Friday, May 29, 2020


Drone Show oil on linen 122 x 152 cm 2020

This painting was sparked by a few thoughts. And, now that it is done, it is sparking a few more thoughts.

I called the painting Drone Show because the weaponise-able drones are in a formation, as if performing. There are three types of drones - Reapers, Predators and X47Cs. It's like a parade of drones! I choose the word parade deliberately, its connection with military parades acting as a provocation.

Perspective and Imaginational Metaveillance
As with many of my paintings, the viewer could be below the drones looking up at a wild cosmic sky, or the viewer could be above the drones, looking down upon a turbulent but beautiful landscape. Once this play with perspective is realised, the viewer can 'fly', in imagination, soaring above, below and around the drones. I love to play with perspective by inviting viewers to 'fly'. It turns a unique human kind of surveillance back onto the drones. I call this an act of 'imaginational metaveillance'. It is uniquely human because it involves imagination - something machine learning and artificial intelligence are not capable of - yet. 

I argue that imagination, or a simulation of imagination, are capabilities no-one should aspire to enable an AI or an AGI with. If this is an aspiration then its more about creating an artificial human rather than an artificial intelligence.   

Light Shows
I also called the painting Drone Show to reference displays of civilian drones programmed to perform mesmerising light shows. These kinds of performances are, for example, great substitutes for fireworks. Although the drones in these performances are pre-programmed they represent a basic form of drone swarming technology. A sophisticated drone swarm will have more autonomous functions - geo-locating, orienting, target identification and so on. While militarised drone swarming technology is still being developed in a number of countries, a drone swarm could, among other things, be armed, be used as a swarm of weapons, act as a surveillance net or scaffold signal transmission to other assets. Suddenly the idea of a 'light show' becomes more ominous.

Aesthetic Seduction
I have painted each of the drones in Drone Show with different colours. I have painted the drones in a pattern, a diamond pattern. This pattern, the colours and the wild beauty of the landscape/skyscape draw the viewer closer. Once close, the drones becomes more apparent. Why are they there? I am using aesthetic seduction to create a shock, to garner attention and to stimulate questions about drone technology. A militarised drone's function stands in sharp contrast to the beauty which is evident in the painting. This is a deliberate means of arresting the viewer's attention. I know many people are critically interested in drone technology, but I have noticed that many others are either in awe or indifferent to it. Both awe and indifference are potentially dangerous. Awe and indifference are risks.

Drone technology - civilian and militarised - needs our attention! 

One of my concerns is that civilian drone technology can potentially be militarised. Militarise-ability, by state or non-state actors is a vulnerability. 

Imagine a 'light show' of civilian drones that have been militarised by malign forces! 

On the not-so-happy note,

Other posts of interest:

Thursday, May 21, 2020


My Mum gave me my easel a long time ago.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation has meant I spend most days in my studio. As a painter, I am used to working alone, I am just not used to having day after day free of disruptions. At a time when the world is in a state of flux, fear and anguish, I feel lucky to have such an absorbing occupation.

When I am not in my studio I am at my office desk, writing; all kinds of writing - posts, grant applications, articles, proposals, emails. Oh, and yes - social media.

My studio is actually my garage. I paint with the garage doors up, mainly to disperse turpentine smells. However, I can see a lovely park across the road, and I can hear cyclists as they speed by. Snippets of conversations, shouted from cyclist to cyclist, sometimes intrigue me. Like when I hear bits about business deals, family antagonisms, holiday reports, problems with children or parents. It's all so tantalising. I often wonder about further details.

Of particular delight are the families out walking or cycling. And, the young children skate boarding up and down the street. I've even had people wave to me from the footpath, one couple asking if they could see what I was painting. And, a grandmother with two small children, totally unaware that I was nearby, having a long discussion about flowers in my front garden.

Isolation, for me, isn't necessarily isolating.

At the moment I am working on another new painting. And, yes it is another dronescape, a reflection on the accelerating use of drones for a plethora of reasons. I am thinking of calling the painting Drone Show. You'll get to see it soon.

I also have a self-portrait, which I am really very happy about. I am not sure when I will show it to you though. Keeping it up my sleeve for something!!!

In the meantime, here are some studio photos.

                                                            Working on Echoes Across Time
I often cut out shapes in paper to stick on my paintings, to work out how something might look. I ended up not painting an upside-down tree-of-life in Echoes Across Time.

Various resources - cut-outs, print-outs,scissors, containers, oil and coffee!

Cut-outs on the floor and me sitting to paint low down on the canvas.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Echoes Across Time Oil on linen 97 x 115 cm 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is occupying our thoughts, dominating the media and changing our lives. 

In the midst of thinking about 'pandemic drones' and surveillance, plus thinking about the concurrent and continuing development of militarised drones, such as the RAAF and Boeing joint Loyal Wingman drone project, I felt the need to return to a quieter contemplation.

The result of this quieter contemplation is Echoes Across Time. While it might appear quieter, I still had thoughts about the current pandemic in mind. These thoughts, however, took me on a journey across time to previous pandemics - the Bubonic Plague of the Middle Ages, early nineteenth century cholera pandemics, the Spanish Flu that traumatised people just after World War 1. Paintings, drawing and prints created by artists across time clearly depict the anguish of pandemic, the ravages of illness and the sorrow of death. 

Like war, disease is a thread that weaves its way through human history. But, life continues. Sometimes lessons are learnt, sometimes not. 

Echoes Across Time 
In Echoes Across Time a red tree-of-life stands as a beacon in a ambiguous landscape. This landscape could be time. Below the tree, a pale blue dot could be Earth. The inference is that life as we know it is dependent on our Earthly environment. Another pale dot hovers over a distant horizon. Is this our moon? Or, is it a mirror image of Earth, but without the tree-of-life. If so, why? Is it Earth before life appeared, or is it a future Earth, after life has disappeared? What secrets do the echoes across time reveal?

Human future depends on how we deal with climate change, pandemic and war. That they intersect needs attention. Perhaps listening for and hearing the echoes of the past, and the echoes that bounce back from the future, are worthwhile undertakings. I suggest that art might help! 


Tuesday, May 05, 2020


Heartbeats Gouache on paper 2020

This last week media outlets covered developments in the use of drones to help detect temperature and heart beat during the COVID19 pandemic. The drone is equipped with sensors that detect, collect and transmit the data. This technology may be used in Australia, and has been trialed or used overseas. Here is an ABC article with some of the details A 'pandemic drone' and other technology could help limit the spread of coronavirus and ease restrictions sooner. but at what cost? 

I am pleased to see the media ask But at what cost? In a recent post Walking The Dog In The Drone Age , also the title of a painting, I refer to an article by Dr. Michael Richardson   'Pandemic Drones': Useful for Enforcing Social Distancing, or for Creating a Police State? . He also asks questions about the cost of introducing technologies that may appear to be beneficial, but if normalised they may pose future threats associated with privacy, freedom, security and more.

In this post I have uploaded a few recent quick sketches that reflect upon temperature or heartbeat checking by drones equipped with sensors. I am interested in how the human body is imaged, how it is reduced to a site of detection, scanning. I wonder what other types of ailments, characteristics etc might also be detectable now or in the future. I wonder how the notion of detection will change how we view ourselves and others. Here, I note that detection is not vision. The machine cannot see, but it can scan, scope and detect. It cannot dream, imagine or be visionary, all human abilities that are considered as part of having vision.

Temperature Gouache on paper 2020

Drone Swarm Pencil on paper 2020

Drone Swarm depicts a collection of civilian drones working as a team ie: a drone swarm. The radiating lines depicts their surveillance signal arc. Mass checking of heartbeats, temperatures etc at for example a festival, sports event, a large city will likely require numbers of drones. This introduces the concept of drone swarming. This quick sketch draws upon my interest in exposing invisible aspects of contemporary technology - mainly their signals, and how signals create nets in the landscape. 

Detection pencil on paper 2020

These quick sketches may end up forming a whole painting or part of a painting. I've just got to let ideas sit before I launch into a new painting. Or rather, filter all the ideas that swamp my head! This time of isolation has meant that because I do not have normal daily distractions, my imagination is swimming with ideas.

* Please read my recent post regarding my painting Wingman. I've posted the painting below, but it would be great if you read the Wingman post too. Yes, there's Australia's Parliament House!
Today more news about the Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing collaboration to develop a drone that can act as a 'wingman' to other manned aircraft, and potentially other manned assets, has been released. I've added some links to my original post 26/4/2020.


Wingman Oil on linen 97 x 115 cm 2020