Wednesday, January 03, 2018


Mountains and Metaphors oil on linen 80 x 200 cm 2005

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

In this post I have chosen four paintings I painted over a decade ago and four very recent paintings. I have coupled one older painting with one recent painting. These paintings resonate with each other, in uncanny ways, across the years. In fact, I found quite a few that did this, but four from 'then' and four from 'now' are enough. 

                              UNREAL LANDSCAPES - METAPHORS

So, above, I have posted Mountains and Metaphors and Queensland Landscape (Unreal). There are twelve years between them 2005 - 2017. And, I can tell you, I was not thinking about Mountains and Metaphors when I painted Queensland Landscape (Unreal). Yet, maybe at some subliminal level I was, because there are obvious visual connections. What I can tell you is that both paintings are inspired by the Bunya Mountains, part of the Great Dividing Range that winds up the East coast of Australia. The Bunya Mountains cut a majestic silhouette against the expansive rural Queensland skies of my childhood. I lived on a flat treeless plain where the mountains in the distant east beckoned with sculptural monumentality. The western horizon offered no such aesthetic - it was flat and endless, mirages often merging landscape and sky into one. 

Looking at these two paintings at the beginning of 2018 is an interesting experiment for me. Given that I referenced mountains as metaphors in the earlier painting, there is a kind of unreality attached to the image. This unreality is expounded in the later painting, where I question our experiences with landscape in a world mediated by technology. 

A mountain, when standing at its foothills, is a metaphor for something to overcome. However, when at the top of the mountain, it acts as something not only overcome, but revelatory. From the top you can look towards a new horizon, and back to an old one - horizon being a metaphor too! But, what happens when the mountains are simulations? 


Braid Oil on board 90 x 60 cm 2007 

Imagining the Post-Human Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

I don't paint many portraits, well not obvious ones. But Braid (above) is a self-portrait, not of my face, but of the back of my head, and my long plait. Oh, and my heart too! Just over ten years ago my hair was a lot browner than it is now! My long hair is one of my distinguishing physical characteristics - apart from being very tall. 

I was looking through my paintings and it struck me that my 2016 Post Human series of works on paper, feature a 'figure' with a heart, or a simulation of a heart. The binary code accompanying the figures suggests some kind of simulation, proxy, or downloaded data. 

Am I painting myself as a post-human, my hair standing on its ends in horror, or is it excitement? The code 00111111 'screams' a question mark loaded with many questions. Why? How? Am I ok? Am I lonely?

Below, I Am A Post-Human  seems to have an answer!

My Future Post-Human Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

I Am A Post-Human Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

01001001 00100000 01100001 01101101 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110000 01101111 01110011 01110100 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 00101110


 Forever Connected Oil on linen 120 x 80 cm 2008

Crossing the Rubicon Gouache on paper 76 x 56 cm 2017

Forever Connected and Crossing the Rubicon both feature a tree-of-life seemingly reaching to the heavens. The tree-of-life is an age old transcultural symbol. It is shared by the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In Forever Connected I wanted to demonstrate the power of symbols to draw people together - I certainly experienced this when I exhibited in Abu Dhabi in late 2005. The conversations I shared, on a daily basis, with people from all over the region were triggered by my paintings where the tree-of-life echoed across the ages. 

With Forever Connected I was also referencing the story of Moses and the burning bush - the bush on fire, but not consumed by it. This story is also shared by the three Abrahamic religions. 

Looking at Crossing the Rubicon and Forever Connected together, I see that fire also links them. This has come as a surprise observation. The fire in Crossing the Rubicon indicates the impossibility of turning back. I've written more about this in my post for Crossing the Rubicon


Earth's Pulse Oil on linen 80 x 200 2005

Space Net Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Earth's Pulse and Space Net , painted 12 years apart, aesthetically resonate. The Earth, indicated by the round shape in both paintings, hovers in a cosmic landscape. Various signals or vibrations transmit to and from Earth. In Earth's Pulse these 'transmissions' seem to be cosmic forces, rhythms of the universe. In Space Net I was thinking about signals netting the planet, ricocheting from node to node, and occupying space using node-satellites.

Space Net speaks to the increasing prevalence of surveillance and monitoring technologies. Whereas, Earth's Pulse speaks to our hearts - in fact, in Abu Dhabi a male visitor to my 2005 exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, stood in front of this painting for a long time. He was a huge man, dressed in white robes - I am not sure which part of the Middle East he came from. He turned to me and said "This painting reminds me of my mortality."

Maybe Space Net indicates a kind of planetary life support, or heart bypass scenario - metaphorically speaking?

This experiment in searching for resonances between paintings created years apart has been really interesting for me. One could say that the present is always evident in the past, but there are other thoughts too. I hope you have enjoyed this uncanny - perhaps curious -  journey. It will continue!


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