Sunday, November 29, 2015


I AM Am I ? Gouache on paper, Triptych 66 x 30 cm, 2015

I have used text in my paintings for some years, but mainly words, not code. I've listed some of my earlier work  at the bottom of this post. My interest in code entered my paintings, this year, in 2015.
In fact, my last exhibition was called CODE.
Regular readers will know that I have been experimenting with painting binary code as text 'instructing' certain words. But, my interest is not only the words or the code. I am also interested in how binary code can be an aesthetic element that can 'dance', or be juxtaposed, with other visual elements, such as symbols, landscape forms and more. And, in turn, how this aesthetic element can make visible something which is not visible, but incredibly influential in our daily lives. I am interested in how this new visibility, in tandem with other pictorial elements, can translate into re-interpretations of symbols, landscape and more.

I treat the binary code as a seemingly playful element, that the viewer is not initially aware of. The playfulness is achieved by using colour, often multiple colours, for the strings of zeros and ones, forming them into ribbons that evoke bunting, party ties and more. An example from earlier this year is  Unseen [below]. The playfulness, however, is deliberately provocative. I am questioning how unseen code influences so many aspects of contemporary life. Viewers, whilst seeing colourful twirling ribbon-like markings, are initially unaware that these are painted zeros and ones. They need to get up close...a deliberate 'tactic' on my part, as it conveys the necessity to enquire, scrutinise and question. Some viewers do not even recognise the zeros and ones, as code. These reactions mimic [metaphorically] the unawareness many people have of the algorithmic world operating beyond our sensibilities. I've watched people view my paintings, as they move from a distance, to up close, then back again. After seeing my work up close and then returning to a distance, my paintings become something other than the initial first impression. And, then...when viewers put on 3D glasses, many of my paintings separate into layers.

The provocativeness does not end there though. Contemporary new media art uses code, eg: imbedded in computer-based artist tools or, in some cases, where artists may write their own code. I am but a painter of the traditional kind, so cannot 'use' code to help me manifest my work, but I can 'use' it in other ways. By painting zeros and ones, imbedded within larger visual and aesthetic contexts that a painting implies, I make code visible. By painting it with my hands-on technique of brush and paint, I suggest, that I 'cleanse' it of its 'perfection', by messing it up...with colour, uneven brushstrokes and possible mistakes! A kind of reverse engineering?
Unseen Oil on linen 90 x 80 cm 2015

I AM Am I?
My new triptych I AM Am I ? 'plays' with binary code in a slightly different way to some of my other recent works ie: Picturing the Posthuman and Beyond Mortality This new work does, however, echo some of my interests expressed in this recent work. Generally, I am fascinated by the trajectory humankind seems to be where being human is under some kind of re-negotiation, where promises of technological enhancement abound. However, whilst there are pros, there are also potential negatives, recognised and unrecognised, that could mean annihilation of the human species. [Regular readers will know of my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies research.] my new painting I have painted, in the middle section, 'I  AM' and 'Am I', in binary code. There is a recognisable question mark after the coded 'Am I' to create a dislocation between statement and possible question. On the bottom section I have painted binary code that instructs the question mark a ? mark, re-enforcing the need to ask questions. The top section plays with figurative and landscape elements - horizon lines, planetary shapes and my age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life. The tree's roots seem to travel along the horizon line to meet the two figures. The roots then plunge into the 'soil' via the figures' limbs. Yet, the middle binary code section offers another kind of 'soil'. I've even 'watered' it, as you can see from the way the paint has run.

I have deliberately made sure that I AM is in capital letters. Why? I AM means something different to I am. The latter invites a continuation of a sentence, a description of some kind, whereas the former is a statement. Hence the following....Am I?

I have a  lot more thoughts about this work, but I will now leave it for you to 'play' with.

Water Harvesting Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2009
Risk Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm [unframed] 2010
 Planet $ Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm


Friday, November 20, 2015


Picturing the Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015

I have been thinking about posthumanism, transhumanism, existential risk posed by emerging technologies, and artificial intelligence...especially regarding increasingly autonomous weapons eg: weaponised drones. AND, I have been thinking about how to convey some of these ideas in my paintings, without being  illustrative or providing an 'artist's impression' - like a scifi image.
Posthumanism is a kind of end point of transhumanism. Transhumanists believe that the human is compromised by biology. They propose that technology can alleviate biological limitations and enhance abilities, such as intelligence. They aim for 'singularity', the ultimate posthuman condition. But 'singularity' could mean that  there's no body at all. The ultimate cleansing! And, definitely posthuman! An example is: downloading minds to be algorithmically encoded for an eternal unembodied 'existence'. However, I'd argue that the posthuman label could be applied well before the body became completely obsolete. 
It's all absolutely fascinating! 
And, my interest in creating paintings that 'speak' of these fascinating, but also concerning issues, is a contrary one!  Painting, with brush and paint like I do, is not hi-tech. What can something that sits outside the contemporary technological frame generally, and new-media frame specifically, provide? For reminds me of being human.
So, to Picturing the Posthuman  - here is a painting that seems to offer two choices, but it's much more complex than that. The spiral of binary code repeats the word 'resurrection'. It implies that a posthuman existence, such as the downloading of minds, could be classed as some kind of intent to resurrect 'life'. The small tree...yes, my transcultural religious tree-of-life... is surrounded by colourful dots, that could be stars, thoughts, other small but indiscernible trees? At the outer edges there are random zeros and ones, indicating the present day world where technology influences our lives. 

Like two galaxies about to collide, this painting presents a possible tense situation. Another way of thinking about the painting is that two posthuman worlds exist, one where existence is an ordered posthuman future, the other where technology has become self propelling and out of the control. leaving humanity in a chaotic posthuman half-life future. But then...who's to say this is not already the case? 

I am sure you can think of a few scenarios for this painting too...I've certainly got more...
The cosmic background suggests time...time to make decisions...or that it is time to make the right decisions. As cosmologist and astronomer Lord Martin Rees, wrote in his 2003 book 'Our Final Century' What happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.Martin Rees, Our Final Century: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in This Century—On Earth and Beyond (New York: Basic Books, 2003) p.7-8

I am very excited to let you know about a scholarly article which has been published about my paintings Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox: Paintings 2002 - 2010 by Dr. Christine Dauber [PhD. Art History]. The article has been published online at the innovative PANOPTIC PRESS
To whet your appetite here are two quotes:
It must first be understood that in these latter paintings, Brimblecombe–Fox is not so much concerned with landscape painting per se, but in a Warburgian sense, searches for the universal connections, or common ground between people, races and religions. In doing this she searches for a means to overcome the violence that exists in and between barriers to cultural understanding. Dr. Christine Dauber [PhD. Art History].


Similarly, in relation to Brimblecombe-Fox’s more recent work, the description “contemporary landscape artist” can actually  be deceiving, for although she still uses elements and images that are drawn from nature such as a tree, a leaf or an island, she travels in new dimensions as she expands her concerns with the landscape into global questions on ecology and world harmony. Dr. Christine Dauber [PhD. Art History].


Friday, November 13, 2015


The Everywhere Abyss Gouache and Watercolour on paper 29 x 37 cm 2015
This week, I went to Sydney to attend the Sydney Peace Prize lecture and dinner. This year's very deserving winner is Australian artist George Gittoes. An inspired choice by those who selected him. It's the first time an artist has been given the award and he is among illustrious company. You can read about previous winners HERE .
Gittoes, since 1986, has worked in many war and conflict zones around the world, either with Australian Peacekeeping forces or on his own volition. He draws, paints, photographs and makes documentary films. His photographs are photo-journalism, capturing human extremes for records and witness. His drawings are intimate connections with those who are experiencing or have experienced the extreme depravity of human behaviour. I have seen a couple of photos of him drawing in the field [so to speak] and you can see the connection between him and his subjects...and those who mill around to see what's going on. Drawing takes time and in this time Gittoes' attention on his subject gifts them a restored humanity, sometimes at the edge of death or in death. The technologically un-mediated aspect of these encounters injects life, fully cognisant of its extremes. Gittoes's drawings, more often than not, have handwritten text around the borders or on one side of the paper. Here, he tells his stories about the encounter he has taken time to draw.
Gittoes' paintings, painted in his studio, use the drawings and photographs as referential points, to create images that are majestic...because they are intensely about life and humanity, in extremes. The images can be very confronting for Gittoes does not sensor. After drawing someone and looking intently into their eyes, there's a silent pact to tell their story. In Gittoes' case these stories are more often than not unimaginably shocking. The paintings are not simply copies of photographs or even the drawings, because Gittoes uses paint like it breaths new life. There is nothing pristine, cleansed or simply copied. His paintings resurrect life, at the same time as intensely critiquing warfare and conflict. They are not simply didactic, but instead declare 'I Witness' and now you do too!
Gittoes gave an amazing speech at Sydney's Town Hall. It was more like a conversation, where different stories lead to insights that are also confronting. The thing is...these insights are from someone who has spent decades not only witnessing war and conflict and their aftermaths, but also spending time with people, talking, drawing...and helping. Remarkably he and his partner Helen Rose live much of the time, in Jalalabad in Afghanistan, where they have set up an artists' community called the Yellow House.
One of Gittoes paintings that I think is really interesting is called The Artist, oil on canvas 210 x 173cm, 1996You can see it on Gittoes' website on this page 5th down on the right side or at his Brisbane dealer's Mitchell Fine Art site HERE.
Gittoes has painted a figure who holds a paint brush, an artist. This figure seems to hover above an abyss, but you soon realise that safe passage is afforded by small yellow stepping-stone-like clouds that the artist paints. In the background, what seems like a cityscape is actually an array of gun shells littering the horizon.  So, I ask, how bad could the abyss be, if on the surface warfare has scarred the landscape, left it denuded and life is still? Maybe the abyss symbolises change? Maybe it symbolises confronting the self on the surface, in order to discover depths of humanity?
The artist wears night vision glasses, those vision-aides that soldiers use to see at night. I have thought about these night vision glasses a lot...why does an artist need them? Gittoes seems to be saying, if you want safe passage, if you want peace, let the artist guide you...the artist is a warrior too, but one who bravely creates the possibility of new worlds, communication and connection. Given, that the artist can paint stepping stone clouds, it's obvious the artist can traverse the abyss from its depths to its surface. The artist can move about the abyss like a guide!
So...the abyss in Gittoes' painting The Artist really got me thinking about 'the abyss' as a concept.
The abyss is not such a bad thing! It actually reminds us of human endeavour. It is the space we straddle where concepts of the sublime swamp us with majestic and poetic thoughts. It propels us! It can offer renewal.
My new painting seems to speak of a cosmic abyss...yes another of my cosmic landscapes! Without the abyss and its opposite, the horizon....where would life exist? Maybe nowhere...a nowhere place that seduces with simulation....................................................................the computer, ipad, smart phone????? That's why I have painted an 'everywhere abyss' to remind us to look up from our screens.
The horizon is something I have previously written about. Indeed, growing up on the flat treeless black soil Pirrinuan Plain in S W Queensland, the horizon was ever present. It lay in the west as a flat line, which often disappeared behind a mirage, or was swamped by grey rain, or incredibly delineated by stunning sunsets. Yet, in the East the majestic Bunya Mountains cut a silhouette against the sky. I lived on a flat plain at the bottom of a mountain range...maybe even abysses have horizons?
Horizon Posts

Monday, November 02, 2015


In The Cradle Gouache and water colour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015
This new work on paper plays with the idea of the 'cradle of civilisation' which historically refers to the fertile crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where first civilisations appeared around 6,000 years ago. But, the 'cradle of civilisation' can be interpreted in other ways. One of these is to think about the human mind as a cradle...after all civilisation was determined by humankind's abilities to invent practical tools and systems, as well as aesthetic, intellectual and social ways of being.  To be civilised connotes many nuanced and sophisticated creative, intellectual, spiritual behaviours, processes, imaginings. 
So, my painting In The Cradle could be read as some kind of aerial map of river systems or it could be a kind of mind map. The branching tree line-work not only gives the impression of water systems, but also synapses in the human brain. As regular readers will recognise, the tree-shape references my much loved age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life and all that it means to humanity's past, present and hopefully into the future.
The three red dots are referential points or symbols of humanity. One dot is embraced within the branching tree-river-synapse. Another red dot is cradled by the arching line and the last dot sits at the end of this line. I see this as marking points on a trajectory...a trajectory for humanity. The last red dot sits outside the cradle of civilisation or even life, as if it is about to launch to something beyond. This could represent a post-human future where the cradle is no longer needed, where the signs of life, represented by the tree, are also no longer needed. Maybe this is heralding the transhuman future where humans and machines merge? I wonder what part, if anything, of the tree as a symbol of life, will remain?
The red dot at the end of the arching line does appear to have a choice though. It could continue on a trajectory that loses sight of the tree. Or, it could swing back and rejoin...obviously changed by its trajectory, but still connected to something familiar.
Regular readers will also recognise that In The Cradle is another of my cosmic landscapes. Yes, a landscape, but one untethered from Earth-bound horizons, thus taking in the universe as our vast environment. By doing this, the cosmological perspective is offered as a way of viewing humanity and its future.