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!


1 comment:

moneythoughts said...

I like this painting, but I wish I could see it bigger. I see a face in the painting. I am suppose to see that , or am I crazy. :)