Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Airspace In The Dam Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm

On Thursday August 12 a large photo on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald caught my eye. It was a photo of a depleted water course or storage with an accompanying headline, 'Labor's Empty Promise'. As I stood over the piles of newspapers at my newsagency, trying to read the article, some words  made me chuckle. These words were, It is water known among irrigators as "phantom water", "virtual water" or "airspace above the dam". I immediately bought the paper so I could read the article in full.

Essentially the article was about the huge amounts of money the government has spent on buying water to return it to the distressed Murray-Darling Basin. However, the government has not bought water as such. Rather, it has bought entitlements which allow water to be allocated to the holders of these entitlements. The catch is that water is not allocated unless water levels in systems in NSW and QLD exceed a certain height. This is precipitated by good rain or flood events...neither of which occur regularly every year. So, water is not going to be returned to the Murray-Darling Basin regularly in large amounts, and stored water gets used or evaporates [particularly quickly in hot dry conditions]. However, I am sure someone, somewhere is making a lot of money out of the 'flow', real or not, of water.

It also has to be remembered that if it does rain, to break a drought, water will not immediately flow in large amounts into river systems. This is because the soil profile needs to be saturated before water will run off the ground.  

Regular readers of this BLOG know that I have long been fascinated and concerned by issues surrounding water. This is due to my upbringing on a grain farm outside Dalby and then nearly 20 years subsequently spent in Goondiwindi, further west than Dalby [Queensland, Australia]. Cotton, particularly irrigated cotton, and to a smaller degree other crops, is a major industry in the Goondiwindi district. 
In the painting Airspace Above The Dam I have taken the SMH article and rewritten it, to form the foreground landform. I have repeated 'Airspace in the Dam' to create the 'water'...phantom the dam. This text bubble tries to convince that there is some kind of $ value in emptiness, akin to the $ value placed on airspace above buildings. The sky reveals a suggestion of rain, but the viewer might well question whether it is 'real' too, because fluffy white clouds don't normally produce rain.

Phantom Water Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm

In Phantom Water above I have painted a river or dam, as if in cross section. The 'water' is created with the words 'phantom water' written over and over again. Here, I have again used a quote from the SMH. So, water has now acquired some kind of ghost-like quality!

I have purposefully painted Airspace Above The Dam and Phantom Water predominantly blue to evoke a feeling of wetness. Yep, evoking, in a world where the virtual is confused with the real, is part of the game plan!

GAB: Great Artesian Basin  Gouache on paper 30 x 42

GAB: Great  Artesian Basin obviously refers to water as well. However, with this painting I am interested in how water issues are part of the mining debate, particularly Coal Seam Gas. Water, from the underground aquifer is a byproduct of the gas extraction. The salty water is stored in dams, but there are concerns about the use of this water, plus the depletion of the aquifers. I have painted the area covered by the Great Artesian Basin in small blue $ signs. Australia and the surrounding oceans are painted using my much loved tree-of-life motif. I wanted to convey the idea that our planet is a living thing, a life force and needs to be looked after. I wanted to convey a questioning of the 'value' placed on natural gifts such as the GAB.

Here is an interesting link to a group looking after our GAB:
Basin Sustainability Alliance:

There are a number of grassroots action groups in Queensland advocating more considered approaches to mining prime agriculatural land. Take a look at the links below.

FOF Friends of Felton: Felton is an area just west of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs where there is a proposal for a coal to fuel project to be undertaken:

SODD: Save Our Darling Downs

An interesting development is detailed in the Queensland Government's press release [23 Aug] with proposals for new legislation to protect strategic/prime agricultural [food producing] land.

So, until next time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


                                           Afterglow oil on linen 100 x 100cm

Our universe, our galaxy, our sun, our planet, our biosphere, us, and all the atoms and forces which manifest existence are part of the 'afterglow' which errupted into being within nanoseconds after the 'Big Bang'. The macro and micro are intrinsically linked by their shared genesis, universal horizons are seemingly forever propelled in expansion and we grapple to understand.

I have written about horizons before, noting that they are not necessarily always in front of us, both metaphoric and real ones. They are all around us, and when reached more horizons cascade into attention. Yet, when we think about the horizons offered by an expanding universe space and time melt into fluidity.

It kind of puts life on Earth into perspective when trying to imagine the horizons of an expanding universe. Regular readers know of my interest in notions of perspective and my idea that the ability to experience different and many perspectives simultaneously needs to have its own name. Indeed the experience, truly felt, might actually be another dimension.

So, to the painting above. Regular readers would notice that I have painted a few paintings with this circular shape created with my much loved tree-of-life motif.  and In this painting above I wanted to suggest an afterglow that is all of life, both earth bound and beyond. The circular shape throws the idea of horizons to the infinite, and is symbolic of life everlasting. The red represents the glow after a huge explosion, but also the red light emitted from the propulsion of the expanding universe.

This painting incorporates the subatomic and the universal, the vast and intimate, the macro and micro. If there is one thing which I spend time contemplating, it is the space or distance between, trying to situate myself so I can 'see' it all at once and possibly 'be' it all at once. The role of imagination is significant as is an accompanying emotional capacity to lose oneself with the confidence that one will be found.

Please have a look at my website I've added some images and details.

Coming up are the Tattersall's Landscape Award opening 8 September and the BAware Exhibition, themed on the Millenium Goals, opening at St. John's Cathedral, Brisbane, on October 8. I will have at least 3 paintings in the latter exhibition.


Friday, August 13, 2010


Hovering At The Centre Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm

This painting above is a small 30 x 30 cm work. It was inspired by thoughts of vortexes, stillness, possibility and the potency of the archetypal tree-of-life symbol. I am reading another book by the Lord Astonomer, Martin Rees. This book 'Just Six Numbers' is entirely layperson readable, just like his book 'Our Final Century', which I have written about previously.

Well, a few things have got me excited. One is that prior to reading 'Just Six Numbers' I was pondering the phenomena of the vortex, literally as well as metaphorically. Regular readers will have read some of my 'vortex' posts. Rees writes about spirals and vortexes in cosmology eg: galaxies. Another source of excitement is Rees's chapter 'Primordial 'Ripples'. I was reading in bed a few nights ago, with my eyes falling out of their sockets due to tiredness, and I started to read the chapter and laughed.  It transfixed me, because prior to reading all about primoridal ripples, I painted 'Cosmic Frisson', which was inspired by ideas of ripples. I even called a recent post 'Ripples'.

So, back the painting above...Hovering At The Centre. I wanted to leave some space, because so many of my paintings are full of vast textures which only suggest space as a dimension beyond the surface. I wanted to create an image that included a sense of empty space, simultaneously vast and minute, like a portal or a vortex/spiral core. I wanted to create a sense of finding stillness, a place of possibility, alluding to a complexity that, whilst not understood can be sentiently felt, thus asking us to have faith.

At one level Hovering At The Centre is inspired by Rees's words, 'Most galaxies harbour a central hole as massive as millions of stars.' These central holes are 'black holes'. They defy explanation, but are discernible by scrutinising external forces such as gravity and light. But, this is where an artist's imagination is triggered. For me, my painting portrays a sense of life surrounding the 'black hole'. This is indicated by the tree-of-life motif, which suggests celestial systems finely balanced to stimulate the continuing expansion of the Universe. The tree-of-life is also gravity which stops the Universe imploding into black holes and perhaps surrending existence.

In Hovering At The Centre the circle or hole is like a portal, embraced securely by the tree-of-life. So, entering the portal may not be too bad, because it might be like being inside a big hug [worse case...a crushing hug!]! Portals are metaphors for choice, other dimensions, crossorads in life. Portals, do not have templates to follow, otherwise they'd not be portals, but merely glass doors through which we could see. Portals are not understood by criteria or agendas. If we ascribed these things to portals we limit ourselves and the potential opportunities offered by the unknown. Portals compel us to dream and imagine, and criteria and agendas are not good bedfellows.

Here is a link to another painting where I 'speak' about portals. The painting is called 'AH HAs' and sold at my exhibition FRISSON in March.


My painting 'Halo' is one of  the 70 finalists for the 2010 Tattersall's $20,000 Art Prize, Brisbane. This year the prize is by invitation, so I am very excited to have been chosen as one of the exhibiting artists. The exhibition opens Wednesday 8 September.

On October 8 a rather interesting curated exhibition BAware will open at St. John's Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane. The exhibition is themed to the Millenium Goals to raise awarenss of gloabl issues of social justice, poverty and sustainability. I will have between 3 and 5 paintings in this exhibition. I will post updates over the next weeks leading up to the exhibition.

Until next time,

Thursday, August 05, 2010


                                         Cosmic Frisson oil on linen 90 x 180 cm

This is the painting I was working on when I wrote my recent BLOG post 'Ripples'  Yes, it is finished!

I wrote in 'Ripples' that I wanted to create a painting which seemed to ripple, at one instance appearing to reveal something and at the next swathing it under swift and repetitive movements. This  painting could be a landscape of the Earth in the cosmos, her outer protective atmosphere meeting the sun blessed sky space, creating a frisson between multiple dimensions. Yet, the cluster of rounded shapes could be a cluster of space presences, from planets to particles of dust, saluting a sun star many light years from ours.

I have used my tree-of -life/knowledge motif to create the planetary shape, but beneath the rippling-like branches, glimpses of other forces can be seen. These same forces are glimpsed through the sun's felt presence within the sky space. The cosmos teases and tantalises us with its secrets, by revealing its inner essence languidly.

Without the teasing and tantalising would we question? Would we be curious? The search and acquisition of knowledge survives and thrives on the stimulation and seduction of glimpsed secrets.

I have used the tree-of-life/knowledge to suggest that 'life' lies beyond our planetry existence. It may not be life like we know it, but as the Universe continues to expand, its propulsion is the potential. I am so glad the Universe and the sub-atomic, and the simultaneously expanding and decreasing space and distance between them, are complex. Complexity means there are forces, whilst we may not understand or be aware of them, that keep life's processes operating. My faith lies in the complexity that holds the questions we have not thought to ask and the answers we don't even know exist yet. Now that's frisson!

Regular readers would know that my solo exhibition in March here in brisbane was called Frisson. Here is a link to a previous post

Until next time,