Sunday, November 24, 2013


Disappearance Gouache on paper 37.6 x 28 cm 1995

This is a post about just wade through the car bits at the beginning...there is a context...I promise.

I have been 'window shopping' for a new car. Regular readers will know that this is something I do from time to time. For years, in fact...and as yet no new car!

In an earlier post about cars 'Looking Out The Windows' I wrote about the propensity for sloped backs, as a design feature, in new SUVs and station wagons. Damn annoying when you want to pack an exhibition of paintings.

My latest window shopping exercise has frustrated me for a different reason. This time it's the diminishing size of  rear and rear-side windows. Various bulk heads and side panels seem to have taken up more space than in the past. The result is reduced vision...of eye ball and pupil kind.


All is not lost...apparently. When I mention my concern to car salespeople I'm told cameras, parking sensors and more, not only compensate for smaller sized windows, but provide the driver with much more 'visibility'.

Then, when I ask, 'But, what if systems fail?' the response is close to could I even think that this might happen? To confound the issue more, and to the embarrassment of my car-loving daughter who window shops with me, I ask, 'But, what if systems do fail and humanity has lost the ability to look out the windows and therefore has lost all the accompanying dexterities of spatial distance, understanding of speed, ratios of all kinds and general environment awareness?' In response to this, I am normally given a what-are-you-talking-about-mad-lady stare by the salesperson... and a death stare from my daughter.

But, seriously...if we don't think to look out the windows [literally and metaphorically]...I'd suggest there's a plethora of things that would be lost. One of these is landscape. Yep, landscape, the very thing we drive in, on, about, into, over and under! As technology increases its infiltration into our everyday lives, to the point that we rely on it to remember for us, orientate us, entertain us, drive us and more, an insidious disappearance of environment occurs...because we are no longer conscious, or as conscious, of it.

Hidden Secrets Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2005

The disappearance of landscape is an interesting notion. But, possibly more so if one can sit outside the 'disappearance' as an observer. And, I'd suggest that the Universal perspectives revealed by contemporary cosmological research provide us with the opportunity to observe from a multitude of viewpoints.

I have previously written about my ideas of untethering notions of landscape from Earth-bound horizons. Maybe we need to do this to save a kind of 'cloud storage' it can be retrieved in the future? If contemporary scifi and dystopian cinema is anything to go by, the future of Earth's landscape is far from promising. Think of the recent film 'Elysium'. In contemporary writing think of Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'.

Yet, there is always hope! In 'Elysium' hope is represented by the distant perspective photograph of the Earth shown to our young hero. In 'The Road' it's represented by the beauty of the prose.


To read my earlier post about 'Elysium' please click HERE and to read about 'The Road' please click HERE
 Hope Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2013
* I have written about landscape many times since I started my BLOG in August 2006.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Halo Oil on linen 82 x 182 cm 2009

Around the world people are concerned about issues of climate change and global warming. All kinds of pollution compromise our environment, ultimately causing changes to the quality of life-sustaining elements such as land, air, water, soil and more. The big issue is how humanity's actions impact on not just life-sustaining elements, but climate in general. Halo [above] depicts the Earth created by a tree-of-life which is encircled by a 'halo' of white... representing our atmosphere.

I remember in the late 60s, when I was at primary school, learning about various kinds of pollution . That's a long time ago and we are still battling with, and arguing about, ways to mitigate pollution and its insidious effects. Obviously attempts have been made, but new technologies create new kinds of waste and pollution, and rising consumerism and industrial/technological 'progress' not only in the west, but also in developing countries, creates excess and demand. The recent movie Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney uses a real modern day pollution issue as the catalyst for an action packed storyline. The pollution is space debris...yep in just over 55 years since the first satellite went into space we have created what's called 'orbital space debris'! I recently wrote about this in my post Something About Space

Why did I call this post The Value Of Landscape? Yes, it is a 'loaded' title! As we draw financial value from the literal landscape [mining, agriculture, urban development etc] are we losing sight of its real value which goes way beyond the monetary? In my last post Knowing Landscape - Art and Science I wrote Landscape is an integral part of humanity's experience of life. It orientates us, feeds us, provides energy for us, induces awe, challenges us and gives us a place to call 'home'. It can embrace us and it can also annihilate us, and at both extremes, and in the spaces in between there are reminders that we are part of the body of landscape. We are never really separate from it. Indeed, when we die it enfolds us as we return to dust. At some time in the far distant future Earth will also return to star dust, as a result of our Sun's death throes.
Earth For Sale Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2008
This ambiguous 'landscape' is painted with small $ signs.
But, what about the depiction of landscape and its 'value' to humanity? Yep, The Value Of Landscape is definitely a loaded title! Since humankind could pick up drawing utensils, the depiction of landscape [and landscape elements] orientated people physically as well as emotionally and spiritually. Myths, stories and legends drew upon landscape, and landscape elements, as metaphors for various aspects of human existence. These stories were illustrated or illuminated through various artforms across time. Landscape depiction certainly has a long and fascinating which has a deep underlying value to humanity's sense of self, space and place.

But, what of contemporary landscape depiction? There are still artists who faithfully reproduce real landscapes scenes with traditional techniques and those who use super-reality contemporary methods. There are artists who photograph landscape, artists who manipulate landscape and its elements in more abstract ways, environmentally concerned artists who depict the destruction of landscape reminding the viewer of loss, fantasy artists who create magical landscapes as if trying to recapture the untouched environment...and so on.

Galactic Horizons and Beyond Oil on linen 85 x 150 cm 2012

Regular readers have probably worked out where I am going next! Yep, let's untether concepts of landscape depiction from earth-bound horizons and explore the new perspectives [of close and far distance] that contemporary cosmological [the study of the Universe] research has revealed. Untethering does not mean we abandon Earth-bound landscape depiction! It just means we may see it differently and in doing so potentially assist in discovering new ways of 'seeing' our environmental issues. These new ways of 'seeing' may stimulate different questions...and subsequently reveal the answers our Earth environment needs.

But, even the concept of environment changes when 'seen' with the perspectives revealed by cosmology! As I have previously written, cosmic perspectives orientate us, and Earth, within a Universal environment...Earth maybe our home, but the Universe is our environment.
Cosmic Address Oil on linen 90 x 180cm 2013


Monday, November 11, 2013

The Beginning Of Everything Oil on linen 90 x 180c m 2010
During the week I read an interesting article Science and Art: How Astronomical Artists Look At Nature by well known American space artist William K Hartmann who also happens to have a B.Sc [physics], M.Sc [geology] and  [PhD [astronomy]. The an article is essentially about knowing landscape.
He starts the article, People often ask me — and I often ask myself — is there an interplay between my planetary science research and my painting? Does my interest in painting affect the way I do science? I’m pretty sure the answer is yes, but it’s hard to explain why, even to myself! He then goes on to try to explain that there are various ways of “knowing.” He continues, So there’s a kind of knowledge that I call “body knowledge” that comes from bodily and visual experience, as well as a “mind knowledge” that comes from traditional scientific activities such as quantitative data analysis, numerical modeling, classifying and breaking natural phenomena into constituent aspects.

Hartmann suggests that the knowledge he gains as an artist, observing and painting landscape, helps him as a scientist observing and scrutinising imagery sent back to Earth by satellites and probes. He writes that as a scientist working with the Mariner 9, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Express imaging teams the body knowledge seemed to provide a different “starting point” for analysis than the theoretical considerations of my colleagues.

I am not a scientist, but I have scientists in my family. And as regular readers know, I have a keen interest in science. My two brothers both have science degrees, one in computing and the other in physics [lighting: M.Sc]. Yet, both are also artists. One is a photographer and the other a musician and lighting designer. I've seen how mind knowledge and body knowledge, across and between science and art, play and interact with each other.

I resonate with Hartmann's description of body knowledge as if in the process of repeated and consistent observation of landscape, it ultimately enters your body as a knowing... I would go further to suggest that it perhaps returns to, or re-enters the body, as a kind of remembering...of star dust.
Returning Oil on linen 50 x 94 cm 2012

This takes me to an experience I had only a few days ago. I participated in a Shaman's walk lead by an old friend Heather Price. A group of eight women shared four hours of reflection which included a walk along one of the paths at Mt Cootha here in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Without going into too much detail the walk was an activity of deep observation ie: observing nature and then observing our reactions to particular elements of it, followed by investigations of possible meaning and metaphor. This process takes you from being simply an observer to being a participant in, as well a partner with, nature. Observation at many levels induces a quiet kind of absorption into the cycles of life that nature represents so beautifully. My experience with Heather and the other women was that of a kind of returning to, and a remembering of, the beginning of all life...the Universal landscape. For me as an artist, it was pure inspiration. For me, as a person, it was a perfect reminder.
Observation, for an artist, can simply be about taking note of how things look, but it can be so much more than this. All kinds of observation, from how things look, to observing one's own emotional and intellectual reactions, to sensing vibrations, noticing sounds and movement and 'seeing' links between everything, all manifest into a kind of knowing that enters the body...or...perhaps re-enters the body. As Hartmann says, In any case, as I’ve come to know the history and community of landscape painters, I’ve been impressed that they have absorbed all sorts of knowledge from nature that physical scientists do no yet know, or do not even study.
I painted The Wind Oil on linen 80 x 120 cm 2001
Landscape is an integral part of humanity's experience of life. It orientates us, feeds us, provides energy for us, induces awe, challenges us and gives us a place to call 'home'. It can embrace us and it can also annihilate us, and at both extremes, and in the spaces in between there are reminders that we are part of the body of landscape. We are never really separate from it. Indeed, when we die it enfolds us as we return to dust. At some time in the far distant future Earth will also return to star dust, as a result of our Sun's death throes.  
This takes me to a point I have written about a lot...that concepts of landscape need to be untethered from Earth-bound horizons, because whilst Earth maybe our home, the Universe is our environment. Landscape reminds us that we come from the same star dust that created the planets and the Universe...we are landscape too!
Cosmic Dust Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2010

Sunday, November 03, 2013


Watching The Universe gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2013
It's one week since my solo exhibition COSMIC ADDRESS ended. And, it was a great exhibition! I really loved 'putting on a show' for everyone! I wrote a recent post called PUTTING ON A SHOW ... all about the behind-the-scenes activities of exhibiting...paintings!
I have not created any new work either during or after the exhibition. But, I have started to think about a body of new work for my next exhibition in 2014...about a year away.
Watching The Universe
The painting above Watching The Universe was painted in the few weeks leading up to COSMIC ADDRESS. Yes, I will be continuing the cosmology theme. The background gives an illusion of vast Space, yet it could also be the intimate interior of something only visible with the help of a microscope. Both have Universal dimensions! The line work is indicative of eyes watching, either watching you the viewer or watching the vortex-like Space visible in the middle of the painting.
There's a multiplicity of perspectives to be explored!
Watching The Universe was inspired by a few influences. 
  • Prof Nick Bostrom's theory that we are living in a computer simulation devised by post humans who re-live their human existence via a simulation which they 'watch' and vicariously 'live'. Not only is it a re-living of the human existence but also a re-telling or re-evolution of all existence since the Big Bang. I wrote a recent post COUNT DOWN where I discuss this theory a little more. 
  • Another influence is the discovery of various Earth-like planets in other star systems. Here's one article There are plenty of articles 'out there'... so you can discover for yourself. The search for other Earth-like planets opens up the possibility of aliens, or my more kindly term 'space mates', who may or may not be watching us, as we attempt to find and see them. The discovery of other Earth-like planets also poses the possibility that at some time in the far distant future we humans might have somewhere else to call 'home'. Please check out my previous post SUPER EARTHS
  • A phrase in Physicist/Cosmologist Prof Joel Primack and Lawyer/Philosopher Nancy Ellen Abrams book The New Universe And The Human Future

    As much as people around the world hope to find aliens beings on other planets the possibility exists that only our eyes see this universe' P. 65This kind of phrase may seem anthropocentric, but it does not exclude the possibility of other life forms. It actually implies a kind of responsibility for us to continue in our quest to know as much as possible about our Universal environment.
  • I was thinking about the increasing surveillance in our lives...drones, mobile phone tracking, street cameras, GPS systems, data collection and more. But, as we watch, and are watched, with all kinds of devices, are we essentially navel gazing? If so, are we [except a few] missing out on 'seeing' the vast perspectives and frontiers of Universal knowledge? Maybe...maybe not? A recent post called LOOKING OUT THE WINDOWS investigates learned myopia [metaphoric and literal].
  • In 1995 I painted a work on paper called Dare To Be Yourself. It is one of the paintings in my book For Everyone It is a painting of a family of four being watched! In this case the eyes are 'alien' eyes casting their gazes across a family who did something that was not the norm.
Dare To Be Yourself Gouache on paper 28 x 37.6 cm 1997 

 And for those who missed it, here's a video of my exhibition COSMIC ADDRESS