Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Alternate Universe Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm paper size 3005
Alternate and Universe when coupled together bring to mind a couple of possibilities. There's the colloquial judgement made about someone who appears to not notice how their behaviour affects if they are living on another planet or in another universe! Then there's the theory of a multi-verse, where there's more than one universe, existing simultaneously or maybe consecutively...or in some other dimensionality yet to be discovered.
Alternate Universe [above] is ten years old...I painted it in 2005. Yes, my interest in the cosmos is not new. I was probably a bit more grounded ten years ago though! By this I mean, I had not clearly thought about untethering concepts of landscape from Earth-bound horizons, one of my current quests, both intellectual and creative.
The painting below Other Universes is a little more recent, but it has a similar far away, yet also a strangely close, feel. As in Alternate Universe the markings seem whimsically intimate on the one hand, yet suggestive of endless vastness at the same time.
Other Universes Gouache and watercolour on paper 15 x 21 cm paper size 2011
The two paintings below 'speak' about watching or observing. The first one suggests an observance of the Universe by others and the second painting suggests that the universe is undertaking the watching or observing. Yet, when you think about it, the universe is everything, so that any observation is witness to...well... everything, intimately and openly, inside and out, Earthlings and aliens...and more!
The two paintings below are more recent ie: 2013 and 2015 and reflect my ongoing interest in searching the universe for scapes of all kinds. The most obvious is landscape. I am interested in how we might re-think concepts of landscape in the cosmological21st century where exoplanets entice with possibilities for future human habitation, after we plunder the resources of our current planetary home. It is worth thinking about landscape, in the broadest sense, to explore humankind's relationship with something that keeps us 'grounded' [literally and metaphorically], emotionally, spiritually and physically. It may help us sustain Earth, at the same time as acting as a cautionary sensor for future explorations beyond Earth's horizon. And...that's where my quest to un-tether notions of landscape form earth-bound horizons comes from. By extending our landscape perspective into space it provides us with multiple vantage points to observe ourselves, our Earthly home, our Universal environment, time and space.
Watching The Universe Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2013
The Universe Watches Everything Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm paper size 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Un-framing Landscape Crayon on paper [preliminary sketch]
As I mentioned in a previous recent post, I have returned to University study. I have embarked on an M. Phil [Research] at the University of Queensland. Happily, I can report that I am thoroughly enjoying being immersed in thinking and reading. I am also thrilled to be able to attend many of the fascinating talks and seminars that seem to happen every day at UQ. Yes, I am a bit of a geek...nerd...
Yesterday I attended an artists' talk, hosted by the University of Queensland Art Museum [UQAM], held in conjunction with a current exhibition Light Play: Ideas, Optics and Atmosphere , curated by Samantha Littley. The artists' talk included the curator as facilitator and artists Sam Cranstoun [multi-media artist] and photographers Carl Warner and Marian Drew. Dr. Margaret Wegener a lecturer in Physics at UQ was also part of the panel.
Many really interesting topics, relating to light and in reference to the artists' works, were discussed. However, my ears pricked up when there was a short discussion on how photographers and painters might frame a landscape. By frame, I mean compose or choose the image parameters with and wthin known elements. I cannot remember the details of the entire discussion, because my imagination went off into thoughts about how I un-frame landscape in my own work and how doing this unleashes it from earth-bound horizons.
When  I got back to my desk, after the artists' talk, I drew this sketch [above] Un-framing the Landscape. My plan is to sketch while I study and research. These sketches will lay the foundations for my next exhibition, which will probably be sometime in 2017.
As regular readers know, I think a lot about what landscape is, and means to us, in an age where cosmology traverses the close and far distances of the Universe, where astronomy seems to be regularly finding potential new Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars, where exploratory spacecraft take photographs of planets and moons, where virtual worlds proliferate, where humankind's presence leaves debris in space...and so on.
It Beckons Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2015
Birth of Worlds Oil on linen 92 x 102 cm 2014
Given that I consciously attempt to untether ideas of landscape from Earth-bound horizons - to take landscape into the cosmos - I suggest that my un-framing is about extending parameters beyond the known, beyond safe horizons. In other words, the known can no longer act as a frame. Yet, extension beyond Earth's horizons does not necessarily mean there is a re-frame - after all the Universe is a big space/place where the unknown surpasses the known.
In my cosmic landscapes I try to re-negotiate landscape in a way that entices the viewer to think about what is beyond the literal edges of my canvases - to wonder. I also try to stir perception by playing with perspective and orientation - a kind of flipping of familiarity.
It's Everything Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2015
Here are a couple of other posts where I discuss landscape:

Friday, September 11, 2015


Home Gouache and watercolour on paper 38 x 42.5 cm
We can examine the word 'home' from a few perspectives....and regular readers know how much I like thinking about and with perspective!
Home can be the abode we live in. It can also be where we were born, which maybe in another city, town or country. Home can be where we feel most comfortable, and that does not have to be the physical place where we eat, sleep and so on. It can be where our parent/s live. We can feel 'at home' within ourselves, even if we are not in a physical place that we would normally call a home.
Home can also be planet Earth. After all, it has been 'home' to every human, past and present...but maybe not for future humans, except in nostalgic reminiscences! The concept of leaving or returning home, when it's Earth that's being left or returned to, certainly stretches perspective as well as the enormity of possible 'home-sickness'.
Where might future humans call 'home'? Well...the Mars One project certainly extends the idea of a future human home beyond Earth. It's still within our solar system, but poses many potentially catastrophic issues for those who might try to inhabit the planet. So, alternatives might be found in the increasing number of recently discovered Earth-like planets, orbiting in the Goldilocks zones of distant stars. These are called exoplanets ie: they are outside our solar system. For some people they offer great promise for possible alternative planetary homes for humans, and presumably selected animals, and possibly plants too. But, the latter would depend on the abundance of flora a new planetary home might offer, has been posited, some of these far-away planets might be even more abundant than Earth!
As philosopher Paul Virilio comments in his 2012 book 'The Great Accelerator' [p.17] these exoplanets entice with a kind of 'promised land' story. But, his sentiment is coupled with a critical condemnation or warning of the destructive forces that might cause, and witness, a mass exodus of humanity from Earth. Indeed, Earthly human history has many examples of mass exodus of people, caused be a need or an urgency to leave, that have resulted in major issues for everyone involved.
And, that brings me to current events where masses of people are fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East, mainly Iraq and Syria. People are also fleeing unsafe environments in Africa and Asia. The moving mass of people around the globe, particularly into Europe, has accelerated in recent months due to heightened/sustained threats, as well as the northern hemisphere Summer, which makes it more conducive for travelling/fleeing on foot, by boat and camping out etc. Needless to say, despite Summer weather, the dangers of seeking refuge are still present, as clearly evidenced by dreadful happenings, such as deaths at sea and more. These people are fleeing from HOME...of country, house, family, heritage, culture. Their suffering on so many levels is beyond belief. I wonder if they can keep their internal 'homes' intact? I wonder...
Home Gouache and Watercolour on paper 2015
My new painting is another of my cosmic landscapes. Can you pick where 'home' might be? Yes, the beacon of the tree-of-life heralds to you! It could be Earth, or it could a future exoplanetary home? Or, it could be symbolic of 'home' as an amalgam of country, house, family, heritage and culture. It could be symbolic of that place within that provides spiritual and mental refuge, even if the physical world of 'home' is taken away.
Placed within a cosmic-like perspective, the small tree-beacon, might suggest that the Universe is our home. Yet, taking the universe, both as a literal place but also something 'other'...maybe in a yet-to-be-discovered other dimension...this painting may suggest the possibility of a 'home' we cannot yet imagine?
Selected posts about the idea of HOME
Greener Pastures  Here I 'play' with the stories of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, plus Billy Goats Gruff with reference to seeking new 'homes' on other planets.
New World Habitability. Vacation Anyone?  Here I discuss the possibility of exoplanet super abundance .
Questions - Three Paintings In this post I write about three works on paper that pose questions about humanity leaving Earth

Friday, September 04, 2015

Life Calling. Anyone There? Oil on linen 70 x 140 cm
Life Calling. Anyone There? is currently in the 2015 Tattersall's Landscape Art Award, here in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. This is an award devoted to landscape and attracts a $30,000 prize. You can see all the finalists on the slideshow on this link HERE 
Unlike a lot of art awards, this is an invitation competition. I am thrilled to have again been invited to participate.
The opening was a few nights ago...and what a fabulous opening it was too. The best thing was that so many of the artists were there. The winner of the award is well known Brisbane-born artist Noel McKenna . His winning entry Farm Scene is number 47 on the slide show mentioned above. And, congratulations to Noel.
The judges for the 2015 award were Tattersall's Club Committee Member, and former Club Chief Executive Officer, Michael Paramor, Curatorial Manager of Australian Art QAGoma, Jason Smith, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Nick Mitzevick and Associate Professor of the Faculty of Education and Art at the Australian Catholic University, Lindsay Farrell. You can read more about the history of the prize HERE
The exhibition of entries will be on public view from September 7 - 18 at Waterfront Place, Brisbane. If you are in Brisbane, please pop in to see the paintings.
Life Calling. Anyone There? 
I entered Life Calling. Anyone There? because at about the time of choosing which painting to enter there was news about a Russian Billionaire, Yuri Milner, donating one hundred million dollars to listen for aliens. You can read about it here on Wired. I was interested that two observatories would be part of this very interesting project...and one of them is Australia's Parkes Telescope . The listening project is called Breakthrough Listen and the aim is to focus on listening for, rather than trying to communicate with, aliens [extra-terrestrial intelligence]. The data that is collected will be open source, so anyone can access it.
There's a whole other 'conversation' about the pros and cons of listening for and/or trying to communicate with aliens! That's another post.
So...I thought Life Calling. Anyone There? would be a very apt painting to enter the Tattersall's Landscape Art Award because when I painted it, I was thinking about the fascination we humans have with questions about aliens. As I wrote in my previous post about the painting the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence is a serious scientific pursuit. The SETI Institute in California must be a fascinating place to work! Of course the search for life does not necessarily begin and end with the search for intelligent life. There are many scientists undertaking research in signs of any kind of life, from microbes to more. There's even an area of research called astrobiology. Check out NASA's astrobiology site!
Life Calling. Anyone There? depicts two landscapes - one in the foreground and the planet. Yes, regular readers will identify that this painting is one of my attempts to untether notions of landscape from Earth-bound horizons. The idea that a whole planet is a landscape maybe unusual, but in many of my paintings I propose that the whole universe is a landscape. After is Earth's environment! This is becoming clearer as images from outer space, back towards Earth, place it within a universal perspective. The most famous photograph Pale Blue Dot, taken as Voyager 1 left the solar system in 1990, had a profound influence on how people viewed planet Earth. And, yes I am now going to direct you to the post I wrote for my own painting called Pale Blue Dot!
In Life Calling. Anyone There? two trees-of-life seem to call to each other, via the 'transmitter' of leaves. The viewer is unsure which way the 'conversation' is going. Who made contact first? Initially the viewer might assume that the landscape in the foreground is Earth...but it does not necessarily have to be! And, the planet...that's not necessarily Earth either. This ambiguity raises the possibility that beings on two other planets maybe communicating with each other!
There's also a metaphoric, rather than a speculative, reading of Life Calling. Anyone There? There are so many alienated souls on Earth calling for help and assistance, recognition, acknowledgement and more. Who is listening to them? Currently catastrophic geo-political events are causing unimaginable suffering to people fleeing from their homes, seeking refuge in other countries. Currently, the rates of suicide seem to be increasing. Currently, domestic violence causes weekly deaths of women and sometimes in Australia. The abyss-like divides that occur with opportunity, wealth, safety, compassion and care, are like the mammoth distances between two planets.
Seems to me that any alien who observed us Earthlings might not think we're enlightened or intelligent enough to bother communicating with!
So on that rather sombre note!