Wednesday, December 01, 2010

$oils Ain't $oils...Any More!

$oils Ain't $oils...Any More! Oil on linen 70 x 100 cm 2010

This is the painting I wrote about, and uploaded a detail photo of, in my last post. Everything, apart from the sky and the sheets of rain in the distance, is painted with small $ signs. Now...regular readers of my BLOG will know that I often use $ signs in my work, to pose questions about how we 'value' those gifts, such as water, which sustain life.

With this painting I am posing questions about how we value our soils. I was inspired to paint this image after attending a public forum 'Environmental Implications of Coal Seam Gas and Coal to Liquid Projects' at the University of Queensland. The two soil scientists who spoke on the panel at this forum, both categorically stated that soils, of the types on the Darling Downs, cannot be rejuvenated after any kind of degradation caused by mining or any other activity that can severely affect soils.

I grew up on the rich black soil Pirrinuan Plain which is about 11 miles/18 km outside Dalby. The Jimbour Creek separates the Pirrinuan and Jimbour Plains. These treeless plains hold the deepest topsoils in the southern least that's what I was lead to believe as I grew up. But at nearly 40 ft/ 12.2 m deep I suggest that if they are not the deepest, then they are certainly amongst the deepest. The soil is black, it cracks when it is dry and turns to thick mud when it is wet. Here's a link to a map showing my parent's farm.,151.232665&spn=0.007512,0.019248&t=h&z=16

 I remember playing in the thick mud and loving it. As my brothers and I played the mud would become soupy the more we pummelled it and slid into it. No vehicle could travel more than a few metres in this mud before being bogged without hope of escape. This soil could grow anything and my father, and his father before him, grew crops of wheat, sorghum, maise, sunflowers and oats.

This is a photo of me and my two brothers on a swing our Dad made for us. Notice the flat horizon. My Mother created a park/garden and in this photo you can see the beginnings of it.

This is a photo of my 2 brothers standing against the edge of a wheat crop and my Mother standing in the middle of the crop. Notice the black soil ...and the quality of the hard category I am sure. Wheat crops don't grow this tall anymore, because with modification shorter varieties are preferred. They are preferred because they're less prone to being flattened by heavy rain, wind, or other strange happenings. If you flick back and forth between these two photos from my youth and $oils Ain't $oils...Any More! I bet you'll see where my vision comes from!

$oils Ain't $oils...Any More! depicts a cross section-like view of a flat horizoned landscape, similar to the one I grew up in. The blue represents underground aquifers, creating the Great Artesian Basin which straddles the hidden depths of around 22% of Australia. There are two layers of aquifers, the deep Artesian Basin ones and those closer to the surface. The dark colour represents coal and coal seams, the red/brown colour represents rock, and the darker brown is the soil which grows our crops and pastures, both supplying food for our tables.

The strips of rain in the distance are symbols of hope. I have spent many hours driving into the relentless distance of western rural Queensland, hoping that strips of rain glimpsed afar were watering my part of the world. Yet, these strips, like the rest of the 'landscape' are ambiguous. At first glance they may appear to be some kind of construction, tanks or towers conjuring thoughts and fears of a landscape dotted with burdensome infrastructure.

The red vein of small $ signs, flourishing across the sky, refers to another painting with a similar theme. Lifeblood also depicts a vein of $ signs gesturing across the sky. Here's the link to the post I wrote for Lifeblood  The vein in $oils Ain't $oils...Any More! speaks of the same things ie: that water is the lifeblood of the earth, that is is intrinsically important to maintain fertility and soil viability. I feel the vein in $oils Ain't $oils...Any More! seems to pulse more rapidly than the one in Lifeblood.  I suspect it is because its sky is far from languid with its thunderous, stormy and turbulent undertones witnessing the potential plunder below... paradise lost. 

As regular readers of my BLOG know, I am very interested in deliberately enticing the viewer to move close and far from my work. The small $ signs are not discernible from a distance, but they become evident as the viewer moves closer. For me this movements begs the question, 'Have you noticed?'

I have prepared the backgrounds of two more paintings and by Friday I hope to have started another 'vortex' painting...although I see my 'quiet activism' paintings like $oils Ain't $oils...Any More! as commenting on the madness of the outer vortex. As regular readers of my BLOG know my next solo exhibition is VORTEX. It will open Wednesday 23 feb and continue daily until Sunday March 6 at Graydon Gallery, Merthyr Rd, New Farm, Brisbane.

With Christmas just around the corner, I have made a 'gallery' of suggestions for presents ranging from around $200 to $4000. A painting is a wonderful gift for Christmas...or any time really! Check my Christmas gallery out at

Until next time,

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