Monday, July 21, 2014

Hope Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2013

Recent dreadful events around the world leave us feeling bewildered and frightened. For those directly affected it's far far worse.

War and conflict rage in various locations around the globe, causing death, mayhem, social destruction and more. Innocent victims are caught up in the horror, loosing life and limb, fleeing homes and seeking refuge in other places. Long term effects are equally as deplorable and damaging.

What can we do?

It seems blame, reprisals, sanctions, increased surveillance and threats are what 'we' do. It seems that escalation is the currency of the moment. A pervasive fear exists. Politics fails to offer hope.

There's a loss of faith in the human race...surely humanity can do better than this?

But, what can I do?

And now, my thoughts turn to how the arts could be an agent of change, an agent revealing new perspectives through which life can be viewed, revealing alternative pathways to seek solutions for all sorts of problems and issues. An agent that helps us re-discover our humanity...our 'team' which works and plays together on our shared planet.
Pale Blue Dot Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2014

Am I being naively optimistic, illogical? Maybe? But, where there's hope.....

I've previously written that I do not see the arts has having a role, but rather a catalytic agency. The word 'role' insinuates prescription, not only in method but also in outcomes, thus for me it is too reductive, and vulnerable to manipulation through agenda. Whereas, 'catalytic agency' denotes a freer more wide ranging agenda-less, but not directionless, capacity. Who knows what new and surprising perspectives could be stirred and revealed? The arts per se are not the solution, but their catalytic agency can be a potent ingredient helping to stir humanity's imagination, generating creative and new questions... and answers. It's more hopeful!

But, what are art's barriers?

These barriers scream for attention, truly narcissistic in intent, myopic in vision, sensationalist but not sensational...secretly holding hands with apathy. Here's some examples:
  • The ubiquity of fashion and style,
  • money commandeering as value,
  • the cult of celebrity,
  • labels misidentified as meaningful symbols,
  • sentimentality mistaken for beauty,
  • simple copying misunderstood as piercing appropriation,
  • super/hyper-reality quelling nuance,
  • technical virtuosity mistaken for creativity, 
  • didacticism masquerading as wisdom,
  • virtual reality insidiously eroding the psyche.
Planet $ Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm

With mass media and its incessant reminder of disaster and mayhem in pictures, videos and words, the arts must somehow differentiate to be distinguishable in the maelstrom. And, to be distinguishable and affective [ie: transformative] the arts cannot simply or only reflect back. Indeed, this kind of reflectivity is ably and grotesquely the domain of 21st century mass media. It cannibalises disaster swooping for graphic images. Why would art want to compete? Mass media persistently reminds us of the blood, gore and human suffering, which I suggest, desensitises and neuters us to the point where hope fades, fear cascades, contempt for humanity escalates. Better to bury your head in the sand or in fashion or other 'entertaining' diversions?

So, what about the arts and hope...and team humanity?

And, how do I engage with current events in a way that does not neuter me?
All Of Us Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm

I think generating, or trying to generate, hope is astutely political. So, that's what I try to do in my paintings. I find inspiration in cosmology, the scientific study of the universe, if not the Multiverse. The ever increasing perspectives it reveals, across the close and far distances of the Universe, demand our attention! And, why should we indeed pay attention? These perspectives offer us new ways of viewing ourselves and our planet. For instance, they make it both painfully and beautifully obvious that 'Team Humanity' has only one shared home! Shouldn't we work together to look after ourselves and Earth, not only for the now but also the future?  Cosmic perspectives reveal new questions and demand rethinking about land 'ownership', borders and boundaries. They also re-contextualise human history against Uni/Multiversal history, begging reappraisals of relationships, from the individual to the international. All of this does not mean no robust debate, but it might mean de-escalation of war and conflict, horror and destruction?
Meeting Place Of The Mind Oil on linen 100 x 70 cm

So, in my paintings I try to visually interpret cosmic perspectives in a way which is hopeful, but also questioning eg: Planet $ above. I use age-old transcultural/religious symbols, mainly the tree-of-life plus landscape. With both, I attempt to untether them from traditional visual interpretations by catapulting them into Space and beyond.

My intentionally ambiguous 'scapes' disallow didacticism, thus leaving it up to the viewer to explore and interpret, even if they are initially disorientated.

The dark side, however, does still exist in absentia. It is not ignored, but acknowledged and then deliberately set aside. To not acknowledge would be naïve. The active choice to set aside means hope reigns.
Blood Connection Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm

Of Previous Posts Linked To This One-In Some Way Or Another!

STIRRING THE STAR DUST: A Short Story About Digging
Life Takes A Cosmic Perspective Oil on linen 91 x 137 cm 2014

 my next solo exhibition
2 - 14 September 2014
Graydon Gallery
29 Merthyr Rd, New Farm, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Earth, The UNIVERSE
Please visit Untethering Landscape's Webpage HERE

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