Monday, December 30, 2013

CUTLINES: '...sense of perspective is under review.'

Composite photo of Cutlines 1.2 x .9m at Soapbox Gallery Brisbane 2002
In 2002, just before my exhibition Distance in London, I held a show called Cutlines at SoapBox Gallery. The gallery was one of the best artist run galleries in Brisbane at the time. Sadly it closed its physical doors a few years ago. However, the artist/director Franz Ehmann still keeps the website for his own work.
The main part of the Cutlines exhibition was a continuous work on paper that ran around two walls of the gallery space. The length 9m and the height 1.2m. The painting was a vast landscape. Below the painting I marked the wall at random intervals with cut-line indicators. Yep, that's right, I was prepared to cut the painting. Why? Because, I was thinking about how we divide land up into countries, states, and properties. If someone had wanted a piece of the painting, I'd have cut it...for a price of course! Yes, you guessed there's more to it than money...some commentary too...questions about ownership, borders, 'value' and more.
I also had some small works on paper on another wall. These were each given a title with the name of a property ie: Australian rural properties that I have known, or know of, such as 'Rugby', 'Glencoe', 'Taunton', 'Windulka', 'Oklahoma', 'Benelawin', 'Nungwai' and so on.
Dr. Sally Butler, an Art Historian at the University of Queensland wrote a review of Cutlines for 'Eyeline Magazine'. You can read the review on my website by clicking HERE . And, the 'Eyeline' website is HERE
 Detail of Cutlines Gouche and watercolour on paper 1.2 x 9m
Today I reread Dr. Butler's review of Cutlines. It's been awhile since I had last read it. She wrote something that whilst I've seen it before, it now leaps out as something quite prophetic!
The micro and macro scale of these paintings subverts traditional landscape format, but so too does the spatial scope of the work. Space, or place, is clearly being measured and creates a recurring impression that our sense of perspective is under review.
The exact bit that has me excited is creates a recurring impression that our sense of perspective is under review.
I feel quite humbled that Dr. Butler saw a 'review of perspective' in my work...over ten years ago...and today I articulate my interest in, and concern about, perspective here on this BLOG and very consciously in my painting. I suggest that developing skills in seeing multiple perspectives, even simultaneously, is something we humans need to think about. I suggest that modern cosmological research is revealing new perspectives which implore our attention. A renegotiation of perspective may hold clues to new ways of 'seeing'...and thus new and different questions....leading to answers never dreamed of. By untethering notions of 'landscape' from Earth-bound horizons, as cosmology invites us to do, may help us in our renegotiation. Landscape painting as much more to offer us...if we're game to launch ourselves beyond seemingly safe horizons.

Detail of Cutlines  Gouache and watercolour on paper 1.2 x 9m
Some of you may be wondering where Cutlines is now. did not get cut into pieces. Why? because people were horrified that I'd 'destroy' such, as they said, beautiful painting. Cutting a painting...slicing up the land...?
Cutlines is rolled up and has been under my bed for years. Maybe I will have to bring it out and coax it out of its rolled state!?
I've been painting over the festive season. One of the paintings I cannot show you, as it will be entered into the Mandorla Religious Art Prize later in 2014. I can't show you because one of the regulations is that the entered painting cannot have been exhibited before...and some would say that uploading an image on the web is akin to 'exhibition'. I am just being cautious.
But, there is another painting...nearly finished. It was inspired by the speech/article, by well known Australian author Tim Winton, which I wrote about in my last BLOG post 'Encountering Landscape'

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Beginning of Everything oil on linen 90 x 180 cm 2010
In this post:
1. A reflection on an excellent speech made by well known Australian author Tim Winton
2. Good news about some sales! 
The Island Seen and Felt: Some Thoughts About Landscapes:
by well known Australian author Tim Winton

There's an article in last weekend's Weekend Australian Review [Dec 14-15] called 'Wild Brown Land'. It is an edited transcript of The Island Seen and Felt: Some Thoughts About Landscapes by well known Australian author Tim Winton, presented to the Royal Academy, London, November 14, 2013. It was a fascinating read. But, even better, you can hear the speech by clicking HERE The speech/article is a heartfelt and important reminder of why we need to take note of landscape, paying attention to writers and artists who continue to be preoccupied with it.

So much of what Tim Winton said/wrote resonated with me, even his first encounters with the European landscape during the 1980s. I too was travelling to Europe for the first time, with excited anticipation of seeing the landscapes I had only seen in paintings and photographs. I totally understand what Tim Winton felt when he says, In the first instance I struggled with scale. In Europe the dimensions of physical space seemed compressed. The looming vertical presence of mountains cut me off from the distant horizon. I remember driving from Italy into Switzerland and feeling locked in, as if the intense beautiful green mountains would swamp me. I remember remarking to my travelling partner that I longed to see distance.

Winton not only describes European landscapes as compressed, but that they are also humanised ie: evidence of human activity and presence is everywhere. This is definitely something I noticed and felt on my first encounters with the European landscape. The landscape space was occupied, often transformed. Whereas the Australian landscape of my childhood, living on a flat treeless black soil plain, and early married life, living further west with prickly plants and red dirt, certainly did not feel dominated by human forces. Indeed, there were always reminders that nature held the upper hand...flood, drought, wild storms, insect plagues, searing heat. The built environment of houses, homesteads, sheds, tanks etc did not provide spaces that could wilfully ignore the outside. Yes, they could be refuges, but not enough to obscure the elements. Flyscreens only kept out a percentage of insects, snakes could slither under and into houses and sheds [even tractor cabins]....whirlwinds spread dust into every cavity, fire sent soot and smell, cracked earth shifted building foundations, the heat blistered paint and varnish...So, I really, really 'get it' when Winton says, Australia is a place with more geography than architecture, where openness trumps enclosure.
Through The Flyscreen oil on linen 80 x 100 cm 2002

The distance in the Australian landscape is not empty, but replete with life forces and a spirit. They rise from the primordial dust. For me this distance, both intimate and vast, holds clues to dextrous understanding of  perspective. As regular readers know, I am fascinated by perspective, especially in an age where new cosmological research is revealing horizons never before dreamed of. For me, the Australian landscape is a preparatory teacher of perspective, even my much touted multi-perspective experienced simultaneously...but are we brave enough to listen and learn? There is certainly a kind of 'safety' in the closed distances of cities, but it's the myopic distances of technology that concern me more. By this I mean the literal distance between a phone, computer, tablet and user...where 'entertainment', 'community' and 'connection' are 'experienced'. Metaphorically speaking this diminished distance perhaps does not bode well for imagination, laterality, independence.
Cosmic Dust oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2011

Even, buildings have windows to look out of, but where are the 'windows' to create a textured experience in the distance between person and phone? I am reminded of my recent posts where I discuss the metaphor of 'looking out the windows'...please check them out: Looking Out The Windows and Looking In The rear Vision Mirror - Cosmically Speaking

Now to something else Tim Winton said...On my island the heavens draw you out like a multidimensional horizon...I just love this! Can I repeat... the heavens draw you out like a multidimensional horizon. The cosmos has the ability to draw out of us a multidimensional horizon! Regular readers will know why I am excited by this sentence. To me this is perspective teasing out the potency that exists within and all around us. The potency that an Australian landscape is replete with. Distance connecting us to the cosmos. We are the essence of horizon, like everything else...and not just one horizon, but a multi-dimensional one! And, if this is the case, learning skills in multi-perspective should not need to be learnt, but remembered...don't you think?

And, again from Winton At night in the desert the sky sucks at you, star-by-star, galaxy-by-galaxy. You feel as if you could fall out into it at any moment. It's terrifyingly vertiginous. I need to repeat another short and excellent phrase...fall out into it... Note Winton does not say 'fall from it'. That would be far too simple for a being who has been drawn out like a multidimensional horizon!
Galactic Horizons and Beyond oil on linen 85 x 150 cm 2012

Winton ends by discussing the sense of patriotism that is born from a reverence for land. He says, Patriotism has evolved to include a reverence for the land itself, and the passion to defend the natural world as if it were family. I am reminded of the passionate displays of protest regarding the environment that reverberate around the world. In Australia two issues [related] that excite passion are potential threats to the Great Barrier Reef and coal seam gas extraction, a process that certainly does transform a landscape, both on top and below. Winton goes on to say that this reverence for land, and defence of the natural world, are reasons for why artists and writers, especially Australian ones, return to it. If he's right about the drawing out of us a multidimensional horizon then we also have the capacity to defend with cosmic perspectives...!

Over the last few weeks I've had some painting go to lovely homes: Three in fact...!
The two most recent sales are Sending Love and Night Time Electric Storm


Sunday, December 08, 2013


Prepared canvases
Some new stretched linen stretchers arrived during the week. Very exciting...I have been itching to get back to my painting, after my recent exhibition COSMIC ADDRESS. The photo above shows a few of the stretchers with their preliminary foundations under way. They will change a lot over long courses of time!
Notice the concrete floor...lots of residual paint from years of me throwing it around...well not literally...actually...maybe sometimes!
It's been such a busy week since I posted last weekend. I have not thought too much about anything, other than getting what has to be done...done! Some things not pleasant and some things reasonably enjoyable.
So, this post is not a deep and meaningful one! Please check out last week's post COMPLEXITY for a D and M.
But, I would like to alert you to a few things:
  • Please view my recent Christmas Greetings and Studio Update HERE
Cosmic Ouroborus Oil on linen 120 a 150 cm 2012
  • My post COSMIC OUROBORUS is still the most popular post on my BLOG. The snake eating its own tail weaves its magic! The painting of the same name Cosmic Ouroborus is above. You can read the post HERE
  • I am planning to visit Abu Dhabi again next year. Returning after nearly 7 years...too long! My exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation in December 2005 was a very important and pivotal experience for me. I have been wanting to return to Abu Dhabi for a long time, but the GFC made it a tad difficult. My visit next year will not be to exhibit, but to reconnect with what's been happening in the art scene...which is a massive amount! Who knows where it might lead...
    Sap of Life Oil on linen 55 x 80 cm 2012
  • I have made, for want of a better term, a Gift Gallery on my website...suggestions for gifts under $3,500 AUD [as of Dec 2013] If you are after inspiration for a Christmas gift for someone, or a treat for yourself, please check out my suggestions HERE                                Sap of Life [above] is one of my suggestions.
Regular readers will know of my quest to untether notions of landscape from Earth-bound horizons. I have written about my ideas, with accompanying paintings, for a long time. But, there are three recent post I am particularly pleased with...can I say that about my own posts...well I have written it anyway! The three posts are...and I invite you to check them out. [Just click on a title and you'll be taken to the post]
Until next week!

Monday, December 02, 2013


Into The Symphony Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2008

Over the last week I have attended two events that have made me think again about complexity. The first event was a lecture given by Prof David Christian. The title of the lecture was 'Is There Progress In The History Of The Universe?' It was the plenary session for a conference 'Perspectives in Progress' at the University of Queensland.

Prof Christian, from Australia's Macquarie University, is the Director of the Big History Institute. If you're wondering what Big History is please visit the Institute's webpage HERE and the Big History Project page HERE. Big History is enthusiastically supported by Bill Gates. Make sure you click on 'Learn More'...this takes you to a page where you can listen to and watch Prof Christian speak.

Here's a quote from the Big History Institute's introduction to the question What is Big History?

Big History is the attempt to understand, in a unified and interdisciplinary way, the history of the Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity. Big History is ambitious - it seeks understanding by bringing together and linking the knowledge available in many different scholarly disciplines.
To continue please visit the Big History Institute's webpage:
Upon reading the quote above, regular readers will need no explanation for my enthusiasm for Big History! Big History is like a 'Big Landscape'...and as regular readers know I am keen to untether notions of 'landscape' from Earth-bound horizons, so we can see, experience and benefit from its full and cosmic potential! Big History takes perspective seriously! I read about it a few years ago and have been following it on various forums ever since...even recommending its program to my children's school. Happily it is now one of Big History's pilot schools.
Untethered Landscape Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2013
But back to complexity: Prof Christian suggested that the progress of the Universe is one of increasing complexity. From just after the Big Bang when two basic chemicals existed ie: hydrogen and helium, pockets of 'Goldilocks' conditions have enabled the Universe to progress towards more and more complex 'life'. The formation of stars, planets, galaxies are outcomes of these pockets of 'Goldilocks' conditions. On planet Earth the appearance and evolution of organic life, of all kinds, is the result of just-the-right conditions. How lucky is that?! How lucky are we?! I am reminded of cosmologist, astrophysicist and Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees's similar message in his fascinating book 'Just Six Numbers'.

The second event that made me think of complexity was only last night. I attended a performance of 'L'Enfance Du Christ' at St Andrews Uniting Church in Brisbane's CBD. The performance involved two main groups, the Brisbane Concert Choir at St Andrews and the Sinfonia of Saint Andrews. The Musical Director was Debra Shearer-Dirie.

The performance was marvellous and so deceptively simple...yep the perfect kind of complexity! The nearly two hour performance embraced the interior of the church, enfolding the audience in a story- telling that took you to the stars and beyond. There were no major theatrics and there was no technological augmentation of light or sound. In fact, no microphones. The choir, the soloists and the musicians certainly did not need any augmentation. The audience received purity and beauty in the mastery, genius and talent of the performers... and let's not forget the score and lyrics. I am not a musician and I cannot sing very well, but there's something very special about the human voice in choir...a community of voices stroking your heart as they couple with each other and with the sounds of the orchestra, creating miracles of consecutive 'pivotal moments' that transport everyone. In a way, when you experience something like this, it's akin to experiencing the history of the Universe in metaphor...and in just two hours!

Prof Christian suggested that with complexity comes an inherent vulnerability and fragility. As if exponential growth/progress reaches a point where breakdown occurs, thus sparking something that maybe quite different. I am reminded of the music I heard last night...I suspect music has a capacity to prophesise this very set of circumstances...I also think it holds clues to ways of working with circumstances of all kinds. And, this is what all good music, performance and art can experience of exponential emotion and complexity that exposes vulnerability, before being released in the 'colour' of contrast, nuance and rhythm. Sounds simple...but fortunately it's not!

I had a delivery of new stretched linen stretchers today and so I can get back into paintings. I'd run out of them and whilst I have made some attempts with gouache on paper, I am so very keen to return to my oil paints!