Friday, January 07, 2011


Underground Currency Oil on linen 80 x 100 cm

I have really had fun painting this new work 'Underground Currency'. Yes, it is a painting of Australia! But, it is Australia with one of her most wondrous life sustaining natural gifts exposed. This gift is the Great Artesian Basin which extends across 22% of the continent. It is not one big underground lake, but rather a system of aquifers, some very deep and others closer to the surface. Here are a couple of websites with more details about the Great Artesian Basin.

The Great Artesian Basin is under threat from the burgeoning mining industry, especially coal seam gas [CSG] mining. Regular readers will know how concerned I am about the potential for degradation to water and soils. Here's a link to a recent post and painting $oils Ain't $oils...Anymore!

In fact, the federal Government's own National Water Commission's recent position paper on CSG and Water clearly calls for caution.

I grew up on a grain farm outside Dalby, on the Darling Downs, Queensland. My Dad had a bore, which provided us with water in times of drought. However, whilst it kept plants alive and allowed us to wash clothes and ourselves, it was a bit too salty for ongoing human consumption. Yet, 2-3 km away our neighbour's bore provided water that was drinkable. The worry is that CSG fracking techniques [pushing chemicals, water and sand into coal seams to release gas ie: creating mini-like earthquakes] will cause natural ocurring faults in aquifer systems to break down and allow for cross contamination, not only of different water qualities, but also chemicals [natural and introduced]. Many farmers rely on underground water to sustain livestock.

SCG mining also produces water 'byproduct' as the gas and water flow to the surface in pipes. This water, often saline, is stored in holding evaporation ponds to allow the salt to be collected. One of the major concerns, with the current floods covering over 1,000,000 square km of Queensland, is that salt from these ponds has spread across farmland. Salination of soils means aridness, infertility...forever. Salt's symbolic association with eternity does not bode well.

As mining activity sucks water from our systems, it is important to note that the industry is not subject to the restrictions farmers must adhere to under water resources legislation. If you read the  Federal Government's National Water Commission Position Paper you will clearly understand the concerns of people about the potential depletion of  the Great Artesian Basin.

Here is an aerial image of a CSG field near Chinchilla, west of Dalby.
With over 40,000 gas wells planned for the Darling Downs, Bowen and Surat Basins, this is what vast areas of our landscape will look like.

UNDERGROUND CURRENCY  Oil on linen 80 x 100 cm
So, to the painting! This work is closely related to two earlier works on paper 'Murray Darling Currency' and 'GAB: Great Artesian Basin'  Its title, with the word currency, plays with ideas of water flowing, financial terms and contemporaneousness...the flow/current of water, money and time! But, it also refers to political currency; the machinations of political agendas moulded and stroked by power, business, lobbyists and needs, desires and wants.

The word underground in the title can be read as literally referring to underground aquifer water supplies, but it also refers to a subtext of political decision making that impacts on the environment and In a broader context it also refers to the kind of secrets and subterfuge which propelled the world towards the Global Financial Crisis [GFC]...indeed is it really over? Even the Wikileaks revelations exposes the 'underground', the secrets that form a hidden dimension, populated by shadows, that impacts on life.  Given the propensity for secrets, agendas and opportunistic activity to be ultimately exposed, it is true that history is indeed the last and most critical judge.

Here's a link to a post I wrote in Feb 2008 about the GFC

And another on RISK

The picture below is a detail of 'Underground Currency'. You can see the small blue $ signs I have used  to depict the Great Artesian Basin...currency!!! From a distance these $ are not discernible, but they are as the viewer moves closer to the painting. Regular readers will know that I like to entice the viewer to move back and forth posing questions like, 'Have you noticed?' But, also alluding to the back and forth movement, from far to close perspective, that is necessary as we live locally in an increasingly globalised world.  The use of a symbol of wealth, to depict a natural substance, questions how we 'value' nature's gifts.

But there is hope! My much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life motif creates the sea surrounding Australia as well as the continent. The tree 'speaks' of pulsing life systems. Its vascular like essence linking everything seen and unseen. Its beauty deliberately edging out ugliness to provide hope for a future ongoing. 

                                                         Detail Underground Currency



Kay said...

This is a simply lovely painting. I was interested in your mining info. We run into some of the same issues in Utah.

Ann Ferguson said...

This is an AMAZING painting Kathryn! Fantastic!

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

Hi Ann and Kay, Thank you for visiting my BLOG. Kay, I have seen the film 'Gasland' and a few other videos about the situation in the US. Not good!


Audubon Ron said...

I have seen this painting but not the detail and you know how much I love to zoom in and out. Thanks for the detail shot.

Susi Cody said...

Hi Kathryn We are being infiltrated with csg here on NSW northcoast and your painting "Underground Currency" speaks a thousand words!!I hope to see more of your work next time I,m in Brisbane.

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

Hi Susi,
Thank you! The spread of CSG is frightening for so many reasons. K