Monday, December 28, 2009

The Leaves Are Dancing

The Leaves Are Dancing Oil on linen 36 x 36 cm

I have just come home from a really enjoyable drinks party and I am writing this BLOG to fill in time, because there is a party going on next door, I am a bit hyped from the party I've been to, my children are quietly reading and...well this is perhaps not a serene child is playing death and destruction games on her new X Box 360 which we bought on sale at the massively exhausting post-Christmas sales. She was given a Harvey Norman gift voucher which went towards her new obsession.

Anyway, here I am filling in time. Luckily I have a new a painting to show off. This is inspired by one of the small works on paper I produced whilst on holidays at Noosa just recently. I wrote about these 'playful' works a few BLOG posts ago So, where does the title come from you may ask?

When my eldest daughter was about 2 years old she was gazing out at the trees and bushes surrounding our house. There was a gently breeze. My daughter looked at me and said, 'Mummy the leaves are dancing.' She was perfectly right too...the leaves were dancing. Have you ever watched the breeze pick up the small branches and leaves of gum trees? It is, as if there is a secret musical rythm. It is, as if whispers of sound and movement gently pick up the branches making the leaves reverberate and quiver with small bounces and jives. The leaves move in a twisty, curly way revealing their soft yet silky coloured surfaces. I particularly love the way Box Gum leaves, which are almost circular, move with the air currents. Light glistens off their shiny dark green surfaces sending silvery twinkles across otherwise hot landscapes. I really love Box Gums and planted many of them in my country garden. Oh...and Sheoaks...when the wind pushes through the Sheoak's spiny leaves a wonderous, lilting, etherial sound is made. That's why I planted them in large clumps or spinies. The sound was amplified.

So, why do children notice such small but truly beautiful things, events and happenings and adults tend not to? I marvelled at my young children's ability to notice beauty and fun even in what seemed the most barren of places. And...the next question is....when do we lose this inate ability to notice the small and seemingly un-noticeable rythms of life? I suppose it is somewhere between noticing and getting an X Box!!!

But, artists notice things that others may not. And, these things need not be real or of this world, because artists are attuned to patterns and rythms of all kinds. I imagine artists with small antenna all over them, picking up every frequency of seen and unseen movement or sensation. When I say 'artist', I am thinking of the full range from visual, to musical, dance, film, writers and so on.

I read in Daniel Pink's wonderful book 'A Whole New Mind' that some medical schools in the US are providing their students with art appreciation classes, because even just looking at art teaches people to notice... nuance, detail, pattern etc...and ask questions! Students re-ignite what they may have 'lost' in the process of growing up ie: actually seeing what they are looking at. I gather medical students gain insights into what they don't notice by learning to notice...learning to look and see [again].

So, like most parents I have very fond memories of my children when they were very young and the delightful and poetic utterances they made. But, these utterances are important because they remind us to re-aquaint ourselves with the wonder of discovery through truly 'seeing'. I mean this 'seeing' in the fullest of senses from literally seeing with eyeball and pupil to also 'seeing' with our mind's eye.

Of course, regular readers of my BLOG will recognise that this new painting can also be my much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life with all the meaning it holds. As an achetypal symbol, the tree-of-life can help us re-aquaint ourselves with the nuances of perspective. It can penetrate pre-conceived and easy assumptions by suggesting to us to 'remember'. I believe it is a remembering of a shared human we take notice!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Colour Of Knowledge

The Colour of Knowledge Oil on linen 62 x 82 cm

I attended a fabulous workshop some time ago which opened up a plethora of images and ideas for me. I have referred to this workshop in my previous post

During the workshop we discussed the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as a parable for the concept that in order to know who we are we also need to know who we are not. I think this makes sense! In an age where people are attempting to learn more about themselves through psychology [mainstream, alternative and pop], checklists, agony aunt type letters, astrology...and the list goes is interesting to ferret out stories and parables which may hold some universal and possibly helpful truths. As the story goes, prior to Eve plucking the apple from the tree and she and Adam taking a few bites, their existence was one of pure oneness or, I imagine, whiteness where they were enfolded and consumed by light. This could be described as the divine light where Adam and Eve were 'One' with the divine.

However, as a result of Eve and Adam taking from the tree of knowledge, they caused a metaphorical refraction of the white light by introducing worldly knowledge. For the first time Adam and Eve could see each other as their eyes were greeted with a world that cascaded into colour and its various hues. Another way to view this is that they were now able to experience good and evil/error [and everything in between!], the mechanisms needed to know who you are not...before knowing who you are.

Now, the human [represented by Adam and Eve] quest in the story is to gain the knowledge of who we are by experiencing who we are not, hence all the vagaries from birth to death that can engulf or embrace us on our life journeys. But, the human experience is also to reflect upon the 'knowledge' gained in the quest, in order to, at some point ultimately feel and experience a deep and true knowing of who we really are. Reflection upon oneself can be difficult! A miniquest within the main quest!

So, after this brief description of the parable you can probably 'see' why I was so inspired. Readers of my BLOG know of my intense interest in the tree-of-life/knowledge motif and my visual attempts to portray it in ways which 'speak' to a contemporary 21st century audience. Like any archetype it needs to have a potency which can be 'read' throughout the ages...otherwise it can't be an archetype I suppose!

The story is one which also shared by the three Abrahamaic religions. I am interested in the fact that through a sharing of the basic story we are forever connected.

So, my new painting above is called 'The Colour Of Knowledge'. Adam and Eve, representing the human race, are depicted at the moment Eve is created from Adam's rib, hence he is still asleep. I have previously written about this in other recent posts
The tree radiates from Eve's outstretched arms. But, Adam and Eve and the initial branches of the tree are white. If the world is all white [or One] differences are not discernible, but as colour cascades, the world fills with nuance, difference, variety, distance, perspective, opposites...all elements that allow the human race to explore who they are by providing the potential to experience who they are not. The quest for identity! I have painted the 'sky' with what appears to be a multitude of stars to 'ask' the question...once we know who we are do we, in fact, return to the white light?

ADDED 7-11-10
This painting is one of the 52 finalists, from over 440 entries, in the Redlands Art Prize.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Prayer Gouache on paper 21 x 14.8 cm

Archetype Gouache on paper 21 x 14.8 cm
I am reading a wonderful book at the moment. It is 'The Brain That Changes Itself' by Norman Doidge MD. I highly recommend this book for many reasons. It gives you faith in your own capacities to not only cope with age, impediments, accidents, illness etc, but to change your faculties to enjoy life to its fullest even in the face of aging, accidents, blockages, illness etc. This book re-inforces my belief, which I have written about on this BLOG before, that complexity holds the potency for solutions. I have voiced my thoughts about this with regards to the environment, but it is also applicable to our own bodies. The book investigates everything from learning difficulties, strokes to OCD and other issues which negatively affect our enjoyment of life.

It seems to me that whilst we may not understand the complex systems of our environment or our bodies, we must have faith that the complexity is the element which will provide the answers. Yet, we shortsightedly simplify the potency of complexity by something which is akin to a lack of faith. New research [and some of it not so new, but now embraced!] is revealing the potency of our complex systems to renew, recoup and re-invent themselves. Of course we need to look after ourselves and our environment but we also need to be open and compliant to forces which we may not understand or even be aware isn't that having faith?

As I often do, I refer to the act of painting, which is itself an act of faith. Faith not only in my ability to choose practical and obvious things such as the right colour, brush etc, but also faith that points of disaster and accident or plain 'things just don't seem to be going that well' are part of the process of creation. It is a dance where I am being lead by forces which are seemingly unknown but felt through powers of intuition. In a way it is a return to the faith I had as a child. I am sure many of you know what I mean.

The two paintings above are again my much loved tree-of-life. The top one 'Prayer' is a reminder of the beauty of faith. The second painting called 'Archetype' explores ideas of compexity being achetypical. The tree reflects system-like action which includes shedding as well as renewal. The tree is a perfect metaphor for this because trees shed leaves and branches, some are deciduous, others are pruned, some are burnt, yet processes of renewal through new leaves and shoots or new life borne by wind-blown seeds, remind us of the constancy of life in complexity.

I am going now to share two poems with you. One was written by my grandmother D.E Ross and the other by my mother Elsie Brimblecombe. Both poems are about ageing and both poems reveal that ageing is also a renewal and a source of new insights. My grandmother and mother published a book of poems 'Out There' in 1986 when my grandmother was 87 years old. She died at 92 having been a poet, author, artist, accountant!!! [and a partner in an accountancy firm in W.A], girl guide commissioner, mother of one, grandmother of three, plus a whole lot of other wonderful things. She had her first poem published in a Western Australian newspaper when she was 14. My mother is equally as amazing and is a poet, writer, teacher, artist, great cook, has completed 3 university degrees from the University of Queensland, mother of 3 and grandmother of 8... and of course there is the etc etc etc!


These are the years
that softly fall
on the heart and face.
Cosmetic in effect
they remove all trace
of grievance
with it petulant engraving:
and in its place
evoke gracious gleams of patina
with remembering highlights
of days thought past recall.

Brooding lines
skip merrily
to the music of laughter,
a smile illuminates wherever it can reach.

In this bright climate
courage takes the highway,
and scorns the crypted niche.

OLD AGE by Elise Brimblecombe copyright
The moon played it part
in the bleaching of your hair
Your lines are etched
upon the disc of the sun
The world moves too quickly
for you slowing steps
And the giddiness of youth
has returned to your head

You clutch the bannisters
as you mount the stairs
And dwell too long
upon the rests
You creep from room to room
in tired chase
On the well-knonw track
once travelled at an easy pace

Yet in the mystery of your age
lie secrets
Hidden in the stars
Faint revolutions
Link this planet and the spheres
And in the texture of your life
Is woven more than the pattern of your

My grandmother wrote a poem about me when I was a small child. I was prone to deep thinking and I remember trying to work out life and the universe. I really enjoyed thinking...then school interrupted me for 12 years...and the residual!!!

BY D.E ROSS copyright
A tiny grandchild
barely four years old
sits chin in chubby hand
long distance in her eyes.

Whatever is the matter, Katarina?
I have sad thinkings,
she wistfully replies.

Looks like 'distance' has been a part of me for a long time! Regular readers would know of my intense interest in perspective and distance.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I have just returned from 6 days holidaying with my family in Noosa. For those of you who live overseas and have not heard of is wonderful. The beach is perfect, the views are amazing, the main street ie: Hastings St is full of life and shopping opportunities [although not as good as it used to be because some chain type shops have crept in]. And, the restaurants are great, particularly the ones on the beach front. Breakfast at one of these is a special treat. No need to dress up [unless you want to].
Whilst I was on my holiday I spent some time painting small works on paper. Three of these little paintings are above. The top two are 21 x 14.8 cm and the bottom one is 14.8 x 21 cm. I have not given titles to any of them yet, but my thoughts were obviously focused on my tree-of-life. I was interested in playing around with capturing the spaces between, creating layers and exposing patterns. I like to play with lines and colour, and within these I like to explore variations in tone, toying with my paint brush as it deposits paint on the paper. It is really quite meditative watching paint being absorbed by the paper and knowing you can manipulate it, but only within certain limits. It becomes a game.
People often ask me if I get inspiration from places I visit whether they be in Australia or overseas. Well, I have to say that when I have tried to create work based on my tourist or fleeting experience I am severely disappointed. That kind of superficial visual reporting does not interest me. What does inspire me are conversations with people which may reveal some sort of commonality, which then has the effect of drawing out and extending my thoughts tangentially but not disjointedly. I am like a bower bird, in the sense that I gather and collect ideas which spark off the ideas, memories and feelings I have already collected, thought about and reflected upon. In some ways I 'see' this process like a tree growing new branches. There is a 'system', but one which may only be discernible from the future rather than one which is predetermined.
My holiday provided me with an opportunity to play with paint and ideas. Because, I could not set up a proper studio space, I only took 4 paint brushes, two watercolour pads and 4 tubes of gouache paint. Some might think this was quite restrictive, but for me it was an opportunity to explore and extend within pretty tight limits. Funnily enough the choices seemed endless. I loved it!

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Together Gouache on paper 30 x 21 cm

Together oil on canvas 30 x 30 cm

Last night I presented at PECHAKUCHA Brisbane There were 10 speakers and we had 20 slides which appeared for 20 secs on a power point each. Thus, we each had 6 mins 40 secs to say what we wanted to say. Boy, 6 mins 40 secs flies when you are on centre stage.

I spoke about my interest in perspective, distance and my much loved trans-cultural/religious tree-of- life motif. I somehow intertwined these with my investigations and thoughts about art's catalytic agency as a stimulant for agenda-less but not directionless conversations which may...just may...hold clues to new pathways to peace on earth. Now that's pretty big to fit into 6 mins 40 secs! I think I managed it succinctly though. I also spoke about 'frisson' and described it as a thrill which could be touched with either or both fear and excitement like the moment before a romantic kiss. This was when I could feel my daughter, who was in the audience cringing! Mum talking about romantic kisses....all Mums are too old to even think about things like that! Well, apparently I was wrong...she did not cringe at all. She thought I did a really good job!

As I was preparing for the presentation, I was thinking a lot about my experiences talking with visitors to my exhibition in Abu Dhabi in 2005. Regular readers of my BLOG will have read about these experiences before. Visitors to the exhibition came from all over the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and some from the West. The conversations, which were stimulated by my artwork, went way beyond the art to places of shared compassion where we realised there were far more fundamental similarities between us than differences. As a result of my recent reflections I realise these experiences of intimacy made my world larger. So, a perfect example of multiple perspectives felt and experienced something got smaller it also got larger.

As readers of my BLOG know I am intensely interested in exploring the notion that our contemporary world is a stage that exists between indeterminate and multi directional 'wings' of the Global and local, macro and micro, intimate and vast. Readers also know that I wonder how we can develop flexible skills of perspective in order to dance across this stage. I wonder if perspective collapses and something else is created...but I don't have a name for it...yet!

We have passed by [ I hope!] the arrested development of the post-modern playground where pretend games lead us to events such as the GFC. We are now on the precipice of learning the dance steps needed to negotiate the 21st century stage. To me a stage still means we can be playful but we are not constantly playing pretend.