Saturday, May 29, 2010


Royalties Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2010

June 1 is the date I said I would be back into my studio, after taking some time to gather myself and my thoughts following my exhibition FRISSON in March. But, I have been back into my studio a little bit lately to start some works on paper dealing with my ongoing interest in water. I have previously written quite a lot about this interest, but there is just so much to think about, especially when placed against a backdrop of current economic conditions, both domestic and international.

I am particularly thinking about the issues surrounding coal seam gas extraction in the Surat Basin where owners and operators of prime grazing and farming lands are currently negotiating with the mining companies which have prospecting rights. The issues of contaminated water, reduced underground aquifer levels, potential reduced water for grazing and farming needs, potential reduced land available for grazing and farming production [thus food!], potential land degradation and increased salinity levels, increased noise and dust, infrastructure capacity stress eg: roads, schools, increased traffic [particularly heavy vehicles] etc way heavily. Social issues such as rural camaraderie may be affected by the vagaries of deal making, resultant inuendo and secrecy. The social fabric of small rural communities means that everyone talks about eveyone else and knows, at least to some extent, what others are doing. I know! I have lived in small rural communities for nearly 40 years, having been born into a farming family outside Dalby, right in the middle of some of the richest and deepest top soil in the southern hemisphere. I then spent 18 years living in Goondiwindi, on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, with a population of around 5,000 people in the town and another 5,000 people in the surrounding districts.

Blue Gold Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2009

Dalby is smack bang in the middle of the coal seam gas bonanza. This is another reason why I am particularly interested in the huge shift in the focus of rural survival, the economic and the social outcomes. The quickened heart beat of change and worry is sensed when you place the local issues of the Surat Basin against the Australian Federal Government's announcement to impose a rent tax on the mining industry, the ferocious opposition to the rent tax from mining and affiliated companies plus the Federal Opposition and the immediate share price falls of mining and affiliated companies [which affects amongst other things, the retirement superannuation funds of ordinary Australians]. On the broader scale the macro economic conditions of our world are tortuously exacerbated by natural and manmade disasters, immanent battle to arms and the ongoing licking of wounds inflicted by the GFC.

Gee, we live in fantastic times! Regular readers might think I am being uncharacteristically negative and sombre. I don't see the world through rose tinted glasses or bury my head in the sand, but I am interested in trying to see, from both local and global perspectives, where emergent patterns of change are occurring. The plethora of disaster being experienced in the world, from financial and economic collapses to hurricanes and earth quakes, political tensions with fanatical nations to unforgiveable oil spills do remind us of reality. Financial undertakings cannot be about fantasy, increased natural disasters remind us to look after our planet, fanatical individual, groups and nations live and think differently and cannot be wished away via traditional logical means, and massive manmade disasters remind us that risk has a capital R.I.S.K and must be dealt with honestly and without bravado.

Truth Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2009

There was a flurry of interest last week about the announcement, by Craig Venter and his team, of the creation of synthetic life. Here's a link to the TED talk  However, this week I have not read much about this amazing development. But, this often happens with scientific discoveries. Why? I am not sure, but maybe the media decides another story is more saleable. In this case the iPad certainly must be a far more saleable story that the creation of synthetic life, because there's been plenty in the general media about the iPad.

But, back to being serious...the creation of synthetic life does pose risk [RISK] because, for example, in the hands of a mad person, who understood the scientific process, the world could be taken over by cell sized replicating synthetic warriors that could, for instance, eat us from the inside out, take over our minds and so on [I will let you imagine!]. However, on the upside synthetic cell sized replicating life could be developed to 'eat up' oil spills. Craig Venter mentions a number of positive uses and applications for synthetic life in the TED talk. The viewer gets the impression he only touches the surface of what is possible. He also mentions risk and the steps taken to avoid it...very gratifying and reassuring.

Obviously it is early days, but just imagine if sythetic life could replace the need for coal seam gas! Then the Surat Basin would be returned to the farmers, albeit 'pock marked'. Imagine if it could replace other energy sources! Rent taxes would be superfluous. Just imagine................................................

The out of the blue, left field development which appears within the complexity of life, and thus shifts our expectations is where excitement and potential lie.

ROYALTIES  Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm [Above]
The yellow foreground of this ambiguous landscape is created with $ signs. Regular readers of my BLOG know I have used $ before. I have also used them in the second painting above Blue Gold ...'blue gold' being water.  The smallness of the $ signs means that the viewer initially does not really notice them, but upon a closer examination they do. I have watched people as they move closer to my $ paintings. The realisation shows on their faces as they move even closer to the image and then move back again to get a broader perspective. Regular readers know that this action of moving close and then moving back to a distance is important to me for a couple of reasons. One, it replicates the artist's action of painting up close and then moving back to view from a distance, to make decisions based on a range of concerns from aesthetic to meaning. Two, this action of moving back and forth is like a dance, the kind of dance I 'see' as necessary in a global world in which we live locally. In Royalties the small circles in the 'sky' are dotted with the same $ yellow. These circles are like portals which seem to offer alternative visons for how we place 'value' on the offerings of our Earth.  Questions I ask are: in the flurry of activity what are we noticing?  What and where are our blindspots? Is it possible to see the 'big picture' at the same time as seeing the details? The last question is one I try to grapple with in my paintings...I like to think that people experience a sense of what it is like to see the macro at the same time as the micro, thus changing ideas of perspective and perhaps shedding light to reveal our blindspots.

Cheers, Kathryn

No comments: