Sunday, October 25, 2015


Beyond Mortality Mixed Media on Paper 30 x 42 cm 2015
I know the title Beyond Mortality sounds serious and huge...and it is both of these! And, where did the idea come from you might ask?
It has come directly from thinking about my own reactions to my university research. I am delving into some pretty hefty topics, that certainly do make me wonder. One of these topics is existential risk posed by emerging technologies...the kind of risk that could cause humanity's annihilation. An associated topic is artificial intelligence and potential threats posed by self-learning entities, seen and unseen. All of this spills over into topics such as transhumanism, singularity and posthuman futures. There's an Australian transhumanism site that you might like to look at HERE. As with most things, there's both positive and negative possibilities associated with many of these topics.
You can see where the Beyond Mortality title has come from! Yes, thinking about the future, the role of technological 'enhancements' of the human and what 'existence' might mean. The obvious thought that comes to mind is that 'beyond mortality' means immortality. I suspect it might be, strangely, much more complicated than that...
In Beyond Mortality I have taken the Christian idea of ascension, coupled it with binary code, and cosmological time and space.  But, the idea of ascension is not only a Christian one. It is shared by a many religions and spiritual beliefs, including Judaism and Islam. My painting also plays with ideas of resurrection, which is what the binary code is 'instructing'. By combining ascension and resurrection with technology's 'promise' of transhuman and/or posthuman futures I'm playing with questions about existence, re-existence [even de-extinction] and mortality. Needless to say there's no resolution or even a stationary viewpoint, but rather, a intellectual and imaginational 
discursiveness that has stimulated my visual 'play'.
And, for regular readers...yes...Beyond Mortality is also one of my untethered landscapes. Even the mountain is unleashed from wherever it came from, Galgotha, Calvary or even 'Metaphor'! Yet, the ribbon of colourful binary code creates a landscape-like contour in space, maybe suggestive of new types of scapes where downloaded consciousness-es might 'exist'? The ribbon also seems like it's giving directions, making a pathway...

I wonder if once we are on the path...are there places to get off, make detours, see other directions?
On that kind of sobering note....

Thursday, October 15, 2015


 Irresistible Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2007

I've decided to upload a couple of older works on paper for you. I was browsing through my images and these two struck a chord. Both are quite seductive really. Seductive in a way that promises  joy, humour, peace and fun with seemingly wild possibilities.

Irresistible makes me smile. It could be the eye of an alien, the sun experiencing massive solar flares, or it could be a map of some kind, as if someone is above a landscape. I quite like the alien eye option! But, then again....I do like the landscape one too. And, gee whiz...the sun flare is also exciting. But, hey, it could be a microbe seeking a host, a flock of sheep, an overflowing dam, a drop of rain....

My Heart Sings 56 x 115 cm 2005
My Heart Sings is ten years old and it still makes my heart sing. When I painted it I remember thinking that the markings captured the movement of a heart...a happy heart too! A kind of melody creating a scape across time. Yes, this painting is a landscape, a heart landscape, but also another aerial landscape where the markings could be traces of flotsam and jetsam, or perhaps leaves dancing in the wind, or ripples across water. But, let's untether landscape from Earth. This painting could be the surface of another planet, vaguely similar to Earth, but different. I can see shapes that might indicate landforms created by wind or the movement of water. But, then...maybe this is a scape of a section of a galaxy, a small piece of the Universe tracked by the movement traces of stars, moons and planets.
I hope you have enjoyed these two paintings. While I am doing my M. Phil at the University of Queensland I will be uploading some new pieces, sketches from my desk, but also revisiting some older works. I am interested in how my research might provide new perspectives of older works, but also strike inspiration for new ones too.

Friday, October 09, 2015


From The Primordial Soup Pencil on paper 2015
This is another sketch from my desk. Yes, my desk at university, where I spend a lot of time these days. Regular readers will know I have returned to university to undertake an M. Phil [research higher degree]. So, while I am reading, writing, taking notes I try to capture some of  the images that float through my head. My sketchbook and pencils are sitting beside my notepads and library books, ready to picked up when inspiration arrives. Sometimes, it's a bit hard to capture inspiration, but the image above, I think, has been caught rather well. 
So, how did this image happen? What was I reading when it suddenly popped into my head? Well...I had been given a task to write 1000 words about an artwork and the chosen piece was 'The Crochet Coral Reef' curated by Margaret and Christine Wertheim. So, it's not actually a piece, but an ongoing project that includes collaborative community activities and exhibitions around the world, involving over eight thousand people [as of 2015]. Please read about it here on the Wertheim sister's website for their not-for profit Institute For Figuring [IFF] based in Los Angeles.
Yes, the 'Crochet Coral Reef' is created with the traditional women's handicraft of crochet. And, it's far more complex that you might think! The coral-like pieces created by crochet artists are also 3d representations of non-Euclidean hyperbolic geometry. 3d modelling of hyperbolic geometry had remained elusive, despite it appearing in nature ie: lettuce leaves, coral. It remained elusive until 1997 when Dr. Daina Taimina, a mathematician at Cornell University, showed how it could be modelled in 3d by creating coral-like forms using crochet, a handicraft she had learnt as a child.
In 2005 Margaret Wertheim, a physicist and science writer and her sister Dr. Christine Wertheim, an artist, writer and academic decided to crochet coral using Dr. Taimina's techniques. Both sisters had learnt crochet, along with other handicrafts, as children growing up in Brisbane, Australia. Christine suggested they create a coral reef. [IFF] As Australians [Queenslanders!] they had a connection to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the ten wonders of the world, and under increasing threat.
Please have a look at the many and various images of 'Crochet Coral Reef' marvellous exhibitions on the IFF website . There's an array of different types of exhibitions, from those where the crocheted coral is amassed to create colourful reefs, to those where amazing individual pieces are placed on plinths, taking on a prophetic gravitas.
As time has gone by, the choice of crochet material has extended beyond traditional woollen yarn to include plastic wrappers, wire, video tape and more.[IFF] This is a deliberate confrontation with the detritus of the Anthropocene, especially in the marine context. Yes, the 'Crochet Coral Reef' project is not only an expression of creative handicraft and a modelling of hyperbolic geometry, it is also deliberately placed within important environmental discourses.
The' Crochet Coral Reef' project seriously provokes commentary about environmental  degradation, ocean sustainability and global warning. But, hey...let's take it to the full whammy...I argue that the project warns of existential risks, those threats that may cause annihilation of humanity and the planet. However, the project's human elements ie: community collaboration and the hands-on crochet technique, unmediated by hi-tech equipment and intervention, remind us that touch and time can be reclaimed. As it confronts us, the 'Crochet Coral Reef' project also offers multiple pathways for re-thinking...the hyperbolic taking us on a roller-coaster that provides multiple perspectives.
So, how did my sketch From The Primordial Soup erupt from this story of crochet, hyperbolic  geometry and environmental discourses?
Here goes...
I had previously read about a new geological term...plastiglomerate! Yes, it is actually a geological term to describe a new rock, a mixture of natural materials combined with plastic, being delivered from the sea. You can read about plastiglomerate on the Geological Society of America GSA Today website.
With this new 'rock' in mind, it's easy to see confluence with the multi-material morphed coral forms in 'Crochet Coral Reef' exhibitions eg: check out the 2014 exhibition at NYU in Abu Dhabi and the 2015 one in San Antonio, Texas.
As I thought more about plastiglomerate and pondered the far reaching critical possibilities of 'The Crochet Coral Reef' project I asked questions. Is plastiglomerate a metaphor for a new kind of birth, a mutation where detritus and DNA are mixed? Are we witnessing a prophetic delivery where mutations are, in fact, inevitable? Have they already occurred in other areas so far undetected? As landscape coughs up these new entities, what is humanity's fate?
Given that life may have begun in the primordial ocean I think it is interesting that plastiglomerate has been created in, and delivered by, our 21st century oceans. This is what inspired From The Primordial Soup.

Friday, October 02, 2015


Damned Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm 2011
Recently, in the news, there was a report about an abandoned silver mine near Texas in S.W Queensland on the border of New South Wales, Australia. Contaminated ponds pose risks to the local Dumaresqu River, which flows into the McIntyre River, which then flows southwards into the Murray Darling. Apparently, it only needs a minimal amount of rain to fall to cause havoc with overflow into the river systems.
This kind of situation is totally unacceptable, especially in the 21st century where no-one, mining companies and governments, can claim ignorance of environmental sustainability issues.
The work on paper above Damned [and detail below] was painted a few years ago, but it still 'speaks'...even 'screams' to us today. The word 'damned' is repeated to appear like water in a holding facility, such as a dam or a pond. It could also be the bed of a river or creek. Obviously I am playing with the word dam!
To be damned is a serious thing - conjuring an array of different possibilities from the wrath of God to condemnation, anger, frustration and denouncement. And...if we pollute and contaminate our waterways we are damned in a way that potentially threatens our very existence!
Detail Damned Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm 2011
The thought that human existence, along with plants and non-human animals, can be threatened by contaminated water may seem extreme, but we are all interconnected in such a way that even a small risk must be taken seriously.
The news report mentioned above is just one story, but there are many potential stories like it. Questions about 'value', normally referring to money, dominate debates. Who pays reparation, especially when a mine, or similar, goes into liquidation and there is no money left to maintain or fix? This is compounded when governments have requested inadequate financial assurances at planning or approval stages. While people wait for an answer it could rain and tip the water level in contaminated ponds into wider catchments with potentially devastating results. What is value and what is valued?
In my painting Risk [below and Detail underneath] I have painted strips of rain, water in a dam or creek/river bed, and underground aquifers in small blue $ signs. The word 'Risk' is also painted in small $ signs, but the colour red signals a warning, perhaps multiple warnings, about how we value money, water, life and existence.
Risk is not a condemnation of money as a symbol of exchange. Rather, it is a provocation to think about the many aspects of value.
And, there's a play with notions of currency! The currency of water as it ebbs and flows, a system of money in use in a country, being current - contemporary, implied momentum within a system such as political currency.
Maybe if we take risk seriously - currency in all its permutations will be re-negotiated, re-imagined even?
Risk Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2010 [Sold]
 Detail Risk Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2010 [Sold]
The two paintings above Damned and Risk are landscapes - loaded ones! Regular readers know of my love of landscape and my attempts to re-think what landscape is in the 21st century. I have my cosmic landscape which try to untether notions of landscape from Earth-bound horizons. I also have my Earth-based ones, such as the two above. Yet, the link is imaging the future...