Thursday, December 01, 2011


Below The Surface Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm

BELOW THE SURFACE Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm

This work on paper is part of my Mother Nature series. The female figure is symbolic of Mother Nature. The trees which extend from her feet, and grow from her heart, reach out, below and beyond the surface. The pale green tree, which cascades across the 'scape', evokes the land's abundance, while the red, symbolic of soil, gifts the planet its nutrition. The white wavey lines and small blue strokes which whisper within the layers, speak of life systems, contours and hidden depths. The blue is suggestive of water and sky, the below and beyond. Regular readers will identify that the trees are my much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life. This age old symbol speaks of life's systems and connects us with the past and propels us to the future. In the present it is up to us to hear its symbolic power.


What a loaded term below the surface is! We talk about what's below the surface in a scandal, in financial implosions such as the GFC, beneath celebrity status, double entendres. We also talk and argue about what's below the surface of environmental issues. Below the surface can imply the 'real motive', the psychological impetus, the subconscious, intrigue, subtefuge, secrets. It also implies that what's below the surface is much larger, and possibly more significant, than what appears on the surface.

We are all so much more than what our exterior body appearance indicates. What's that old saying...'Beauty* is more than skin deep'. Or did I just make that up!? Funny though, when you think about what below the surface means it becomes appparent that it's not just about the below, but also the beyond. Indeed once the below is stirred and recognised its influence permeates across and beyond the surface. This can be a real physical influence on a material surface and into the atmosphere, or we can be propelled into other realms, such as the spiritual, imaginative and psychological.


This brings me to the coal seam gas debate [regular readers will know of my keen interest] which is heating up here in Australia with yesterday's release of the Senate Enquiry into CSG report. Here are just two media reports about the Senate Committeee's report  ABC Lateline Business and The Australian  Indeed, the Senate Enquiry dug beyond the surface, over many months of hearings and have recommended a number of actions based on well documented and research based fears, from various informed groups, about the affects of CSG mining on the Great Artesian Basin. Other issues involving potential impacts on prime agricultural land, health, social cohesion, farming practices, economic value were also presented to the Enquiry. The report is critical of, particularly the Queensland Government's, non precautionary principle stance. Indeed, I attended a forum on CSG at the University of Queensland in late 2009 where various representatives across the CSG debate spoke. The Government representatives indicated that their approach was 'well see as we go.' 

Another investigation that goes below and indeed beyond the surface is Paul Cleary's book 'Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia’s Future'. Check out the publisher's site Black Inc Books I have just finished this very thought provoking book. It examines a range of issues for us now and into the future. Cleary's concern for future generations means he has gone not just below the surface, but beyond as well. I highly recommend your read  'Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia’s Future'.

So, to a more literal level...a CSG well is not just its surface appearance. What happens below ground, and what is brought up from below ground, may have far more reaching influences, many of them possibly unknown for many years eg: a breakdown in naturally ocurring barriers between aquifers could possibly cause cross contamination of water types [saline and non-saline], loss of pressure could cause leakage from higher aquifers to lower ones and this may result in soil subsidance; methane gas leakage can cause a plethora of problems with one issue of paramount importance ie: methane is a  dangerous contributor to global warming. There are many more possible outcomes which have been expressed by farmers, scientists and academics. The precautionary principle seems pretty sensible to me!


Ideas of below and beyond the surface link with my interest in perspective. Regular readers will know of my interest! I play with perspective in my paintings by creating ambigious 'scapes'. As I have written before, I deliberately try to stimulate the viewer to move back and forth from my paintings. When viewed up close small details are discernible, but from a distance they are not. This dance back and forth, is similar to the 'dance' I move to as I paint. I work up close and then move back to view a painting from a distance, or I place a painting-in-progress in a spot where upon re-entering my studio, I see it with fresh eyes/perspective. I do think this 'dance' is a pretty good metaphor for how we need to negotiate life as we live locally in an increasingly globalised world.

Some earlier post on BEAUTY


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