Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Showing Them Our Home Oil on linen 30 x 56 cm 2017

Here's me with my three daughters. They are all adults now. We hover in space as we gaze upon Earth - a pale blue dot - home. 

An experience with perspective - temporal, spatial, metaphoric.

Looking back upon my role as a parent, there are many things I consider important. One is that as a significant adult in a young person's life, whether parent or other, the role of introducing them to the world, our Earthly home and universal environment, is up there on top of the list. One could say that birth is an introduction to the world, and yes it is, but as time goes by, the world is a continuously unfolding mystery. 

There are many ways to introduce someone to broader terrains and ideas. For me, engaging perspective - literal and metaphoric - transcends distance, and in doing so, imagination and compassion are ignited. In catapulting a person from one point of view to another, the world and oneself, dances the rhythm...one minute up close, the next flung to a distance - at one instant close enough to feel breath, the next flung so far away that features disappear - exposing a much bigger picture.      

Polymath Grandmother
My maternal grandmother D. E Ross - a polymath - knew the constellations and planets. She would take me and my two younger brothers out into dark nights, to show us various celestial entities. In Western Queensland there was no light pollution, thus our night skies were [and are] truly wondrous. As a child I was interested in my grandmother's impromptu lessons, but as an adult I look back and recognise a special introduction to the world, our universal one. I wonder if my interest in far horizons and cosmic perspectives was spurred by my grandmother's urgings to look up and wonder.

One of my daughters  has shown a keen interest in space, the outer-space kind of space. She has attended one of the International Space University's Summer programs, held in Adelaide, at the University of South Australia. As a law graduate, she has interests in how current and future legal frameworks will cope with issues such as mining on other planets/moons, space travel and so on. Her impetus comes from a concern for humanity, but also the environment beyond Earth. Maybe discussions about my cosmic paintings, and the things that influenced them, worked their way into my daughter's consciousness? An introduction to 'our world', the universal one, via art!

OUR - our
When I showed my daughters Showing Them Our World  they all understood it. The 'our' in the title is not only about us as a family, but all of humanity - the collective OUR. This latter sentiment is truly conveyed by Carl Sagan's words in his book Pale Blue Dot (1994). I have a number of pale blue dot paintings - inspired by perspective, Sagan's words and the famous photograph taken by Voyager 1 as it started its exit from the solar system in February 1990. I recently wrote a post about a few of my pale blue dot paintings. You can read more at this link Pale Blue Dot - Planet Earth 

It is unanimous - all four of us - this painting is never for sale. 


Saturday, December 23, 2017


Look again at that dot. (Sagan) Oil on linen 23 x 29.5 cm 2017

Carl Sagan wrote:

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

You can read more if you buy Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot, or check out HERE, or you can hear him speak HERE.

In 1990, as Voyager 1 started its exit from the solar system Sagan suggested that the spacecraft's camera be turned back towards Earth. The photograph called "Pale Blue Dot" showed Earth as a pale blue dot among a myriad of other shining celestial entities - a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. After the photograph was taken, the spacecraft's camera was turned off, to conserve power. Voyage 1 is now in interstellar space, the only human-made object travelling beyond the solar system. 

Although Look again at that dot. (Sagan) is a small painting, using cosmic perspectives, it channels big ideas. Sagan's commentary makes it clear that the past and future history of the human species relies upon the Earth. It is our home. 

How are we going, looking after it? 


Merry Christmas 
and Cheers,

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Queensland Landscape (Unreal) Oil on linen 50 x 90 cm 2017


On Friday I graduated with a Master of Philosophy (M. Phil) from the University of Queensland. It was a very exciting and fulfilling day. There are a couple of photos below. 

My thesis title was Drones and Night Vision: Militarised Technology in Paintings by George Gittoes and Jon Cattapan. 

Many thanks to my rigorous and wonderful supervisors, Dr. Fiona Nicoll [before she left for Alberta Uni], Dr.Amelia Barikin and Dr. Paolo Magagnoli. The two external examiner reports were returned within two weeks of thesis submission with no requests for corrections or changes. But, with a topic that involved research into the paintings and practices of such thought provoking artists as Gittoes and Cattapan, AND research into drones, autonomous weapons and ubiquitous surveillance, how could anyone lose interest!

I deliberately chose to undertake cross-disciplinary research because, at the end of the day, I wanted the research to trigger inspirations for my own creative practice. The research into militarised technology came from my longer term interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies. But, especially for an M. Phil, I had to narrow the topic down. I am really happy with how my focus on the legal, ethical, cultural and technical aspects of airborne weaponisable drones, ubiquitous surveillance and burgeoning developments in autonomous weapon systems has provided informed inspiration for my recent paintings. So, onto the next stage....lots of painting and a possible book, based on my thesis.

At the University of Queensland, St. Lucia campus.

At the University of Queensland, St. Lucia campus. In the Great Court.


Queensland Landscape (Unreal) (top) is spoof-ish. It is a landscape, but is it a real one? Or is it an unreal one?

It was inspired by my rural Queensland childhood landscape. To the East of our farm, in the middle of flat treeless Pirrinuan Plain, the Bunya Mountain range cut a majestic silhouette against the seemingly endless sky. Thus, the mountain silhouette in Queensland Landscape (Unreal) could be the Bunya Mountains, which is, in fact, part of the Great Dividing Range that runs down the East coast of Australia. 

But, the orange-red background and the almost fluorescent green appear unnatural. Is the  image a simulation, a fake environment? But, I have painted it - it is not a digitally produced simulation. Can a painting be a simulation in the 21st cyber-century? Can a painting, be a simulation of a simulation, a double entendre play with mimicry without algorithmic assistance? 

I have painted landscapes for decades. So, with a long history of painting landscapes, is  Queensland Landscape (Unreal) an amalgam of many images, if not all? Here, I take a different turn and ponder how generative software is capable of producing many design iterations from provided parameters and sources. Also, bots [internet robots] that can generate fake news, images and online engagement, because they can access mind blowing amounts of data to use, manipulate and appropriate. But, is this similar to engaging memory for the creation of an image? Queensland Landscape (Unreal) speaks to the way my memories, perhaps a source of data and parameters, have created a landscape that could be real and unreal. I lived with the Bunya Mountain silhouette until early adulthood. My childhood landscape of flat treeless plains, distant mountains and huge skies, is part of who I am. In my 20s and 30s I lived in another rural Queensland landscape, further west, beyond my childhood home. There were more trees, a few hills, but massive skies and hazy flat horizons still dominated.

But, to say my memories are data, reduces the impact of how those memories are formed and indeed remembered. I say this because it is not just about me 'downloading' visual memories. It is also about feelings, reminders of heat and dust in Summer, and frost and cold winds in Winter. It's about storm clouds rolling in, and heavy rain obscuring landscape features. Its about my parents ricocheting from worry about no rain, to worries about destructive floods. It's about memories of playing in mud, or watching snakes disappear into cracks when the black soil was starved of moisture. It's about my two younger brothers and I walking out to the main road to catch the school bus. We walked easterly towards the Bunya Mountains. Sometimes we talked, sometimes were fought! It's about the big boys on the bus shouting things out the window to me as I ran to catch the bus - I was often late. It's about going up to the Bunya Mountains for family picnics. We relished the lush green, the rainforest, the waterfall  and the different animals and birds. We were aware of the important Aboriginal connection to the Bunya Mountains. We knew it was a very significant meeting place for Aboriginal people and respected that.    

Queensland Landscape (Unreal) encapsulates all my memories and much more, some I may not be even aware of. It holds secrets behind its spoof of computer generated, bot manipulated unreal-ness. Maybe it is a cosmic landscape - regular readers will know where that idea comes from!

Me with my parents-on a tractor-the Pirrinuan Plain, Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia. 
Early 1960s.

Me in 2014 on a visit to my childhood landscape. I am positioned against the western horizon. In the opposite direction the Bunya Mountains cut their majestic silhouette against, as you can see, the endless sky. 


Sunday, December 10, 2017


Drone Ghost oil on  canvas 25 x 25 cm 2017

Drone Ghost is a small painting. But, the drone looms large. 

Is the drone actually a ghost - are you looking back to a past? If so, from this imagined future, what kinds of advanced technologies now exist? What might have replaced the drone? 

Alternatively, is the 'drone ghost' a subterfuge, a mechanism of stealth? Even though the white ghostly drone seems submerged in water, or obscured by mist, this may be a deliberate ploy. Indeed, its weapons are neither submerged nor obscured. Rather, they are 'ripe' for rapid response firing. The four red Hellfire missiles and two guided missiles 'scream' their ready intent. 

I have played, again, with perspective - as a viewer, are you above the 'drone ghost' looking down upon it or are you below the drone looking up towards it? Are you, in fact, flying around it, turning the monitoring and surveillance back onto the drone - its subterfuge, its stealth exposed?

The ripe red of the tree-of-life also 'screams' its readiness to stand guard, to withhold, to protect. It also takes on a disguise, a potential counter-subterfuge - appearing as a tree, a river system, perhaps a mountain range, or even a vascular system or a cross section of some kind of viscera.  

Is there a winner, a victor?


Please read A Droned Future? An Online Visual Essay This is my response to the release of Slaughterbots a short film about a potential future dominated by threats posed by lethal autonomous


Sunday, December 03, 2017


Pale Blue Dot Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2014 Private Collection

I offer you a selection of paintings that depict a.......................................... 
pale blue dot - aka Earth

I am taking the descriptor 'pale blue dot', coined by Carl Sagan for the famous photograph Voyager 1 took as it left the solar system in February 1990. At Sagan's suggestion the spacecraft's camera was turned back towards Earth. Soon after, the camera was turned off in order to conserve power for the spacecraft's continuing interstellar journey.  You can read and listen to Carl Sagan's famous words describing the photograph, and the effect it had on him and many others HERE

A snippet from Sagan:
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

How poignant is - no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves?

In an era where emerging technologies pose existential risks, saving us from ourselves is a useful thought to ponder. In an era where weapons systems are increasingly interconnected across military and civilian arenas, and increasingly autonomous, saving us from ourselves takes on even more poignancy.  

Me in the studio working on Pale Blue Dot - helped by a glass a bubbly! 

Pale Blue Dot - AKA Earth Oil on canvas 90 x 100 cm 2017

Anomaly Detection no 2 Oil on linen 120 x 180 cm 2017

Detail of Anomaly Detection no 2

Rose Tinted Landing Oil on canvas 40 x 50 cm 2017

Have we accepted ubiquitous surveillance and always present potential targeting into our collective subconscious? I call it a 'landing' on our subconscious - a kind of insidious colonisation of imagination presented as a way to save ourselves! 

Launching the New Horizon oil on canvas 60 x 92 cm 2017

In Launching the New Horizon there is a pale blue dot, set amongst the array of other celestial dots. The 'new horizon' is created by the flat wings of the unmanned weaponised drone.

21st Century Cloud Fantasy Oil on canvas 67 x 76 cm 2017

 Australian Landscape Cutout Oil on linen 50 x 70 cm 2015

From a cosmic perspective it becomes apparent that Earth is our only home, at least for the foreseeable future. Concepts of nationhood, land ownership, borders, and sovereign power seem futile. If we all dug to the centre of the Earth, we'd all meet as one!

Planet $ oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2011

Carl Sagan The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. 

Planet $ poses questions about how we 'value' our safe harbor, our home. 

Will the way we 'value' things help save us from ourselves?