Thursday, March 17, 2016


Dad Acrylic on canvas 51 x 41 cm late 70s. 

I've previously mentioned that my Dad, while a farmer [grain grower], was also a HAM amateur radio enthusiast. His passion started at the age of 12, and was life-long. Over time his interests extended into computers, and other contemporary digital and electronic technologies. 

I have often written about how the technology Dad introduced into our everyday lives has influenced my life well beyond childhood; how I grew up in the 60s and 70s with gadgets and gizmos, made my first crystal set at about age 12, and how I was given movie cameras when Dad bought newer versions. I've previously described how our vehicles [cars, trucks] carried some kind of communication device. I have also mentioned that our family often heard world news before it appeared in mainstream news outlets. This was long before the Internet. I have also written about how the flat horizon of my parent's farm was punctured by Dad's tall aerials [photo below]. Before I was born, Dad, aged only 20, was one of the HAMs conscripted by the US Jet Propulsion Unit  to track Sputnik 1 [1957]. Indeed HAMs in the US were the first to detect and monitor the satellite's signal. Dad made our first TV on the dining room table in the early 60s. AND, then there were the record players and other gadgets he made, bought, modified and installed. 

Well, an era has come to an end. My Dad died at home in his sleep last week. He went to bed and simply did not wake up. He still had work on his HAM shack bench [bottom photo]. After spending over half his life lurching from one medical crisis to another his death came peacefully. 

Various aerials that My Dad used to send and receive. His HAM shack is the small white building. 
This is at the farm at Pirrinuan outside Dalby, Queensland, Australia.

I painted the two paintings [top and below] here in this post when I was about 16-18 years old. They are of my Dad, sitting. I talked about them at the private family funeral we held for him.

Dad had his favourite places to sit - in the lounge watching the news, on his HAM shack stool or in his office at one of his computers. Indeed, as these paintings illustrate [by virtue of their age] even back on the farm Dad's favourite places to sit were the lounge - to watch the news, read a book or eat a meal. Or, he'd be in his HAM shack. Yes, he also farmed, but when that was done, he was back in his shack! Keep in mind too, that farming also involved sitting on a tractor, in a truck or in a harvester. Once tractors and harvesters were built with cabins, air conditioning etc Dad installed communication equipment in them too. This is way before mobile phones! After retirement in the mid 80s and the arrival of the PC [and later the laptop], Dad added the office to his favoured sites to sit for long periods of time.  

Figure in a Chair - Dad Acrylic on canvas 142 x 99 mid 70s, 

Both of my paintings are abstracts...or abstracted. I look at them now [I've had them stored for years] and realise that while they do not literally look like Dad, they convey a lot about his character. He was a man of parts ie: interests, moods, passions, that were often difficult to match together or understand. He was well-read [particularly Australian history or war history]. He loved classical and jazz music, but would never want to go to a concert or performance, preferring to listen to his high quality recordings on devices he'd either made or modified, to amplify and improve the sound. He liked being alone and shied away from social events, especially where there were largish groups of people. He simply preferred spending time operating and making technology, reading, tinkering with machinery, restoring things etc. As a man of technology and science, his interests extended to the way he farmed. He responded very quickly to advances in farming methods and technologies, and in retirement kept a close interest in agricultural matters.

When I look at the top painting Dad I now see it also as an aerial view over farmland. Or, as my Mum has suggested, an overview of a house and outbuildings. And, as one of my nephews pointed out at the funeral, it also has a computer-like or circuitry-board appearance [see photo below for comparison]. Thus, with hindsight I realise that as a teenager I picked up on something that could not be explained with words or even 'seen' at the time - and I'd like to point out - it was manifested with paint and brushes, not a camera or other device!

During my childhood, shared with my two younger brothers, art and cultural activities were actively encouraged by our Mum, who continues to paint and write. I believe that my lifelong exposure to technology, and the characters associated with it, coupled with my Mother's creative influences, has provided me with a unique balance, and a depth of understanding that still manifests in images created through the freedom that painting enables. I've often experienced insights about my paintings many years after completing them and these two paintings provide further examples of how potent, informative, even prophetic, and timeless a painting can be. 

                                                           My Dad's Ham shack bench 

                                                    VK4ZWB signed off 9th March 2016


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Katherine - that is a lively story and quite enchanting paintings. Sorry that your dad has left the earthly plane bur he lives on in your heart and your memories. Warm wishes Jane Haley