been pivotal.   

Preparing Powerpoint for presentation in San Francisco 

While I was at the University of Queensland [and I still am, as a Honorary Fellow in the School of Communications and Arts] I became involved in a fascinating and burgeoning research area in International Relations - Visual Politics. As a result of meeting many thoroughly interesting and knowledgeable people, I have been included in a few activities relating to Visual Politics. 

One exciting opportunity is being on a panel "War Art: Museums, Militarisation and Militantism" at the International Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco in April. The photo above is an image of my preparations for this conference. As I wrote in the first line of this post, I have been busy in my office too. 

There are a few other opportunities likely in New York and London - will keep you posted once I have details. 

 Various larger works on paper - Dronescapes

Various smaller works on paper - Dronescapes

In light of recent statements by the Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, about Australia's readiness for increasingly autonomous weapon systems, and news about the Australian government's $3.8 billion underwriting to boost arms exports, I invite you to read a post I wrote in September 2016 Aeropolitics Imagined. This post includes two paintings of the Australian continent - and - drones. I will leave you to take a look!


  • Another article about my paintings has just been published, this time in The Culture Concept. Please read  Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox: Reach for the Sky: Art Above. The writer, Carolyn McDowell places my work into art historical contexts, but also draws out its contemporary relevance. Thank you The Culture Concept!

  • Early alert: Cosmological Landscapes solo exhibition at Dogwood Crossing, Miles, Queensland, Australia: 28 March - 22 May. It is well over two years since my submission was accepted and the show is nearly here! More news about the show coming soon. 
Cheers, Kathryn

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Follow Me, Says the Tree Oil on canvas 61 x 76 cm 2017

Regular readers know of my interest in the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol. Follow Me, Says the Tree combines my interpretation of a tree-of-life with a few of my other interests. These include thinking about how landscape is mediated in the 21st century - the age of cyber and digital technologies, drones, perpetual war and the 'everywhere war'. 

The tree-of-life is a symbol of life - for the existence of life. But, how is human existence affected by accelerating developments in technology, particularly surveillance technologies and weaponised [or weaponisable] technologies? In other words, those technologies that deploy scoping capabilities to monitor, surveil and target. 

I attempt to reveal invisible scoping signals, transmitted and received by airborne drones. I do this to demonstrate that landscape is insidiously mediated by new but unseen signal topographies. These new topographies not only mediate landscape, they also influence, to a greater or lesser extent, how humans operate and live in the landscape and environment. For example, in some places in the world - war and conflict zones - loitering airborne [often weaponised] drones create a persistent fear of the sky. This fear is fueled by a drone's ability to quickly turn from monitoring and surveillance to scoping to target - for a kill. 

I have written this previously, but in an age where Voyager 1 travels in interstellar space, to have people on planet Earth afraid of the sky is an indictment on all of us. I will leave you to think more about this. Indeed, there is a lot to think about!

In Follow Me, Says the Tree I have depicted an eye painted in the sky. Its pupil in a shade of night vision green. It is an unblinking false eye, with 'lashes' that appear to be more like components from a computer circuit board. The signals that radiate from the eye penetrate through a surveillance net which is scaffolded by a night vision green CLOUD* - a false cloud. 

The eye is clearly not an eye, with all the connotations of human sight, insight, imagination, vision, dreaming, tears and laughter. The eye is a subterfuge - it is not an eye-in-the sky - it is a SCOPE-IN-THE-SKY. It  targets its prey with a precision that is aided and abetted by persistent surveillance.

However, what of the tree? It also penetrates the net of surveillance and the CLOUD, by reaching upwards towards the stars. It re-establishes perspective - the kind that can take humanity's endeavours into interstellar space. The tree's branching appearance contrasts with the clean lines of surveillance and targeting signals. Randomness, or seeming randomness, is presented as a complex decoy - but isn't that just LIFE! The tree not only erupts through the surveillance net, it also send roots underground. Where there's life there's hope it seems to say. Follow me, and life and existence will be ok. 

But, while life may continue into a contested future, it may not be human. 

There is more to say - I know! Again, I will leave this up to you. 


  • I was asked to write a visual essay for Dialogue: Taking Politics Outside the Box, an e-journal located in the School of Political Science and International Relations, University of Queensland. New Landscapes in the Drone Age was published last week.
  • Early alert: Cosmological Landscapes solo exhibition at Dogwood Crossing, Miles, Queensland, Australia: 28 March - 22 May. It is well over two years since my submission was accepted and the show is nearly here! More news about the show coming soon. 
  • I am on a panel "War Art: Museums, Militarisation and Militantism", to talk about my paintings, at the International Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco, in April. 
  • Plus other exciting events are planned in New York and the UK. Shall keep you up to date as things fall into place. 


Thursday, January 18, 2018


Fig 1. Beautiful One Day: Unreal the Next Oil on canvas 30 x 40 cm 2018


I was thrilled to be asked to write a visual essay for Dialogue: Taking Politics Outside the Box, an e-journal located in the School of Political Science and International Relations, University of Queensland. Excited to say that New Landscapes in the Drone Age was published this week.


The new landscapes I refer to in my visual essay [mentioned above] are not just those of the land, but also the sky and space. In the drone age, in some places around the world, the sky is colonised by loitering drones -  nodes-in-the-sky, not eyes-in-the-sky - and the invisible signals they receive and transmit, to and from land and space-based assets. That airborne drones can, in many instances, quickly turn from surveillance to attack mode, makes the sky a militarised contestable place, a potential battle-space that extends from land, into the atmosphere and beyond. 

Fig 2. New Clouds Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Drone Swarms 

Recent developments in drone swarming technology* multiplies the impact of the scoping nature of drones. Technologists, roboticists, AI developers, and others associated with drone and autonomous systems research, study animals, such as birds and bees, to examine swarming and group behaviour. Nature provides insights, and researchers, using algorithmic processes, attempt to create systems that mimic nature's characteristics. Machine learning means that more advanced robots/systems can also learn as they interact with each other and 'experience' the world around them. Airborne drones are essentially flying robots, with increasingly autonomous systems embedded into their various functions.

I am interested in how landscape is mediated by drones and their invisible signals. I write about this in my visual essay New Landscape in the Drone Age. In this post, however, I focus on drone swarms, and the potential mediation of the skyscape.

The recently released short 7 minute film Slaughterbots presents a future where swarms of autonomous micro drones are used to control populations. Whilst fictional, it is stressed at the end of the film, that we already have the technology to create these deadly things - it is just a matter of time. Please read my visual essay A Droned Future response to Slaughterbots.  

So - to clouds.

Beautiful One Day: Unreal the Next [Fig 1] is a painting of clouds. Or is it? Positioned with some of my other recent paintings, the clouds may not be clouds at all! In New Clouds [Fig 2] and Swarm Clouds Brewing [Fig 3] you can see why. In these two paintings drone swarms attempt to mimic clouds. They camouflage themselves by mimicking nature, not only in swarm operation, but also in the subtleties of subterfuge and survival. 

But, you, the viewer, might be above the drone swarm-clouds, or you may be below them - maybe both places at once! Anything is possible in a quantum world. Your human vision, taking imaginational cosmic perspectives, turns the surveillance back onto the scoping camouflaged drones! Their subterfuge is revealed - exposed.

However, in New Clouds [Fig 2] one drone is targeted and attacked in a fiery blaze. This event leaves its mark on the skyscape. But, the significance of drone swarming technology is - if one drone is 'taken out', the others can re-calibrate and continue on their mission - whatever that may be. Therefore, taking one out seems futile...

False clouds?

So returning to Beautiful One Day, Unreal the Next [Fig 1]. The title of the painting plays with you...unreal could mean literally not real, or totally UNREAL-AMAZING-FANTASTIC-AWESOME! 

Maybe it means both? The game of disguise, camouflage, subterfuge working well...

[Fig 3] Swarm Clouds Brewing Oil on Canvas 36 x 45 cm 2017 

I am also interested in how clouds are used as a descriptive metaphor for THE CLOUD, which is not actually a singular entity, but rather, a series of mammoth data storage and processing systems - super computers. These systems built from physical hardware are, in fact, not housed in vapor, but in solid bricks and mortar behemoth buildings. 

But, that's another story, for another day!


* If you are keen to know more about drone swarming technology, just google it. There is a lot of information.