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About Me

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I paint, make collages and mixed media work. I write poetry. I reflect on the Tao.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

First Explorations in Texture Collage

I have started exploring the use of texture in collage .

These explorations reminded me of my early childhood in south west Queensland in a small town called Yuleba. They evoked memories of corrugated iron, weathered metal and wood. To bring this out a little more, I enhanced each image digitally, to place the images in context, to give a sense of horizon and depth.

At the same time, I made this collage, based on a composition by Elwyn Lynn:

"Yuleba" Torn stained papers and box cardboard, graphite and glue

This is Elwyn Lynn's work: 
which is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

 and a good short piece about his art and career can be found on the Robin Gibson Gallery site.

Following on from this, I am developing a series of such collages on painted surfaces to evoke the sense of objects weathered in the landscape. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Artist’s Art of Engagement


Due to the island’s relative isolation, accessible only by ferry until 1963, Fairweather was able to engage with the outside world— on his own terms.
Angela Goddard Ian Fairweather Late Works 1953–74, Queensland Art Gallery 2012                                

Every artist needs to set their own terms for engagement with the outside world. The shape and extent of that engagement will vary from artist to artist, but the crucial thing is to be able to control it so that it feeds, rather than erodes, the creative impulse.


The world has been weighing heavily on me of late: revelations about the power of corporate greed and totalitarian surveillance in the United States; the callousness of the Australian government towards asylum seekers, the usual parade of murder, rape, racist and religious violence and war.

Then I came across this brilliant article by Bernard-Henri Lévy, Why Contemporary Art Matters Now at the Daily Beast. This hit me right between the eyes:-

And God knows current events have moved me, will continue to move me, and move me each week in these columns.
But I also know that giving oneself up entirely to current events is a threat to the spirit.
To array oneself on the side of death and its accumulation of despair and hopelessness, or to stand on the side of life and the inner hopefulness that is always present in the work of the artist. 

Engaged how?

Every age produces art in the spirit of its times: is contemporary art merely entertainment based on techno-gimmickry? Is it the modern opium of the masses? Has it become, like sport, just one more distraction on the road between birth and death? Existential valium? Prolefeed?

So it is the 80s that we have to thank for all the exploitative sub-artistic product manufactured by Jeff Koons and his like, but also for the blatant domination of contemporary art by money and fashion (Christopher Allen Follow the Money The Australian Review June 15-16 2013)

And in the same issue

What is Koons if not an avatar, an ego overtaken by a whole system of market-induced appetites? (Sebastian Smee, Masters of invention: MoMA in Perth The Australian Review June 15-16 2013)

Maybe, to quote Alan Watts: We have become so tied up in our minds we have lost our senses.

Perhaps we should rethink the role of art and our relationship to it:

Ryckmans emphasises the high value placed on the work of the amateur in Chinese art. A professional artist was considered merely a craftsman, working with ‘slick fluency’ and “technical virtuosity” for reward. Conversely for the amateur, painting was seen as a contemplative act of self-cultivation and spiritual discipline.
Dael Allison Isolation and Creativity: Ian Fairweather’s 1952 Raft Journey,                                        

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reflecting on my art

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting on my art of late, spurred on by a sense of vague dissatisfaction and stagnation (the Sargasso Sea of the soul).  It seems to be some sort of turning point, which hopefully will spit me out into a new fresh current.  This is a bit of me talking to an imaginary audience and trying to make sense.

A great man once said something like this:
“The creative force cannot be captured in words. Oh, you can talk about it, but the only way to know it is to experience it.”

In a much smaller way, this is true for one type of art, which I call poetic or real art. It’s the only type of art which I am interested in. It’s the type of art which I have the intention to create. Whether I succeed or not (and I think it’s more often not), is an entirely different question.

So, you can infer from that, that I am not the kind of artist who has an idea, or selects a theme from a set of social or political issues and then sets about exploring those ideas or themes. If I wanted to do that, I would use the tools of the mind—words, concepts, notions, logic—not the tools of the senses, the emotions and the imagination.

I don’t, indeed cannot, begin with an idea; the idea comes later, much later, in the process, if at all. It’s part of the “talking about”, rather than the experiencing. In fact, to talk about any of my works of art, I need to distance myself from them and approach them as a stranger would. Out of that encounter and that experience, I might be able to talk about the work and distil some themes.

Actually, I have been doing quite a deal of reflecting on my art practice lately and I am starting to understand (as apart from know) that what interests me centres around the visceral, perceptual, emotive and imaginative encounter with the real. A work of art concentrates and distils that encounter down to its essence. By doing that, in Shelley’s words, “it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being.” (A Defence of Poetry) and enables us to re-encounter and re-experience the real world with refreshed senses.

Hence, the “themes” which interest me:

  • Ambiguity—how one thing can be seem as something else or several things at once
  • Transformation—how something can morph into another
  • Pareidolia—how images can be suddenly perceived from amorphous and vague shapes
  • Viscerality—how the body feels movement and position sympathetically with an image or object
  • Essence—how to reveal the virtue beyond the virtuality
  • Enigma, paradox, mystery—how to numb the mind so understanding no longer blocks knowing.
  • Transitional states—where something is neither what it was or what it will yet become, and yet is both
  • Flow—of time, of things, of events, of paint.
This is combined with an aesthetic sensibility which values asymmetry and organic order over geometric precision and constructed order; which values the poignant patina of age and wear over the flash gimmickry of the fashionable state-of-the-art; which values beauty, in all its naked terror, over mere prettiness and decoration.

As for subject matter—in the sense of what motifs—I am attracted to the figure and the face, landscapes and seascapes, and organic forms.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Musings on Art & Reality

Reality does not exist as something out there, separate from us. Reality is an embodied experience, existing in the intersection between senses, emotions and thoughts and the unknowable whatever-it-is that provokes these reactions.

The dharma of the true artist or poet is to serve and defend the imagination of the soul, the passions of the heart and the sensuosity of things.

Unlike the unreality of virtual reality (1), the true virtue of the imagination is to return us to the world in such a way that reality is experienced anew, through a new mediation of sense, emotion or thought.(2)

Dreams, poetry and art works should all broaden and deepen in meaning as we encounter them, not narrow into explanations.


(1) Here is the sort of insanity that needs to be attacked head on:-

Second Life is ..a metaverse, a digital world designed and built by users. essence, it’s another platform of reality.

(2) Of course, Shelley said much the same thing (only better):

Poetry turns all things to loveliness; it exalts the beauty of that which is most beautiful, and it adds beauty to that which is most deformed; it marries exultation and horror, grief and pleasure, eternity and change; it subdues to union under its light yoke all irreconcilable things. It transmutes all that it touches, and every form moving within the radiance of its presence is changed by wondrous sympathy to an incarnation of the spirit which it breathes: its secret alchemy turns to potable gold the poisonous waters which flow from death through life; it strips the veil of familiarity from the world, and lays bare the naked and sleeping beauty, which is the spirit of its forms.
All things exist as they are perceived: at least in relation to the percipient. “The mind is its own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” But poetry defeats the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions. And whether it spreads its own figured curtain, or withdraws life’s dark veil from before the scene of things, it equally creates for us a being within our being. It makes us the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos. It reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being. It compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine that which we know. It creates anew the universe, after it has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration. It justifies the bold and true words of Tasso—“Non merita nome di creatore, se non Iddio ed il Poeta” [none but God and the poet deserve the name of Creator—ed.].

On following dreams and success

What I am is my responsibility
What becomes of me—famous or not, wealthy or not, influential or not—is up to the world. It has nothing to do with me or who I am. It is unimportant and irrelevant to my being.

The people have dreams they must follow.
The people have goals they must achieve.
The people make plans.
The people schedule their tasks.
The people have full lives.
The people are so successful.

How is I cannot let go?
I would abandon dreams
and grow without purpose towards the sun.
I would cease planning
and float without purpose on the stream of life.

I would let go
like an autumn leaf,
carried willy-nilly by the wind,
spinning aimlessly to the earth.
I would be empty

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More Tao verses that wrote themselves

People conceal themselves.
Perhaps they are afraid to lose their good name.
People want sages who reveal themselves.
People want celebrity sages.

Dao sages cannot reveal themselves
because they do not conceal.

People like to have a lot.
Some people have a lot and give a lot.
Some people have a lot and give little.
Some people have little and give little.
Some people have little and give a lot.
Dao sages give everything.

How can they give everything?
Because they have nothing.

People are full—
full of themselves,
full of opinions
full of doubts
 full of certainties
full of learning.
Because they are full, they have lots to give.
Dao sages are empty and have nothing to give.

How can Dao sages give everything
and yet have nothing to give?

Because they undertake the giving that is empty,
the giving that is constant,
the giving non-giving of the Flow.

Monday, February 4, 2013

From the Notebook

Three pieces from the current Notebook that seem to intersect.

Retrieved from a comment posted on Google Plus:

I think that the notion of the artist as heroic (whether being true to her or his inner genius in the face of an indifferent world or leading the spiritually impoverished masses forward) is as seductive and dangerous for the artist, as the pursuit of fame, wealth or power. Seductive because it appeals to the ego and dangerous because it leads away from the essence of art making.

A Poem Fragment

Now Truth goes in disguise
dressed in the rags of lies.
He slips his arm around her waist:
Sweet Death, so innocent, so chaste

Tao writing that came of itself from the first line as I work on a "translation" of the Tao Te Ching for a new version of MyTao

All creatures, all living things, all things under heaven and earth live in the Flow.
Only humanity tries to go against the Flow.
Only humanity can create desires contrary to their natures.
Only humanity has the will to seek fulfilment of these desires.

What are the desires that are contrary to human nature?
Fame, fortune and power are the three desires that humanity creates.

Does the bird seek renown for her song?
Does the rose seek your praise for her beauty and her scent?
Does the mountain hope for your admiration at her height?
Wherefore comes the desire for fame, then?

Do the cattle work hard and long for money to buy grass?
Do the trees trade their fruits for gold and silver?
Do the rocks beat you up and rob you of your purse?
Wherefore comes the desire for fortune, then?

Do the dolphins carry arms to enslave the fish?
Does the might oak lord it over the saplings?
Does the volcano threaten to erupt so that you will yield to its will?
Wherefore comes the desire for power, then?

This is why we say
Humility, the gateway to fulfilment
Simplicity, the gateway to contentment
Compassion, the gateway to courage.

This is why we say:
abandon desires,
become empty,
act without effort
hold onto stillness.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dance with the butterfly

Rumours reached the ears of the Emperor that a great magician named Chuang-Tzu lived in the far mountains. He dispatched three of his courtiers, known for their cleverness and persuasiveness to find out if the rumours were true and, if so, to persuade Chuang Tzu to leave his hermitage and become part of the Emperor’s court.

After many months of weary travelling the three courtiers and their extensive retinue of servants and goods finally reached the humble mountain shack of Chuang- Tzu.

The first courtier approached Chuang Tzu. “Ho fellow”, he cried. “If you really are the great magician Chuang-Tzu, why do you hide yourself away in these mountains? The Great Emperor has heard of your magic. Come with me to the Court and you will be famous throughout the land. People from far away will know all about you and everyone will kow-tow to you. All you have to do is show me your magic. What say you, fellow?”

Chuang-Tzu replied not a word. He threw corn for the birds that gathered at his feet.
“What an idiot!” thought the first courtier and stamped off.

The second courtier approached Chuang-Tzu. “Reverend Sir”, he began. “I see you live the life of a poor man, here in your tiny hovel. Your clothes are made of rough peasant cloth. You eat soupy rice. You have no money. You could be living in the grandest palace. You could be clothed in the finest silks. You could be eating the delicacies of the Empire prepared by the finest chefs in the land. You could be showered with money by a grateful Emperor. All you have to do is show me your magic and come with me to the Court, dear sir.”

Chuang-Tzu replied not a word. He plucked a ripe peach from a nearby tree and gleefully bit into it.
“What a fool!” thought the second courtier and walked away.

The third courtier approached Chuang-Tzu. “Honoured and mighty Sir, in this small and remote place, far from the centre of the world, your great powers can have little effect. In the Emperor’s court you can influence the course of the world. You can change the destiny of people and nations. Just give me one small demonstration of your mighty and powerful art.”

Chuang-Tzu replied not a word. He sat by the stream, dangling his feet in the water and watching the water flow around the rocks.

“Clearly a charlatan, a faker!” thought the third courtier and walked away.

The three courtiers gathered together. “Complete numbskull” pronounced the first courtier, watching Chuang-Tzu as he examined a cocoon on the underside of a leaf.

“Total fraud,” announced the second courtier, watching Chuang-Tzu as he helped the butterfly free itself. “No magic at all.”

The third courtier replied not a word, watching Chuang-Tzu dance with the butterfly.