Monday, November 26, 2012


 Tree-of-Life Time Travelling Oil on linen 85 x 150 cm

I am looking forward to my next solo exhibition, which will be at Purgatory Artspace, in North Melbourne, Australia.

I am calling the exhibition COSMOLOGY

Dates: Wednesday 30 January - Saturday 17 February
Opening Function: Saturday 9 February 2-4 pm: I will be there!
Address: 1st Floor 170 Abbotsford St, Nth Melbourne.
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11am - 5pm
PH: 03 9329 1860

Purgatory Artspace is the project space attached to Gallery Smith.

I've made a 'Cosmology Gallery' on my website with some of the paintings that may be in COSMOLOGY

Ad Infinitum? Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm
Regular readers will know why I have called my show COSMOLOGY! My interests in the distances between the nano and vast, plus multi perspectives [even seen simultaneously], are apparent in my paintings. Coupled with these is an interest in teasing out the potencies of age-old symbols, such as the tree-of-life and the ouroborus, to determine whether they can be visually interpreted with 21st century 'eyes', to assist us in understanding our place in the cosmos. Over eons, age-old symbols have helped people position themselves within a contemporary milieu. I believe these same symbols carry secrets that are pertinent for us today. We just have to engage our skills of imagination and intellect in a dance with science, to confidently allow the symbols to 'speak' to us as we envision distances propelling in all directions.
Sometimes these distances, so hard to comprehend, can overwhelm. Yet, they can also, make us acutely aware that Earth is [currently] our only possible home. All of us call Earth home and I'd like to think it is within our capabilities to work together to ensure this home is sustained as a healthy and peaceful place to live. Am I suggesting a utopic, idealist view? Well, taking a new perspective or even a multi-one seen simultaneously, may enable us to remove the utopic veil that implies the unachievable thus keeping our perspective myopic.
There are questions too about keeping Space free of human detritus. Sorry... we have already failed! I recently attended a fascinating presentation at Brisbane's Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium where an image of the currently in-use, as well as decommissioned satelites, was shown. Each one was indicated by a light. It was certainly a compelling image, which struck a sense of guilt.

Cosmic Ouroboros Oil on linen 120 x 150 cm
I am not interested in illustrating or recording facts, figures, examples in my work. I am not a scientist, yet I am very interested in scientific ideas, especially when they stir my imagination and wonder. Ever since I was very young I have been intrigued by the urge for discovery. As a pre-teen I devoured books about the lives of famous scientists eg: Jenner, Curie, Fleming, Marconi and others. I remember enjoying reading about the things, events and ideas that lead to their important discoveries.
Alas, Science was very poorly taught at the primary school I attended and by the time I was starting secondary school my interest in Science was severely curtailed. Even worse. my confidence was eroded. An interesting was implied that because I was good at Art and not so good at Maths, then how could I possibly be any good at Science! Yes, I can remember a particular teacher I had for grade 4 and 5 saying things [cruel things too] that clearly indicated his uneducated biases.
However, achieving high marks [ie: distinctions] in Senior Biology did restore some of my faith in my abilities. At University I studied a year long History of Science subject. It was the best, most rewarding subject I have ever studied, even compared with those subjects in my double major in Art History! This History of Science subject, taught by Prof. Mac Hamilton, at the University of Queensland, re-stirred my interest in the realms of the unkown, the 'what ifs?' of the Universe and the 'why?' questions that see the intersection of critical/scientific thinking and imagination.
I've written about my interest in cosmology before:

Friday, November 16, 2012


Into The Symphony Oil on linen 120 x 160 2008

Art therapy, facilitated by a trained art therapist, has a role in counselling and psychotherapy with potential to help reveal psychological wounds, as well help heal them. This link will provide you with more information. Art therapy, as a professional practice is worthwhile.

An additional link [added here June 2020] for a good overview of Art Therapy is at Most Craft/ Art Therapy Exercises

I am not an art therapist and this post is not about art therapy, as a professional practice.

However, in many quarters, the arts are perceived, and are often described as, being 'therapeutic'.

BUT, as an artist I am cautious of this word 'therapeutic'. Why? Because it is a loose word...a word that, for me at least, hinges on an illusion of worth. It's a word that, if partnered with the arts, I believe, can transfer, stir and even augment collective pathologies. It is a word that sounds important, but is it? Maybe it is, in fact, dangerous?

I have thought about this issue over many years. But, last night I attended a fascinating presentation at the Qld Jung Society by Dr. Jennifer Leigh Selig. The title of her presentation was The Content of their Complexes:  The Archetype of the Wounded Leader as Explored Through Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama.  She spoke about the relationship between a leader and his/her society/culture and the projections from both onto the other ie: a leader's core complex [in the Jungian sense] will essentially be the one permeating society at the time and vice versa. In the transference state, in the centre of the relationship, are two possibilities. One is a kind of transcendence, over time, beyond the prevailing issue for both the leader and the society, where the symphony of life can be heard clearly. The other possibility is sinking into the complex's pathology leading to cynicism, depression, violence...a place where the symphony's music is muffled. The latter is perhaps where many societies find themselves today? Alas.

Collective Memory Oil on linen 80 x 120 cm 2008

Dr. Selig's presentation got me thinking about how the arts can be either reflective or affective...or both... of prevailing societal complexes. But, I asked myself, is simply being reflective even affective...and affective of what? We all know what happened to the reflection-loving Narcissus! I also asked myself, if the arts has a catalytic agency that is not tethered to any prevailing complexities, is this where the light of transcendence lies? If so, the term 'therapeutic' is inappropriate, limiting and pedestrian. I have previously written that I prefer the idea of  'catalytic agency' rather than 'role' because the latter alludes to preconceptions of all kinds and hierarchies, whereas 'catalytic agency' heralds the unknown, invites the unforeseen, bypasses restriction going forth with a compassionate impulse. 'Catalytic agency' stirs and ignites imagination, and I would argue, goes beyond the therapeutic where roles, agendas and hierarchies [eg: therapist/patient] are implied.

I write this thinking about current global economic turmoils and their ricocheting outcomes locally with the loss of jobs, political cynicism, consumer malaise, spiritual emptiness. It is also against a background of conflict in the Middle East and outsider interventions, judgements etc. It is against a background of media idolatry and the relinquishment of thinking to the panacea of technology. It is against a background of general fear...a fear of economic and financial loss, to technological  failure, to literal physical death.

With all this in mind I the fate of art that reflects simply pathological mimicry... constantly reminding us of humankind's weaknesses, ultimately stirring the pot of despondency and maintaining a status quo? Maybe? Or does it help us feel better by somehow soothing emotions, such as guilt, as we appropriate imagery that is essentially derived from suffering and fear...thus we 'suffer' too? Maybe? Do we feel better about our spiritual emptiness with a purchase of an artwork created by an Indigenous artist, because in the act of purchasing we feel [subconsciously] we've gained some spirit, that allusive 'sense' perceived to be the arena of the Indigene? Spirit as commodity surely aids and abets emptiness!

Is the suggestion that the arts are therapeutic a symptom of a societal complex rather than a promise?

I do believe that amongst the debris of disintegration we will find the light to guide us to the first possibility posed by Dr. Selig; that place of transcendence beyond the prevailing issue for both the leader and the society where the symphony of life can be heard clearly. The 'light' and the 'music' will need to be sought and uncovered. Reflection, for me, does no digging.

Compassion Oil on linen 100 x 100 cm 2011


Friday, November 09, 2012


 Beyond The Dark Night Of The Soul Oil on linen 100 x 100 cm 2009
I deliberately put the word beyond in the title of Beyond The Dark Night Of The Soul [above] to indicate that even though a journey into the 'dark night of the soul' is something most people will experience, at some stage in their lives, there is a place beyond the suffering. I am fully aware that for some people, as if tortured on a Catherine Wheel, the 'dark night' persists or returns consistently. This must be dreadful. However, I know that the vicious cycle can be broken and that a place beyond is possible to find. As I said in my previous post about this painting, The word 'beyond' in the title clearly gives the message that this painting is not just a warm and fuzzy, feel-good image, because 'the dark night of the soul' as something that has been experienced but overcome, thus exists in absentia.

So, to the title of this post Beyond The Dark Night. By suggesting a beyond, suffering has not been simply ignored or avoided, thus left nagging incessently in the background like a small child wanting attention or a Catherine Wheel audibly creeking. It has been experienced and acknowledged leaving a trace, a memory. However, I like to think that a word like beyond means that the tumultuous tenticles of suffering cannot reach into the psyche dragging dreams, hopes, esteem and more back into that dark, dark place. No, suffering has not been alleviated, but its strength to hold on tightly, is diminished.

I have uploaded some more paintings where the dark night and suffering spoke or whispered to me. But I like to think I went beyond the grip of wallowing, sympathy seeking and fear. I must add here, that the dark night and suffering were not the only 'voices' in conversation with me! Maybe a place of beyond enables one to reach back voluntarily, to harvest wisdom, re-affirm intuition. The place beyond  is where hope exists... and hope is galvanising and political. A place beyond, out of the darkness, means one have the potential to 'see' with eyeball and pupil, as well as the mind's eye, all close and far distances, horizons and perspectives. There is a pathos in this all-seeing ability, which keeps us human, not strangled.

Hope In The Distance Oil on linen 80 x 120 2010

 Halo Oil on linen 82 x 183 2009
I have included Halo because whilst it rejoices in the beauty of planet Earth and its atmospheric halo, the painting 'came' to me when I was thinking about my cousin Bill [aka: Fred] From who died whilst descending Mt Everest in a blizzard. This happened 9 October 1984. He turned 28 that month.What is interesting is that I was compelled to paint Halo in October 2009. I had not realised it was the 25th anniversary of Bill's death until I googled to see if there was much about the expedition, lead by Sir Edmund Hillary's son, Peter Hillary.
Bill had just completed his PhD in Ionospheric Physics and had won a scholarship to one of the Max Planck Institutes in Germany.
Blood Connection Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2010

Blood Connection ,using my much loved age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol, is a painting reminding us that during war, blood literally seeps into the earth. It has done so for eons... unfortunately. Upon burial or casting ashes, the body-our bodies- return to the Earth connecting us forever, returning us to the stars.
Planet $ [below] is another 'map' like painting, similar to Blood Connection. I have, however, painted the planet with small $ signs. This painting, I believe, puts into perspective the quantification and commoditisation of resources, an incessently global activity. It also speaks of the suffering wrought by the Global Financial Crisis. This suffering is reaching out to us from 2007/8, keeping us tethered to fear. In my previous post for Planet $ I wrote, So, the painting of our planet, which I am calling '$', has a few underlying themes. The obvious one is the plundering of resources to feed our insatiable desire/need for energy, and all the paraphenalia that is manifested as a result. The other is more subtle. It is the restriction of imagination in ways which we do not notice, via the media, education and technology. The frightening thing is that all three are entwined.
Imagination can untether us from fear. We need to stir and utilise our imaginations, releasing the grip cast by media and its constant reminder of suffering, its pithiness and gossip seeking tendencies. It could be seen as a battle between imagination and the monsters created by those without. As I wrote in my previous post, I am reminded of JK Rowling's [author of the best-selling Harry Potter book series] excellent Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, when she said, ' I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.'
I believe imagination provides the light to places beyond. Please see Becoming The Light, below Planet $
 Planet $ Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2011

 Becoming The Light Oil on linen 160 x 120 cm 2011

Thursday, November 01, 2012



Cosmic Ouroboros Oil on linen 120 x 150 cm
Regular readers will know that I have previously written about the age-old transcultural/religious symbol of the ouroboros when I wrote about my painting Ouroboros  [bottom]. The ouroboros symbol is a snake eating its own tail, representing the continuance of life. My new painting [above] Cosmic Ouroboros delves into similar interests, by again combining the ouroboros with the age-old transcultural/religious symbol, the tree-of-life. The tree forms the snake's body, which is the fertile ground for more trees...and life. As I have previously written, I 'see' the tree-of-life as a symbolic template for all of life's systems, pre-human and post-human, nano and vast.
I am particularly interested in the appropriation of the ouroboros by modern cosmologists as a visual descriptor of the relationship between the quantum and cosmic worlds. Its age-old symbolic meaning refers to the constant, but simultaneous, consumption and replenishment of life. The cosmic ouroboros extrapolates this to the relationship between the vast and intimate realms of the universe. Nobel Prize winner [1979] , physicist Sheldon Glashow was the first to suggest the ouroboros as a visual descriptor of the connection with, and unification of, the extremes of size and scale.
Below is an image from 'Just Six Numbers', by Lord Martin Reese, astrophysicist and Royal Astronomer. This is an image of the ouroboros with its cosmological descriptors and numbers. On the left the numbers and small diagrams represent the microworld, subatomic or quatum world. On the right they represent the various aspects of the Universe 'out there', from humanity to scales beyond the cosmic horizon.
In my new painting Cosmic Ouroboros I have included the numbers and small diagrams, with humanity situated at the bottom centre. The ouroboros seems to float in an indeterminable space/place. Is it outer space? Is it an intimate crease in time? Is it everything, anytime, anywhere?
Phycisist Prof. Joel Primack and his wifw, lawyer/philosophe Nancy Abrams, also use the ouroboros to visually describe quantum and cosmic realtionships. Primack and Abrams often work and publish together. A good start for you is to visit their site The New Universe And The Human Future: How A Shared Cosmology Could Transform The World
What I really like about the work of Primack and Abrams is their desire to help people understand humanity's place within the Universe, from its smallest to largest scales. They comment, quite rightly, that when asked about the Universe most people will think of it at its most enormous scale rather than envisioning it as something small, as well as large. Regular readers will know why I am fascinated by ties in with my belief that seeing multiple perspectives, even simultaneously, is important in a globalised world in which we live locally...and in a world where cosmological research reveals new horizons.
Why is this symbol useful? People asked to visualize "the universe" will far more often think of the largest thing they know of than the smallest. Few realize that the universe exists on all scales, everywhere, all the time. This is a truly extravagant thought. Largeness is by no means the most important characteristic of the universe. Focusing on it makes people feel small, not because they are, but because they are simply ignoring all scales smaller than themselves in thinking about the universe. On the Cosmic Uroboros, as I call it, if the mouth swallowing the tail is drawn at the top, humans (at one meter or so) fall more or less at the bottom -- i.e., at the center of all the size scales in the visible universe. Many students are so stunned by this apparently special place that they refuse to believe it and insist it must be a result of some tricky choice of units. I don't know if the center of the Cosmic Uroboros is in fact special, but finding themselves there certainly strikes a chord with most people. Perhaps it hearkens back to the soul-satisfying cosmology of the Middle Ages, where earth was truly the center of the universe. ...

Nancy Abrams is a great advocate for the arts [all of them], as a way of communicating how new cosmological horizons can be meaningfully understood and thus integrated into sustainable and enjoyable living. Symbolism is an integral part of arts catalytic agency and age-old symbols hold truths that can potentially speak to each millenia. By virtue of being age-old their potency burns, otherwise they'd be, what I call, transient symbols. We just have to search for contemporary relevance, meaning and resonnance. I believe the appropriation of the ouroboros by cosmologists is an excellent example of age-old potency being recognised and released. For me, the tree-of-life has the same potential.
Auroboros Oil on linen 122 x 153 cm