Sunday, January 18, 2009

Water 'Landscapes' Land and Consciousness

System Gouache on paper 18 x 25 cm 2009

Water Rights Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2009

I am currently working on images inspired by water, rain, rivers plus the human-made 'add ons' eg: commodification, infrastructure, cost, rights, limits, water harvesting, allocations etc. Water [either its abundance or not] and its uses are issues which are experienced locally but also have global perspectives. The investigation fits well with my previously mentioned interest in the space between the local/micro and global/macro.

The work I am painting falls into a few discussions which range from the more spiritual to the practical. These are 1. water's spiritual character as a symbol for consciousness 2. natural water delivery as a 'system archetype' which is also found in my much loved tree-of-life motif plus internal bodily life systems 3. the changing status of water in a world where climate change influences everything 4. water as a commodity to be bought, sold, traded etc and the impact on the haves and have nots ie: wealth production.

I have previously mentioned my childhood on my parent's grain farm outside Dalby in SE Queensland, Australia. I have also mentioned my 18 years living in Goondiwindi on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. Goondiwindi has a diversified agricultural base, but irrigation for cotton and other crops significantly expanded in the 18 years I lived there. The new paintings are influenced by my years living in rural Queensland. However, this is overlaid by my interest in life forces, systems and spirit.

The two paintings above are examples of two different aspects of the theme 'water'. System blatantly reminds that flow is like blood, hence the use of red for the tree of flow. Water Rights is created with the word rain repeated as rain falling from the sky. The ground is a mass of $ signs indicating the value or currency of water to the land. Not only does water literally enrich the soil, the production it manifests creates wealth for all those involved in rural productions eg: farmers, grain merchants, farm suppliers and ultimately nations via export. This painting asks questions though. It is not benign.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Embrace The World Gouache on paper 28 x 37 cm 1997

Destroy The Masks Gouache on paper 28 x 37 cm 1997
There are many things which are of immense concern with regards to the current Palestinian/Israeli conflict. The loss of life, sadness and destruction at the local level is beyond imagination. The loss of hope for peace has no horizon as it permeates the psyche of everyone.
However, the most heart wrenching aspect of the conflict for me is the suffering of children from both sides of the conflict. The daily scenes in the media of dead children or children wracked with sadness over the death/s of family members or images of children crumpled by fear grip me with devastating sadness. As a mother of three children I cannot imagine the broken hearts of parents who witness literal destruction of their children's lives and/or the death of innocence through the crippling effects of extreme fear and experiences no child should ever have.
The plethora of images of suffering and dead children worries me for obvious reasons, but I am also concerned that we [the audience] may become immune to the shock. I remember when I was a child seeing my first dead body on the tv news. I cannot remember whether is was in the 60s or 70s. It was possibly associated with the Viet Nam War. Up until this point seeing dead people on the news was not common for all sorts of reasons, one being that in death there should be no loss of privacy. I remember seeing the image on tv with my Father who actually made a critical comment about it which seemed also to hold concern about me having witnessed it. My Father made our first tv set in the early 1960s when I was a very small child, so I know we had tv coverage from around 1965/6. The image I witnessed was unusual at the time I saw it.
Now, we see dead people daily in all sorts of media. We even see images of people moments before death ie: witnessing the extremely private time of 'passage'. The images we see are not of dead bodies in the distance, but often close up 'portraits'. The images of children, their bodies in funerial wraps and their faces lost to death's 'peace' literally make me cry. But, are we already yet unknowingly becoming immune to these wretched images which are posted not only to compel public opinion about perceived wrongs and rights, but also to sell papers, gain audiences and subscribers.
The 'war' is being fought literally, but it also being fought virtually. By being part of the 'audience' are we drawn into the battle lines? Yet, the word 'audience' implies a distance which both ordinary Israelis and Palestinians on the ground cannot and do not have. Being part of the distant 'audience' also makes our seeming powerlessness more depressing. So, in some ways despondency can neuter us before we even have a chance to choose to seek out how to effectively and actively engage or not. The media bombardment induces a kind of passive engagement which has insidious culpability.
To make the images of dead children really meaningful we need to ask questions not only about the deaths, but also about the use of these images. Let them not be lost to only moments of anguish before we turn the page or switch the channel...and forget or worse still become immune to the horror.
I am aware of collaborative projects between Palestinians and Israelis. These projects include the arts, sport, agriculture, medicine and so on. Why are there never images of these more positive aspects of life in the mainstream media? You only have to google to find the many projects that exist in the Middle East and throughout the world. I wonder what a media bombardment of these sorts of positive images would do to the psyche of the world? I suggest they would help restore states of mind which enable rather than disable.
In 1997 I painted a series of work about children. Two of these paintings are above.
Embrace the World is a child wrapped around the earth not only taking some ownership, but also nurturing it and taking every opportunity to experience a full life. This is what childhood should promise. This is what the dead and suffering children of any war zone or conflict area have taken from them.
Destroy The Masks 'speaks' about the masks children take on in order to be safe from a perceived threat to their identity, whether it is in the face of bullies, to please teachers and parents etc. Sometimes the masks never come off and the child never knows who they really are. Children in war zones wear masks of fear which seem glued to their faces.
One charity which I have worked with before is War Child
It is an international organisation with an active Australian office. They work directly for the benefit of children who are in war zones or who have sufferend as a result of conflict. Please visit their website to see the amazing work they do.