Sunday, October 16, 2016


Rainbow Camouflage Gouache on paper 30 x 42cm 2016

Firstly news - my entry Where There's Life There's... was chosen as a finalist in the $15,000 Redland Art Award. It is amongst some other terrific work. The opening and the announcement of winners was a few days ago. Congratulations to the winner, Pollyxenai Joannou. 

Rainbow Camouflage and Drone Clouds both refer to natural phenomena we see in the sky: clouds and rainbows. They also refer to the figure of the drone, a human-made 'phenomena'. I am really interested in how the figure of the drone is changing, and will continue to change, human perceptions of the sky and landscape. The figure of the drone literally represents unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). It also symbolises pervasive surveillance of our physical and digital actions and activities. For those who live in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other conflict places, the sky has become something to fear. Why? Because, drones loiter - watching - tracking - attacking. 

The posse of drones each painted with a colour from the rainbow are enroute to surveil and perhaps attack the the arced rainbow on the horizon. They are armed with Hellfire and guided missiles. The drones are camouflaged in an attempt to dupe the rainbow, but will they? But...maybe the rainbow is enticing the drones into a trap? The rainbow is fortified with the presence of trees-of-life, each painted a colour of the rainbow. The rainbow, of course can disappear, but its essence remains in the trees-of-life. What does this mean for the posse of rainbow coloured drones, representing 21st century fast paced and ubiquitous technological development, surveillance and more? I suppose that depends on us!

Is this a landscape or a skyscape? The sky is an arena of contest!

When I painted this painting lots of thoughts were running around in my head. But, I'll let your imaginations take flight now!

Drone Clouds Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Drone Clouds was inspired by thinking about the increasing use of drones and how they create a kind of artificial 'ceiling' in the sky. This can be viewed as both a literal and a psychological 'ceiling'. If we develop a fearful mentality that the sky is a place of threat what happens to the beauty of cosmological perspectives? Regular readers know I have a fascination with cosmology, and the close and far distances it reveals. Threat from the sky is something that limits a fearless desire to look beyond horizons, Earthly ones  as well as universal ones. 

Eyal Weizman, an architect and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, London, writes about the Politics of Verticality  and threats from the sky, in the form of surveillance and air attack. Here's a telling quote These eyes in the sky, completing the network of observation that is woven throughout the ground, finally iron out the folded surface and flatten the terrain. From the air, everything can be watched – if you have the right kind of access.( Weizmann, 2002)

Drone Clouds, like many of my recent paintingswas also partly inspired by reading French Philosopher Gregoire Chamayou's fascinating book Drone Theory. The threat from above, represented by drones controlled and operated by remote pilots, makes the whole world a potential "hunting ground". The rhetoric around the development of autonomous weapons, makes the threat even more alarming. 

I wonder what becomes of landscape if the world is perceived as a "hunting ground"? If perceptions of the sky change, landscape changes, distance loses perspective, horizons become sublime -filled with hope and horror, that is... if they can be glimpsed through hooded eyes. Does the underground offer safety - maybe not? Maybe exodus to other planets is another escape route?

As regular readers know I am interested in untethering notions of landscape from Earth-bound horizons, to embrace the perspectives that cosmology offers. I suggest that these kinds of multiple perspectives of distance provide ways to evaluate humankind's place in the universe, to critique activities such as the militarisation of technology and more. 

In Drone Clouds I play with perspective. Is the viewer below the drones looking up, or are they above the drones looking down? If it is the latter maybe the viewer is an alien watching humankind's dangerous play? Or, maybe humankind has developed another layer of surveillance - good or bad? Or...?


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