Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Rain Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm

It is raining again here in Brisbane, just after major floods! I certainly hope we don't get a wet winter, then followed by a wet summer just like the one we've just had. The soil needs time to dry out a bit. Floods are not something we want to experience so soon! The painting above is called Rain. I am actually very happy with this work as it almost exudes wetness. Indeed, it involved a lot of water splashed, sprayed and dribbled, plus some small brush markings.

'Water: The Epic Struggle For Wealth, Power, and Civilization' by Steven Solomon
Despite many areas of Australia being currently replete with water...water is still a major issue here and around the world. I have just finished an amazing book called 'Water: The Epic Struggle For Wealth, Power, and Civilization' by Steven Solomon [Harper Collins, NY, 2010]. It is a meticulously researched world history of water from it earliest uses for irrigation in the ancient world, to our present day looming crisis. The latter is coupled with threats to food supply, as well our thirst for energy and climate change.  As Solomon says, The lesson of history is that in the tumultuous adjustment that surely lies ahead, those societies that find the most innovative responses to the crisis are most likely to come out as winners, while others fall behind. Civilization will be shaped as well by water's inextricable, deep dependencies with energy, food and climate change

The last paragraph of the book offers a profound call for people to take water very seriously, At the end of the day, how each member of the world community ultimately acts in response to the global freshwater crisis is not just a matter of economic and political history, but a judgement on our own humanity-and the ultimate fate of human civilization. As one scientist succinctly puts it: "After all, we are water."

Mining vs Farming
In my own neck of the woods ie: South East Queensland, Australia we are seeing major potential threats to water, plus food supply and quality, with the burgeoning battle between mining and farming. Regular readers will know of my concerns for water quality, supply and the accompanying potential degradation of prime food producing farmlands on the Darling Downs and in the Bowen and Surat Basins. The increasing presence of open cut coal mining, plus the frenzied activity surrounding coal seam gas extraction, pose threats to above and below ground water quality and supply. These mining activites also threaten soils, efficient farming practices, community health and social fabric. Ultimately the threats will not be localised concerns, as food supply, costs and quality will affect everyone.

Water management can make or break a civilization
The one overarching message I received as a result of reading 'Water: The Epic Struggle For Wealth, Power, and Civilization'  was that history has shown us that water management can make or break a civilization. This is followed and linked closely by food supply, which includes a plethora of issues from how food is grown, quality, cost and distribution. I am currently reading 'The Coming Famine: The Global Food Crisis And What We Can Do To Avoid It' by Julian Cribb [CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood Victoria, 2010]. This is a great book to read just after Solomon's 'Water', because the linkages between water and  food with economic, cultural and social health, and thus political stability are clearly apparent.

As a history student [I studied Ancient History and Art History at University], plus  a reader of history books, I have learnt that history is the last and most critical judge. So, politically it may seem expedient to fill government coffers, depleted by the GFC, with the money gained from mining exploration and export, but if it ultimately means we have no, or vastly depleted, food producing capacity plus poor water quality and supply, the resultant human loss and civil unrest, will make the expediency seem inhumane and politically potentially worse. As Soloman wrote but a judgement on our own humanity.
Damned [below] says it all really don't you think!? Click on the image and you'll see I have created the dam with the repeated word 'damned'. Surely there is a way for mining and farming to co-exist? I am not anti mining per se, but a balanced and more scientific approach to analysis and risk needs to be undertaken.

Damned Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm

More of my posts about water, food etc.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Colour of Stillness Oil on linen 100 x 60 cm
At my exhibition 'Frisson', last year, a visitor commented to me that he thought my paintings would look great through 3D glasses. He went away and came back with a pair....and it was amazing! Many of my paintings immediately separated into layers and I felt like I could reach into them, past the surface. This year, for my recent exhibition 'VORTEX: Seeking Stillness At its Core', I had thought about getting some 3D glasses to see if my new paintings also separated beyond the 2D world. But, the Brisbane floods, and the resulting mayhem, just prior to my exhibition opening, meant I did not think about searching Brisbane for 3 D glasses. However...the same man turned up again. We had a long chat and he commented that he thought the new paintings would look great through 3D glasses too. This time he popped out to his car and came back with a pair of 3D glasses which he gave to me.

Many of my paintings in 'VORTEX: Seeking Stillness At its Core' revealed their 3D qualities. Other visitors, who tried the glasses, were really astonished and loved walking around the exhibition taking the glasses on and off. Their exclamations of wonder were very audible.

I have found a place where I can buy some 3D glasses, thanks to another visitor who emailed me with the details. I think I'll have some at my next exhibition 'Paradise' @ Purgatory Artspace in Melbourne. This exhibition will be from 8 Sept - 8 Oct...and I am really looking forward to it.

Remembering The reason Why Oil on linen 100 x 60 cm

The 3D quality in my work is unintentional and I will continue to paint without thinking about what a painting might look like through 3 D glasses. However, with contemporary interest in 3D movies, video games and tvs I am really quite tickled about the multi dimensionality of my work. And...It certainly fits in with my thoughts on perspective and distance, particularly the need to be able to see multi perspectives simultaneously. I believe this is an important ability to stimulate in an increasingly globalised world in which we live locally. It is also important as cosmology propels us into multiversal potentialities at the same time as we recognise that our inner psyches are endless. The exploration of the vast and nano both reveal the infinitude of distance.

So...if you have a pair of 3D glasses, go get them and put them on. The paintings I have uploaded look great with them on! The images are only 72 dpi, but you will still get an idea of how they separate into layers. I have chosen 4 paintings, but there are a number of others that take on a multidimensional appearance. Hovering At The Centre is particularly 3D! Just click on the image and it will upload onto another page for easier viewing.

Hovering At The Centre Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm

'She was not made out of his head to surpass him, nor from his feet to be trampled on, but from his side to be equal to him, and near his heart to be dear to him." [Jamieson-Fausset Brown Bible Commentary] Oil on linen 80  x 120 cm


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Other Universes Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm

At my artist's talk in discussion with Dr. Christine Dauber on March 26 she asked me a question about landscape. She basically asked if I identified myself as a landscape painter. This is an interesting one for me, because for many years I would have described myself as such. However, whilst I still paint what could be called landscapes, I don't think the term 'landscape painter', or describing my painting as 'landscape', is fulsome enough. I've pondered this for some time now, even prior to Dr. Dauber bringing the topic to the fore. When I answered her question I basically said 'yes and no'! I ventured to suggest that whilst my feet are planted on the ground my head is actually in the clouds, so I 'see' the external and internal world in and from multiple perspectives.

I have said 'external' and 'internal' because the way I 'see' is both an outward observation with my eye, of eye ball and pupil, as well as an inward one with my mind's 'eye'. The latter is, I suppose, what I 'see' in and with my imagination. Both observations involve another level, which is my emotional response which can quicken or ignite excitement, further wonder, intellectual stimulation, revelation.

Someone, and I cannot remember who, described my paintings as 'spiritual landscapes'. This is probably getting close to the mark, but I still have a niggling problem with the word landscape and what it means to most people ie: an image of or inspired by the literal physical landscape of our external environment. I have had a thought...maybe this meaning of landscape tethers us to a line of sight perspective, with its contingent uni dimensionality, that ultimately blinds us to other dimensions. Are we, in fact, attached to a diminished idea of landscape which affects how we view our world and beyond? If we are, its not a helpful way of 'seeing' as we live locally in an increasingly globalised world.

Recent natural disasters remind us that our landscape can change dramatically and dreadfully, not just cyclically with seasons etc. Change is inherent within the external landscape and tethering ourselves to a vision of constancy in one dimension, I propose, makes it much harder to cope with catastrophe, as well as blinding us to new ways of 'seeing'. The latter probably impacts on how we live in and treat our environment.

The Beginning Of Everything Oil On Linen 90 x 180 cm

If everything in this universe is the result of a BIG BANG, then everything is the BIG BANG'S dust. If everything [and this includes us!] is dust from a common source, then everything is 'landscape'. I ponder upon this and think about how I am inspired...not just what inspires me. Once something triggers my imagination I see inside myself. I actually feel my eyes 'glass' over as I almost plummet to immeasurable internal depths. It often feels much more vast than the external world. In a way, by traversing my internal world I find  pathways to alternative outside worlds. The landscape is within and without.

Cosmic Dust Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm

If everything is the dust from the BIG BANG then there must be a common fundamental code imbedded within everything. Now that's exciting. I can already 'see' that this code is the foundation of and for landscape...a landscape that is not about time or place, but of existence. This code is both here and now, which is in the past and the future. Maybe our imagination has the capacity to stir this common fundamental code agitating it to reveal itself?

However, if we are tethered to a uni dimensional notion of landscape then it means we [probably mainly westerners!] have trained our brains, over time, to view the world this way. I am reminded of Dr. Norman Doidge's fabulous book, 'The Brain That Changes Itself' and his talk at this year's Qld Writers' Festival. Encultured ways of 'seeing' create maps in our brains, but we can change these maps if, as time goes on, we find that previous ways of 'seeing' are not helpful. I am suggesting it is time to change! This is where art's agency lies. Art can help trigger the impetus to create new maps in our brains...maps that link more with imagination or our 'mind's eye' rather than just our eye of eye ball and pupil. I have previously written about Norman Doidge's book and art:

As I explore the potential and potency of the transcultural/religious tree-of-life weaving into my paintings, I wonder if the tree holds the clue to the code imbedded within everything? After all, it can represent systems of all kinds. Its branches and its roots link matter and air, heaven and earth. It symbolises life across religions and cultures through stories and myth. It breaths for us and the planet, and it is in a constant state of change. I wonder.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011


                                           Cosmic Frisson Oil on linen 90 x 180 cm 2010 SOLD

I have been thinking more about my last post 'Beauty As A Portal' especially with regards to hope. Hope, axiomatically, is about the future, even if it is only a second away. We hope for all sorts of things from the material, to the spiritual, to emotional...for ourselves and others. We talk about things, events and people giving hope, as well as taking it away. Yet, we can choose to be positive or not, and how we choose to react will influence how we perceive hope. I believe beauty scaffolds positivity because as a portal  it provides the door, and the path, for hope to 'travel' into the future, with imagination as its propulsion. Ugliness, debauchery, regurgitated scenes of mayhem and disaster slam the door shut, concealing the path as the imagination descends into despair.

I have just read Cormac McCarthy's novel 'The Road'. It is beautifully written. Despite the story being abjectly awful, the beauty of the prose keeps hope alive. Not only does the reader feel hope for the young boy in the story, but somewhere deep within, there's hope for our planet, even though the book is set in a post apocalyptic world. The beauty of, and with, McCarthy's prose is that it does not neuter the reader. A more pedestrian writer would not have achieved the subtle, yet powerful, juxtapositioning of apocalyptic story and prose-poetry. In a way, the reader of 'The Road' feels more compelled and inspired to ensure our planet is loved.

COSMIC FRISSON oil on linen
The painting above could be our planet...or the edge of it. I could be the edge of a continent or even the Universe...or maybe some subatomic particle viewed through a powerful microscope. I have written about this painting previously
Whatever viewpoint you take, I wanted a sense of something about to happen, something exciting like a first kiss. The frisson is the nanosecond before the kiss when anticipatory distance is both close and far. I suggest that the stirrings of hope, are akin to a frisson. Why? Hope is anticipatory, exciting, dreamy, motivating, stimulating! Beauty gives hope a chance!
Update 6th April 2013- This painting sold last year to teh new Gold Coast Hospital, Queensland, Australia.


Maleny artist, Elsie Brimblecombe exhibed paintings from three of her series of works based on text. These are Italo Calvino’s novel 'Invisible Cities', Brisbane poet Ynes Sanz’s anthology 'Fanny The Flying Housewife And Other Stories', plus French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s prose-poems in 'Les Illuminations'.

The exhibition opened Thursday 10 March and continued until end of April 2011

On Saturday 26 March 12 noon Elsie Brimblecombe accompanied by poet Ynes Sanz, gave a presentation at the Brisbane Square Library Theatrette on the ground floor.

                                          Meals ON Wheels: Doris Taylor Acrylic on canvas 46 x 46 cm 2010
                                          Inspired by Ynes Sanz poem of the same name

By Elsie M Brimblecombe


The paintings hanging on these Library walls are based on text and were painted during the last two years.

There are three series represented here, none of them complete. Some paintings are from the 2009 series
which was generated by Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities”. Some are from the 2010 series based on “Fanny the Flying Housewife and other stories”, a book of poems about some extraordinary women of the twentieth century, by well-known Brisbane poet, Ynes Sanz. I have also included work-in-progress from the 2011 series. These paintings are inspired by “Les Illuminations”, prose-poems written by the young nineteenth century French poet, Arthur Rimbaud.

I do not consider my paintings to be illustrations created to explain or describe the words of the author. Rather their words act as a springboard and an anchor for my imagination. My approach is to find out by some research what drives and what influences the author and then I immerse myself in the chosen text and meditate on it as well.

It is not only the imagery I am attracted to in these texts. It is a certain quixotic playfulness, an element of surprise, an ambiguity, a quirkiness of approach and style which attracts me. Whether I have done these things justice, I am not sure, but Calvino, Sanz and Rimbaud have given me in the last couple of years a focus which I have not found before in more than fifty years of painting. I am grateful to them all as I have had a lot of fun.

Sometimes I think I may be like one of Ynes Sanz’s extraordinary women, Flora Foster Jenkins. She was a singer who could not sing, but she ended up in her seventies singing (still out of tune) to a packed audience in Carnegie Hall! And here am I, perhaps an artist who cannot paint, displaying my work in the city at the Brisbane Square Library! I leave it to you to judge, but hope you receive as much enjoyment from looking at these works as I did in painting them.

Until next time!

Thursday, March 03, 2011


Portal Oil on linen 36 x 36 cm

On Saturday 26 February, at my exhibition VORTEX: Seeking Stillness At Its Core, there was an artist's talk with myself in discussion with art historian Dr. Christine Dauber. The talk went really well and I've had some great feedback from the people who attended. Amongst other things, Christine aksed me about beauty, and whilst I have thought about it before, and indeed have written about it on this BLOG, I found myself synthesising some of my thoughts as I spoke. Here are links to two previous posts on beauty.

I heard myself say 'beauty is a portal'. I said this in the context that ugliness and the regurgitation of scenes of disaster, ruin, and sadness in the media, and some contemporary art, seem to neuter empowerment. They drain us of energy as we feel overwhelmed by an incapacity to do anything to solve problems and to make the world a better place. 
Hovering At The Centre Oil on linen 30x 30 cm

Beauty, for me, is not a vacuuous prettiness or decorator kind of attractiveness. I choose to paint beautiful images and consciously elide ugliness, and in this conscious elision, ugliness exists in absentia. Ugliness is not a shadow tethered to beauty, but rather a memory which has been let go. This kind of beauty thus holds a pathos which reminds us of what we can lose if beauty is destroyed, or worse, rendered unimportant. This kind of beauty has the power to uplift, energise and re-invigorate. It is a portal! It has the capacity to be much larger than itself, taking the viewer into emotional and psychological spaces that fill the psyche beyond conscious limits and thus extending the conscious...a bit like Dr. Who's Tardis! 

Compassion Oil on linen 100 x 100 cm

Beauty stimulates the imagination. Yes, the imagination can still 'imagine' ugliness, but beauty balances the psyche providing it with a capacity to override the kind of focus on ugliness which disempowers, and acts as a destroyer too. I am reminded of something 'Harry Potter' author JK Rowling said in her excellent Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. She said, 'I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.' For me this statement conjures a few thoughts, one being that maybe the barrage of ugliness, sadness and destruction in the media reveals a lack of imagination which unfortunately reaches out to us daily from newspapers, computers, TVs etc. Another thought is that a lack of imagination arrests the ability of leader/dictators such as Mugabe, Gadaffi, to provide freedoms and rights that grow with and nurture a society. Indeed, as current events in Libya testify, the 'monsters' of violence and torture have been released.

Cosmic Dust Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm

I believe that beauty enables us to reach beyond sympathy, with its giver and receiver heirarchy, to a place of compassion where equality and empathy empower rather than exhaust. Compassion is not transient and it does not as easily fall prey to power plays. It is sustained by beauty and not exhausted by ugliness, even though it knows it exists. [see Compassion above]

I suggest that the catalytic agency of art is its ability to reveal, capture, portray beauty to stimulate imagination and exile monsters.

With the idea that beauty can be a portal taking us to dimensions beyond the concious I thought I'd upload some paintings which, to me at least, seem to suggest a conduit or portal to this place 'beyond'. All the images above depict a portal-like circle. All these paintings are in my current exhibition 'VORTEX: Seeking Stillness At Its Core'