Second post

Second Post

Sometimes I find myself working with patches of abstract paint that originate with visible textures of bark, twigs against their shadows, leaves against sky, leaf litter, shines going behind dark objects, etc etc.

They decree their own colours.

Lines and volumes begin to extend in all directions. The origin is soon forgotten and the white stallion of reckless adventure sweeps me away.

Theme and variation games ignite.

A matrix spreads; pregnant with possible images.

This stuff gets reworked and I play with the embryonic images.

If they intrigue me enough I delineate them a bit clearer; regardless of relevance or logic or context, yet with reckless confidence.

Even if the white stallion wanders into another paddock.

(Who’s painting this stuff? Me or God?)



In Cerulia my original intention was to take a tiny native terrestrial orchid Caladenia cerulia and magnify it; looking deeply into it.

I was hoping I could make it emit life forces and astound me.

I wanted lots of sky, to try to suggest some sort of kinship or origin for the blue of the orchid. Also I wanted to suggest the season of early spring.

What else is happening in Big Bush at this time?

While I was working we were visited by quite a lot of Swift Parrots, so they were included.

(They migrate every winter from Tasmania feeding on nectar and pollen from the eucalyptus blossoms. Swift Parrots are very rare these days. They breed in Tasmania, and their breeding habitat is being destroyed by Tasmania’s forest industries.)

click here to read how Swift Parrots ruined my life$FILE/2005%20Swift%20Parrot%20Newsletter.pdf

The owls and the shinglebacks insinuated themselves. A lot of the painting is that matrix stuff done with thin paint and shabby, streaky, dotty, slitherydithery brushwork. I began organizing the blue sky into rivers and canyons…



Falling Leaf.

Another job where I was hoping to create a moment of awakening by contemplating an object. This was an unhung Wynne Competition entry, about 2000.

(In my early days I was hung in the Wynne Competition every time….about 12 times, even after I left Sydney and my decline accelerated.)

So it began with a large Cecropia leaf I picked up on a track and brought back to my studio in the Amazon. It was nearly a metre across. I had the notion of it falling, about to alight.

Eventually it seemed to have fallen into a stream and was settling on the bottom. Birdlike orchids, lichenlike fishes took up residence and a throatlike sunset happened.

It became a landscape of organlike entities. Very Amazonian. I worked on this one for many frenetic months.



Goanna Geisha.

This was something that started well but we became becalmed. The white stallion had become a donkey.

Years later I brought it out and began frigging around with it. I allowed, nay encouraged images to suggest themselves. They seemed to begin as body parts thrown together. A grasstree becomes a waterfall; the rear end of a bull reverses into view; lanterns and cages dangle themselves. And one morning there she was, her little teeth gnashing as she marshaled her invasive tresses.

I was very happy to preside over this apparently uncontrolled/choreographed fiasco of unhingedness.




Isfahan Quandong.

Quandongs are a feature of Big Bush (where I live).

Dabs of violent red in the dusky dusty greybrowngreen chalkiness.

Another close scrutiny seemed called for.

This job went through several “finishes”, none of them quite happy. It’s really three or four paintings on top of each other; but the big quandong is still there. Eventually it became an astral traveling machine landing near the portal of the great Lutfullah mosque of Isfahan.



One response

  1. David

    Beth alerted me to this latest post. My wife and I have been recently doing some travelling in NE US – and have had visitors since from the UK and France – both ways of seeing oneself (the cultural dimension) and one’s own familiar landscape afresh – MOMA/the Guggenheim/The Frick Collection/The Metropolitan Museum of Art/The Museum of Natural History/The Museum of American Indians/The Cloisters/The Brooklyn Museum/etc. The spiritual dimension of societies as represented in art and “craft” – and the marvellous dioramas of the natural animal/animal and plant kingdoms of the Museum of Natural History – every diorama as richly representational in the realistic sense as any of your work in this marvellous digitally-received gallery. All of this lets us see our oneness not only with nature – as you so brilliantly do – the paintings and your gentle word-poetry descriptions – but with each other as human beings around this tiny globe we call the Earth. I was looking at the lovely late 1920s paintings in the Children’s Chapel in the crypt beneath St James (the Francis Greenway work in the time of Lachlan Macquarie) just last week. It was open – a rarity. My English cousin was trundling a small suitcase behind him till his train to Adelaide. I suggested he go and look at the painting. He seemed reluctant. I said I would look after his bag while he took the few steps down into the crypt area. I find it difficult to understand what happened next – but suffice to say he left his bag (which promptly fell over – he lifted it back up as though this were my fault) and went down to the Chapel. I ignored the moment. Look for a structure/something being built – I suggested. He couldn’t see what I was speaking about and came out to where I was waiting in a not-happy mood. (What have I done?) On one of the walls is a pylon and a criss-cross of iron girding reaching upwards – it’s the Sydney Harbour Bridge – I explained – trying to lighten the tension. (Ethel ANDERSON and the Turramurra Wallpainters Group finished it in 1929 – a representation of the children’s Christmas carol “I saw three ships” – in the Sydney Harbour setting.) Go back and have a look I urged – thinking he might wish to see it – especially since he is a railway man (a true train-spotter ex-British Rail man) – but no – no interest at all! Not even in the beauty of the artwork itself. Sometimes our own delight in such things can’t be conveyed to others looking for the more prosaic and my motives were clearly read in a way beyond my understanding – and I have taken friends here to introduce them to the Chapel on a good dozen occasions. Later over coffees in the OLd Mint nearby I smoothed over those troubled waters as best I could. Later the same day – in charge of the 20-year old daughter of an old friend from the 1970s in France – herself just arrived on a working holiday visa – I pointed out from the train to Newcastle some wattle trees (mimosa in France) – told here there were over 600 varieties. Mentioned how I had seen lots of mimosa around her region (Six-Fours La Plage – near Toulon) in the 1970s. That very night one of her friends in France sent an e-mail: Just that day she had sat up alert in one of her classes as the teacher explained that the mimosa of France was not indigenous to Europe – but had arrived in the 19th century from Australia. I imagined a part of that grand exchange (not always grand effect, however) of trees and plants which went on around the world in those times.

    I’ve got away from commenting directly on your work David – apologies. I read your essay on How Swift Parrots “ruined” your life. The key to your life of environmental commune – as it were. Again thank-you for your writing, for your art.

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