Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Detail Earth For Sale!

Earth For Sale ! [120 x 160 cm Oil on linen] is an image I uploaded recently and said I would 'talk' more about it. This painting is painted with $ signs. It took me forever! However, I am really quite happy with the work as I believe it not only looks appealing, but it 'says' all that I wanted to suggest.
I have painted this as a deliberately ambiguous landscape. It could be an aerial view or a landscape of mountains and sky or even the sea/river. The viewer is unaware of the $ signs until they are up close. This is a deliberate action to suggest the Earth is being sold but have we really noticed?

For instance water is not simply water any more! Useable water is a finite commodity harvested, irrigated, licensed, allocated, contracted, mined and sold. Irrigated cotton farms turn ordinary land into mega million dollar properties. Minerals are furiously extracted to satisfy a frenzy of need in places such as China. Grains and seeds grown in overly stretched rich soils or in forcibly fertilised and irrigated marginal soils are harvested not just for food but for bio fuels. The latter reducing food supplies to starving countries. Forests are cut down to make money, but in the process compromising the balance of nature.
Water is of particular interest to me because I grew up on a grain farm at Pirrinuan, outside Dalby on the Darling Downs, Australia. The Pirrinuan Plain and the neighbouring Jimbour Plain have the deepest top soil in the southern hemisphere...so very fertile fround. The soil is black and when it is wet it is thick and sticky. When it is dry it cracks open making children think the other side of the world will burst through.
I grew up watching the sky. My grandfather farmed the land for 40 years before my father took over in the mid 1960s. My grandfather never missed a crop, but just after my Dad started farming on his own crops were missed because the rain became less predictible. If it wasn't raining there were the increasing violent storms with hail and floods. I remember one whole side of the farm was gauged away by floodwaters ripping through from the Bunya Mountains. This gully became unuseable.
So...after marrying I moved to Goondiwindi where my husband [now ex] has a country law practice. Whilst we were not on the land we certainly were affected by the vagaries of nature. The population of Goondiwindi was around the 5,000 with another 5000 people living in the surrounding farming areas [ie: up to an hour or more drive from town] Cotton, wheat and other grains, cattle, wool, sheep, pigs offered a diversification of rural production in the Goondiwindi district.
But, over the 18 years I lived in Goondiwindi it was the change in how we thought about water which interested me. When I moved there in 1982 the climate was hot and dry and a farmer could apply for a water license for a nominal fee. Within a few years the Water Resources government department restricted licences. This made the licenses valuable and tradeable. A license allows a farmer to pump a certain amount of mega litres of water from the river system as long as the river water level is not below a certain height.
Farmers [particularly cotton farmers] built massive dams...these are so big you can sail on them...to store water which they use during drought or water restricted times to irrigate their cotton crops. When the river systems flood farmers can 'harvest' water once the river level exceeds a certain height. The idea of 'harvesting' water seemed really odd to me when I first heard it.
But what is also interesting is the idea of 'water law'. So, licenses can be traded, transferred from one farm to another etc. Thus we have contracts for sale of entities to deliver water...and the various other legal issues are nuanced and endless and include many aspects of law [litigation, contract, banking, leasing etc] Now, there are also tradeable commodities which group water infrastructure and so on.
When I left Goondiwindi in 2000 the climate had been hot and humid for years. The change from hot and dry to hot and humid could only be because of the huge amount of extra water stored in dams and the evaporation of irrigated water . Interestingly, a friend of mine who has lived in Dubai for many many years has noticed the climate and temperature change there since Dubai authorities have 'greened' up the city. They use desalinated water in abundance.
This is my story. But, on the world stage water is a serious issue. Underground aquifers are depleted [causing soil spoiling salination], melting glaciers cause erosion and spill compromised water into rivers and oceans, developing countries have increased water needs, food production and crops for bio-fuel are thirsty. Yet, useful fresh water is not a renewable resource [it is less than 2% of the world’s supply].

Over the last few years my paintings have been explorations of life on our shared planet using the viscerality and power of the trans-cultural/religious tree-of-life as my guiding motif. My interest in water is part of this broad interest. Water, earth’s life force and blood is something all people must be aware of and look after. I think, maybe the shared concern will assist is drawing people together in a common goal. After all aren't we 70% water too!


Thursday, July 24, 2008


I recently wrote a review of an autobiography by Irena Sibley, 'Self Portrait of the Artist's Wife'. The review has been published in the Australian Women's Book Review. They have also placed one of my paintings on the cover. Here is the link:
Vastness Gouache on Paper 30 x 21 cm 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008


In my last BLOG I wrote about the invitation to be the guest speaker at the University of Queensland's
graduation ceremony for the Faculties of Arts, and Behavioural and Social Sciences. Well, it happened on Wednesday night and I am very happy with how it went. I was very honoured to have been asked and tried to give a speech which reflected my passion as an artist, but also giving a glimpse into how my art practice feeds my intellectual interests, and conversely how my intellectual interests and academic studies inform my art. I chose to speak about one artist's tool, and that is perspective. What I like about perspective is that it can also be a metaphor for how we view ourselves and others, and in this sense can be spatial and temporal with each kind of distance being close or far.
I went into a very brief timeline of the history of perspective ie: as a tool to give a 3 d impression on a 2d surface. What interests me is that the history of perspective reflects the growing understanding science and exploration gave of mankind's place on earth. I believe art, and its history, reflects this at the same time, but not as obviously so, being an affective agent albeit not always or necessarily a deliberate one.
I also believe that conversation triggered by art can stimulate people to open up to each other sharing dreams, hopes, fears and despair. I certainly experienced this when I exhibited at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation in 2005. I have previously written about these wonderful experiences talking with people who came to see my show. I realised that the agendaless, but not directionless, quality of these conversations enabled me and my viewers to see each other from different perspectives, opening up a space of shared compassion and hope, plus a realisation that we were more fundamentally similar than different. This agendaless, but not directionless quality of conversation triggered by art, I believe may just hold clues to new ways of communication ....and possibly new pathways to peace on earth.
In my speech I talked about academic study and degrees being one aspect of a person's personal perspective tool kit. I suggested that imagination, inspiration, flexibiity, judgement and experience enable a person to create both literal and metaphoric perspective, and that coupling these attributes with the skills gained in academic study, they give a person a powerful tool to view themselves and others... with hopefully recognising the compassionate qualities or potential of such an ability.
I made reference to the fact that artists once they have learnt rules of any kind, enjoy breaking or manipulating them. When an artist discards the rules of perspective they basically rely on their eye. As Vasari wrote of Michelangelo, 'He held his compass, that is his judgement, in his eyes not his hands'. I suggested that an artist's process is one of continual critical assessment and imagination. From the very first issue, which is the blank canvas, an artist's mind is working. However, a canvas is never blank because, in my case anyway, my imagination paints many images on its surface well before I decide how to make the first mark. Once this mark is made it is a dance of critical assessment, chance, controlled accidents, obsessional detail and constant questioning and problem solving.
But, I suggested that the artist's eye is not just the eye of eye ball and pupil, but the mind's eye too. So, when I or any artist, move back and forth from our work examining it at close and far distance we are making decisions based on what our seeing eye thinks looks good, and what our mind's eye wants to achieve in terms of meaning, message, essence and/or aura.
So, like an artist imagining before they make that first mark, we all have dreams about how our lives might be, but it is action which makes that first mark. Be like an artist and keep your eye on the immediate surrounds and seeable horizon, but your mind's eye beyond the horizon [remembering it may not necessarily be in front of you!]. This comment in brackets referred to my description of my own work where I play with perspective so that a viewer may feel as if they are at many points of view at the one time eg: in front , behind, inside, above and below etc.
So, that's a brief outline of my talk. The painting above plays with perspective because it could appear to be an aerial view at the same time as being inside, or in front of a landscape with hills and sky. It is not until you get close to this painting that the viewer realises it is created with thousands of $ signs. From a distance this is not evident. I will talk more about this work in a future post.
Earth For Sale 120 x 160 cm oil on linen

Friday, July 11, 2008


Well, the week has been busy with various disparate activities. Next week will also be busy, but I will have time to paint. However, on Wednesday I have both an exciting and challenging experience. That is....I am the guest speaker at the University of Queensland's graduation ceremony for the faculties of Arts, and Behavioural and Social Science. I will be speaking for 5-8 minutes. So, I have written a speech which I will not read, but will refer to as I go along. I have chosen to speak about perspective...both literally and metaphorically. I will say not more now, but will elaborate after Wednesday.

I am honoured to be asked to make this speech. My family does have a history at UQ. Some families have multiple lawyers or doctors, but my family has a diverse mix of courses and experiences. My mother has 3 degrees from UQ including a Masters by Research in Education. She completed this as an external student when I was in my late teens. It was a huge amount of work, and before computers, so the floor in the spare room was covered in piles of papers and notes. My Mother did 2 of her degrees externally because we lived on a farm. I look back at her efforts and they were mighty!

My brother has 1 1/2 degrees and is now one of the Assistant Directors of IT at UQ. My 2 paternal Aunts studied at UQ in the 1940/50s. One aunt completed a Commerce Degree and the other aunt was UQ's first female graduate from Agricultural Science. Her husband is also a graduate of Agricultural Science, having completed post-graduate study. He started at UQ as a returned soldier with my Aunt being one of his lecturers. Interestingly, my Aunt also taught my former parents-in-law when they entered study after World War II.

One of my aunt and uncle's sons completed a PhD in Ionospheric Physics in the mid 1980s and won a scholarship to the prestigious Max Planck Institute in Germany. However, sadly he died on an expedition climbing Mt Everest. With only about 30 m to go to reach the summit he and the other climbers had to turn back due to the blizzard conditions. They were also climbing without oxygen. On his descent my cousin slipped and fell backwards into a major ravine and has never been found. A young doctor from Melbourne also slipped on the same spot.

And to something happier. My daughter will start at UQ next year. So, in a few years time I will be seated in the audience at the Faculty of Arts graduation feeling very proud I am sure.

Seeing Into The Vastness Gouache on paper 40 x 50 cm framed 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008


The announcement of the winner of the inaugural LAUNCH: Clayton Utz Travelling Scholarship was this week. The winner is Martin Smith and well done too. The remaining 24 artists
still feel like winners though. Well, I do and I know a few others said they felt like a winner. Part of the reason is that this award has an afterlife beyond the exhibition period because all the finalist's works will be hung at Clayton Utz's office in Brisbane for 6 months. The works are currently on show at Metro Arts in Edward Street until July 12 and will be taken to the legal eagles' office after this date. Apparently over 300 people a day need to visit Clayton Utz and this means that all [or a large %] of these people will get to see the LAUNCH art work. And, the art is for sale. Providing this kind of exposure is a wonderful way to support artists.
It is very exciting to be preselected for an art award. The opportunity to have your work seen by preselectors, judges and then the public is wonderful. But, after the exhibition period, and if your work has not won or sold, it must come home. Clayton Utz and Positive Solutions http://www.positive-solutions.com.au/ idea of extending the life of LAUNCH is admirable and appreciated.
Talking of preselections. My entry for the Broken Hill Regional Gallery Works on Paper Outback Award has been preselected. The prize is announced on July 18. This is the third year in a row that my entry has been preselected so I am pleased there are 3 different judges out there who seem to like my works on paper.
The image above is the painting in LAUNCH. Its title is Shared Destinies and my thoughts were about how no matter what our differences etc are we all share this planet. So, ultimately our destinies are common to everyone ie: the BIG picture destiny stuff! The increasing desire to look after the Earth is part of the BIG picture. Through a shared caring we may just find clues to better communication creating a healthy and balanced peace on our planet.
Shared Destinies Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm