Thursday, August 27, 2015

It's Everything Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm

It's nearly the end of August and I suddenly realised that I was almost about to miss my Blog's 9th anniversary. I started this Blog in August 2006, never imagining that it would become such an intrinsic aspect of my work as an artist. Some un-imagined outcomes are:
  • The act of regularly writing has helped shape and sharpen my ideas.
  • The act of writing stirs new ideas too.
  • By posting once a week I have a kind of visual diary of my thoughts, paintings and influences.
  • Undertaking regular research about my influences and inspirations has broadened my ideas, but it has also been immensely intellectually satisfying.
  • Late last year I was invited by the State Library of Queensland to have my Blog archived in perpetuity on PANDORA, Australia's national archive of online sites of significance and ongoing research value. This was totally unexpected, but a delightful acknowledgement for me!
  • The ability to link posts etc to social media sites helps broaden my audience.
  • A dynamic Blog is also a wonderful way to easily promote my work to all kinds of people - buyers, curators, writers, galleries etc.
  • The regular writing has, I think anyway, helped improve my writing. This is a good [actually excellent!] thing because I am about to embark on a Research Higher Degree, a Master of Philosophy, at the University of Queensland, Australia. A thesis is a lot of writing!

One thing I never imagined in 2006, when I attended the artists' PR and Marketing seminar that set me on the blogging path, was that I would ever be invited to give a presentation on Blogging. BUT, this happened a couple of weeks ago! And, it went exceptionally well too. That early 2006 seminar was held at Metro Arts, Brisbane.

Here's a link to my Blog's 8th anniversary post. The most popular post in 2014 is still the most popular one in is Cosmic Ouroboros
Cosmic Ouroboros oil on linen 120 x 150 cm 2012
One thing that is new in the last year is that I am now on
Below is a screen shot of my INSTAGRAM profile/page
Please follow me!

And, here's another screen shot. It's of one of my other online presences - my website 'gallery' for CODE  - my 2015 solo exhibition

I have again been invited to participate in the
Tattersall's Landscape $30,000 Art Award
I am delivering the painting tomorrow.
Judging and opening is next week.
Below is a photo of my Tattersall's Art Prize entry all packed up and ready for delivery.
I've entered Life Calling Anyone There?


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

 On The Edge Gouache on paper 34.5 x 53.5 cm 2001

Last week I attended a very interesting and stimulating symposium in Melbourne, hosted by Deakin University. The title for the symposium was Unruly Techniques: Linking Knowledge Practices Through Art, Science and Technology.

Also, last weekend, I visited the National Gallery of Victoria's fabulous exhibition Masterpieces From The Hermitage: The Legacy Of Catherine The Great


On Sunday, here in Brisbane, I attended Neil deGrasse Tyson's amazing presentation where he discussed a range of cosmic, intellectual and social topics.
 Neil deGrasse Tyson event in Brisbane August 16 2015. Hosted by THINK INC

So, I had an array of stimulating experiences within a few days. Always a great thing! But, given my interests in art, science and technology, I come away from these experiences with some clearer thoughts and perspectives.

But, some background first.

Brisbane born [!] twin sisters Margaret Wertheim and Christine Wertheim both made keynote presentations at the Unruly Techniques symposium. Margaret has studied physics and mathematics and is a well known science writer. Christine is a writer, performer and artist who teaches at the California Institute For The Arts in LA. Christine's keynote Pata-Critics: The Art and Science Of Imaginary Solutions was fascinating and will be discussed in another post. Both women live in Los Angeles and are co-founders of the not-for-profit The Institute For Figuring .

Margaret and Christine Wertheim are also the instigators of a most wonderful project ie: The Crochet Coral Reef Project which the website describes as The Crochet Coral Reef is a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world. It is one of the largest community arts/science projects in the world with around 8,000 people contributing I first heard of the project a number of years ago and was intrigued by its hyperbolic math inspiration, as well as the use of handicraft to explain/visualise a difficult concept. The project's intersection with hyperbolic maths is explained HERE. Subtexts include environmental issues as well as disruptive perceptions of a traditional feminine handicraft

Seeking Perspective Oil on linen 92 x 102 cm
I've uploaded this painting because many people who saw it at my recent exhibition CODE commented on it being like coral. This description if often given when my tree-of-life cascades across the painting.

Margaret Wertheim made some interesting statements and observations that are dear to my heart. I was thrilled that she clearly articulated them and to such an audience. Early in her presentation...remembering this is at a art, science and technology symposium... she quite forcefully stated that science does not need to have creativity added to it...because it is already intrinsically creative!

And, towards the end of her presentation she made a comment about the crochet hook being a piece of technology - a handicraft technology. She made a plea for the arts to not think of legitimate technology, for enabling creative expression, as only being the kind you plug in, a computer etc. She cleverly and humorously described our fingers as creating digitised work!

SO - Some thoughts-observations:

After listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson and thinking about all the other science events, books, Youtube videos etc I've read/watched/attended - something occurred to me. I actually think that science generally is currently much more exciting, innovative, flexible and creative than the arts [generally] currently are! I agree with Margaret Wertheim - science does not need to have creativity added, even bestowed, upon it by the arts or artists or anything else.

Indeed, maybe it's the arts that needs self-examination, to become more dynamic, reach beyond the tight boundaries of the market and go searching for its creative restore a kind of inspirational capacity that contemporary science is stirring.

The so-called art/science nexus, I believe is not about one being good for the other or appropriating aspects of the other, but more about each pursuit maintaining a confident integrity. Science, I suspect is more confident than the arts, which in some areas seems to be needy of science's approval. If there's to be cross inspiration I suggest it comes from a confidence that exudes, not only academic and intellectual rigour, but also playfulness....and all that it encompasses.

DeGrasse Tyson made a comment that struck me as significant. He said that by being a scientist he could stay a child ie: keep the wonder, play with ideas, imagine the seemingly impossible, have fun. I don't detect a lot of fun in the arts, particularly the visual arts, these days! Perhaps the arts, somehow, disallows the inner child, quelling the kind playfulness that pushes boundaries at the same time as inspiring. Maybe artists need to also feel happy to declare, I love being an artist because it means I can hold onto and love my inner child?

[Christine Wertheim's Unruly Techniques symposium presentation on pataphysics - the fictional in science as distinct from science fiction - gave clues for art']
Tree-of-Life Time Travelling Oil on linen 85 x 150 cm

The Neil deGrasse Tyson Brisbane event attracted 2,500 people. He received a standing ovation from the entire audience. The rise of the intelligent-geek-science-'celebrity' is refreshing and illustrates the public's desire to be informed and inspired. People like deGrasse Tyson will help spread scientific literacy, thus leading to increasing public understanding, and informed critique, of 21st century issues. Politicians, policy makers and educators...take note!

Here's me at the Neil Degrasse Tyson even in Brisbane. I got there early - keen!
Margaret Wertheim's comment about the crochet hook being a technological tool, is exactly how I have thought about the paint brush and paint. They are technologies - yes, old and traditional - but given they have been around, in some form or another, for 40,000 years I suggest there must be something about brush and paint that is important ...something about us being human. New technologies offer amazing possibilities for everyone including scientists and artists, but they belong to a pantheon of tools that include seemingly simple ones too.

A full and diverse tool-kit reflects sophistication...don't you think? Indeed, it's much more fun if you have lots of things to play with!

And, now to...

The Masterpieces From The Hermitage exhibition. This exhibition illustrates Catherine The Great's dexterous ability to govern, learn and see the potential in cultural activity, expression and acquisition. The art in the exhibition provides many examples of visual language, that an audience of the time could decipher to gain meaning and knowledge, both explicit and implied.
 A didactic that gives some idea of Catherine The Great's expansive thinking - from the NGV's Masterpieces From The Hermitage exhibition

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


 Australian Landscape Cut Out Oil on linen 50 x 70 cm 2015

Australian Landscape Cut Out was not in my recent exhibition CODE because it was in Sydney, awaiting, along with many other artists' paintings, for pre-selection viewing for the Wynne Prize. This prize is for the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours or to the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists.  Alas, my painting was not pre-selected and it arrived back in Brisbane after CODE was finished. However, the painting below Privileged Landscape? was in CODE and caused great interest.

Regular readers will recognise both paintings as 'cosmic landscapes'. They play with perspective, the kinds of perspective contemporary cosmology and astronomy provide. The universe is now literally touched by humankind, as spacecraft progress even beyond our solar system. This has happened progressively since 1957 when the first spacecraft, Sputnik 1, was launched by Russia.

Spacecraft take photographs of, and collect other data about, entities they pass, encounter or land upon. Information and images are sent back to Earth for scrutiny and examination, providing more knowledge about our universal well as stirring even more awe and wonder.

This year, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft got close to Pluto on its onward journey beyond. Many photographs and other data were sent back to Earth. As with images from investigations of other celestial entities the ensuing descriptions of the Pluto photographs struck me as important, and not just for the obvious reasons. For me it's about how we conceptualise landscape. Indeed, contemporary space research is 'telling' us that landscape exists beyond Earth's horizons! We use descriptive terms to understand other planets, moons etc based on our experience of our Earthly environment. These descriptions take 'landscape' into space!

Here are a couple of quotes from NASA's New Horizons site that illustrate how humankind's descriptive needs bring landscape into universal dimensions. New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains... and... A newly discovered mountain range lies near the southwestern margin of Pluto’s Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), situated between bright, icy plains and dark, heavily-cratered terrain.

Concepts of landscape must expand to include and embrace ideas of a Universal Landscape. An expanded view of landscape may assist humankind in navigating how it deals with 21st century issues that pose existential threats, such as extreme climate change, bio-threats, technological risk and more. How? A Universal Landscape provides us with not only perspectives that are outwardly focused. It also provides us with perspectives of Earth situated within a vastness that clearly shows how beautiful, isolated and vulnerable we are. Indeed, despite exciting discoveries of potential Earth-like planets, currently we humans have nowhere else to go. Perspective is 'telling'...even 'imploring'... us to get on with each other and to look after our Earth-HOME.

In Australian Landscape Cut Out and Privileged Landscape? I have attempted to question attachments to local landscapes that might blind us the variety of perspectives cosmology is offering. Discernible landscape characteristics of Earth ie: continents, oceans etc effectively disappear when viewed from the vast distances of space. Indeed, so do boundaries and borders, and accompanying notions of nationhood and land ownership. If we remain attached to Earth based ideas of landscape, then 'landscape' and orientation disappear with vast distance ...yet an expanded idea of 'landscape' means we can keep oriented within a universal environment.

In both paintings the starry universe is visible where the continent of Australia has been cut out. This was a deliberate attempt to draw the universe closer, to suggest that our orientation with and by landscape needs to expand beyond the local. Regular readers know of my thoughts on the importance of developing skills in seeing multiple perspective, even simultaneously. These paintings play with ideas of multiple interplay between the local and universal, the nano and vast.

The famous image Pale Blue Dot, taken from Voyager 1 as it left the solar system in 1990, showed Earth as a small dot amongst a swathe of other small sparkling entities in space. No discernible Earth landscape features were evident because the planet had become a spec upon a much larger landscape...a Universal one. Humbling indeed.

In the 21st century humankind has an opportunity to re-examine landscape.


Greener Pastures

New World Habitability: Vacation Anyone?

Pale Blue Dot

Team Humanity

Perspective - Yes Again!

That Word - Landscape


Wednesday, August 05, 2015

 Detail of Universal Code Oil on linen 92 x 102 cm 2015

Fellow-artist friend Mandy Ridley, gave me an idea for this post. Mandy is a very accomplished artist and I encourage you take a look at her website to see some of her amazing work. She commented on the fact that photos of my paintings don't reveal the 'exquisite' details. And, it's true...a photo of an entire painting does not allow the viewer to get close to the paint, to be startled by details that fall into a wholeness when seen from a distance. So, at Mandy's behest I took lots of photos of details.

The photo above is a detail from Universal Code. The detail image above reveals the string of binary code, expressing/instructing the word LIFE, which forms an amorphous encircling of a golden orb. The detail image also shows the 'terrain' of the background paint. I use the word terrain because whilst I manipulated the paint, I also let it do its own thing. With lots of turps and other manipulations, the background layers of colour travelled across the linen surface before settling and drying. The result, which I had hoped for, was a truly cosmic 'terrain' for me to work upon.


Below are two detail photos of Privileged Landscape? In both photos you can see the Australia cut-out and the texture of the red/orange/yellow background, which was created with a combination of deliberate 'accident', manipulations and over-painting.
Detail Privileged Landscape Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2015
Detail Privileged Landscape Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2015

Below is a detail photo of the painting Objects.

This painting was another one which really 'popped' when viewed through 3D glasses. The coloured balls seem to levitate away from the painting, whilst the pale coloured smaller balls remained on the surface of the image. The viewer really felt like they were travelling through a 'cosmos', whether it was a trip through the planets or one that passed by atoms. Yet, even without 3D glasses this painting does generate a feeling of travelling through or amongst things.

The detail photo shows one of the coloured balls against the background, which again is like a terrain. I allowed the paint to do its own thing, but with a manipulative eye and a dexterous hand.
Detail of Objects Oil on linen Oil on linen 85 x 147 cm 2015
 Detail of Seeking Perspective Oil on linen 92 x 102 cm 2015
Detail of Future Oil on linen 92 x 102 cm 2015
 Detail of Beyond Yesterday Oil on linen 80 x 55 cm 2014
Detail of Code Oil on linen 60 x 110 cm 2015