STATEMENT OF AESTHETIC INTENTION 2018
In my current work I find myself drawn to a dialogue with both Nature and landscape though an investigation of the ways in which forests offer both a metaphorical site for projection and literal location for socio-cultural imaginaries. I approach this through a question: How do we construct a vision of the other from the shadow of ourselves?
When I think about forests, I think about the long and often violent cultural histories attached to those lands. I also think about Nature, as it exists beyond our human intervention. In its sublime otherness, supposedly devoid of consciousness, Nature often appears strangely animated. I can only suggest that it is my consciousness that I project onto these vaulted forest ceilings. It is my mental pilgrimage into the wild. One might say that forests are a primary model for ‘Virtual Space.' This confluence of geography, personal narrative and cultural history elicits the sense that we are seeing an altogether different place. A place that is fluid and permeable and where temporality collapses.
Forests are striking in their ability to hold many invisible histories simultaneously. Yesterdays family picnic on the site of an ancient burial mound or long forgotten massacre would seem to belie the gravity of the locale. And yet, is it not just a continuation of ritual, a deepening of myth? We don’t have to dig very far past convention before we reach myth and ritual. Nowhere is this made more manifest than in historical landscape painting.
Cutting across so much of contemporary art's interrogation of systemic racial violence is an unacknowledged truth – what unites us all is a shared biological history where aggression and violence are deeply ingrained.
I have long been involved with the shadow side of experience. As a child of 7 I was attending art classes at the local library in the small Australian town where I grew up. On one of the earliest childhood museum trips I overheard some adults ridiculing the work of Malevich. I felt a visceral jolt and an immediate sense that there was some strange power at work in these paintings. I feel that same visceral jolt when I think of forests. I have never sought to make work that labored under the same contentions as Malevich but have attempted to find something of the occult tension between image, self and viewer. The viewer of images plunges into the flickering realm of fantasy and possibility. This space of flux and ambiguity may still afford us the most potential for transcending outdated and stolid cultural imaginaries.
How does an artist achieve a successful reification of a complex projected reality into a static image? Ultimately, I must step outside of the dialectical, moral, political constraints and into a liminal space beyond the frames of technology (and back into the woods) to make a painting that evokes something profound within the viewer.
We drag our biological and cultural imaginary around with us like a tail. As artists we meet in this central position, the work.
STATEMENT OF AESTHETIC INTENTION 2016
The Hallowed Sky
“The world offers many possibilities for different sensory universes, which support very different interpretations of the world’s significance”
This work constitutes an investigation of the intersection between the phenomenology of experience and the technical aspects of contemporary, digitized multi-layered daily life. A layering of experience that encompasses our actual geographical location, our real-time experience, memory and the digital realm that occupy our consciousness simultaneously.
Technology such as hammers or supercomputers extend our capacity as humans, they also challenge what it means to be human.
This thesis would position Art as a technology that both enables an extension of the senses (particularly sight) and extends our capacity to make more complex meaning of the world.
The human body is in the world, not as separate discrete object inserted in the world but of the world, part of the fabric of atoms. The world as the body perceives it arouses a type of carnal reflection within the body, and this reflection sometimes escapes from the body in language, images and fantasy.
Vision that is to say ‘seeing’ is not just something that happens in our eyes. Anecdotally it may be said that seeing happens with the whole body.
Our private consciousness, our point of differentiation happens because we are mobile creatures experiencing the world from unique temporalities, obtaining different overall defining perspectives and understanding of the world. When the human interacts with another human a multiplicity of consensus occur about vision, hearing, location and meaning. A sort of folding together of physics, psychology and biology.
Most people, when they think of vision, experience it as unproblematic. Even mundane. Vision is experienced as a taking in of objects. A catalogue of the world as comprised of discrete facts. Artistic practice calls into question this experience of vision as mundane.
Vision as it has been thoroughly described by Arnheim and Hoffman each in their own way, is a consensus by community; an inescapable cult of visual perception. To be exiled from this community it to be thrust quite literally into darkness. Blind people ‘see’ by other means. They exist in the neighboring cohabitative community of auditory perception. Our senses function as defining points for our identity. Our eyes and ears ‘go out’ into the world and offer us opportunities for transactions with the world around us. They create the amalgam of interiority and exteriority that is utterly intrinsic to a particular individual in a particular temporality.
What we call visual thinking is the internal dynamics of an emergence. What emerges may sometimes be termed as art; it is the presentation and embodiment of inner images. The viewer of such images is plunged into the imagined flickering realm of fantasy. Though this ‘art-flux’ often mimics the aberrations of vision; such as the blur of distance and movement, the fleeting reflections, the distortions in curved reflective surfaces it is this space of possibility, flux and ambiguity that afford us the most potential for transcending democratized, stolid, perspectival vision.
The true escape happens when the artist-maker draws from their personal interior reflections of the world and makes visible that distinct personal vision. To apprehend the interior of another human, a domain of physical and mental privacy is to be invited to know more fully both our world and another human. To transcend communal mundane vision is to connect and meet the world in a new light.
And yet, art is not a set of sensorial co-ordinates but a topic.
A common misconception is that Art is found within the object itself. When in fact the Art is the thing we cannot see. Art ‘happens’ it is an event that occurs within the viewer. Similarly the ‘meaning’ of the world we apprehend in brute vision is not the object itself. The world arises within us as reflections of self in relation to the world. In much the same way, Art arises within the viewer as reflections from the Artist or maker. An instance of transformation; of active engagement, which brings an aspect of our world into focus, it reveals what is manifestly absent.
Artists and philosophers such as Merleau-Ponty affirm the primacy and power inherent in painting’s ability to mobilize vision as the continuous instantaneity of illumination of the environment. In “Eye and Mind” Merleau-Ponty establishes vision and painting as inextricably embedded in the human body, as opening onto the minds lived experience. The primal twins Vision and Painting are joined by another primal entity known as Temporality. Together these triplets constitute almost all of what it is to be in this world, if we are all artists. And we are, in so much as all of us to some extent do that occult thing that painting does. Which is to borrow Merleau-Ponty’s term for the occasion whereby we absorb our world, we take it into our ‘flesh-selves’ and remake the world in our own internal language. It’s a subjectivity contingent on our being in the world in relation to the fabric of atoms we are a part of. We are not separate from the world. We are returned to the world every single time we open our eyes. We are thrown into the map of perspective that the Renaissance drew for us, but our body doesn’t care for these flimsy models. Our body sees but one dimension, the body as simultaneous interjection of vision and the act of being seen by the world.
Like Merleau-Ponty we may invoke the paintings at Lascaux in order to underscore the depth to which this primacy may be post-dated. Early humans stepped beyond the monumental borders of their bodies when they picked up that ocher and attempted to transcribe the internal experience of perception. The act itself; the machinations of painting, has remained largely intact since humans addressed themselves to cave wall. The urge to transcode experience as tangible output is to create another world.
Technology has flowed by us in the ever-increasing surges of hysteria of invention and artifice. But none of these devices not the hammer nor the iPhone can compete with the primal leap from the primal lyrical body to the fluid paint. Those first animals on the cave walls contain the cognitive DNA not only of all subsequent paintings but also much of our understanding of how a body perceives itself being in the world.
My paintings and videos address the tension between the tangible human everydayness and the digital virtual realm. And reminds us what it is to inhabit a body, to be in relationship to other humans and the intimate commonalities of our experience.
2014 Mission Statement
As a consumer of images, video, written texts and advertising I digest many ‘stories’ on any given day. I experience many of these stories as calls to action. - worthy causes that demand my attention as I peruse my algorithmically determined feeds on Facebook, Twitter, et al. There are Peruvian tribes at the mercy of international oil companies, children not only playing with guns but buying them, "The War on Terror," "The War on GMO foods,"…tragedy, disease, famine, mass extinction, genocide, suicide, toxic food and the poisoning of our planet.
And yet, paid advertising also clamors for my attention and I’m offered the opportunity to shop for discount designer sandals, rarefied face cream and yoga clothing.
What does the content and nature of my feed say about my character? Are algorithmically determined feeds a mirror to the soul? This morally ambivalent algorithm of pseudo egalitarian programming with its inherent lack of humanity is feeding me a cocktail of high and low programming designed to do what exactly? Entertain me? Capture my attention and desire?
I’m interested in the strategic invisible algorithms of technological architecture that feeds us stories of such gravity and magnitude alongside paid advertising and celebrity watch style programming with no apparent regard for moral hierarchy. Technology as both savior and executioner of our collective humanity.
In addressing these issues in our culture, I find it necessary to reference war journalism, photography and publicly posted personal archival photography. It strikes me these photos represent something more authentic than branded media and that dichotomy is something I’m interested in exploring through my artistic practice.
2012 Mission Statement : The paintings from the 'Intimate Commonalities' series strive to examine the commonalities of our personal histories. If there is one unifying element to my work thus far it would have to be ‘the gaze’, in all its forms. About 20 years ago I read some graffiti on a wall that said “return of the gaze” I’ve been struck by the power of this statement and have been trying to get to the sublime core of it’s meaning ever since. One could say it’s my “cellar door”.
2009 Mission Statement:
These paintings are part of a new series of work where I explore the intersection of figurative and abstract painting through the experience we all share of inhabiting bodies that are looked at by both ourselves and others.
For me ‘To see’ is always to see from a body that is both an object for others and a subject for myself - a unity that is both implicit and vague at the same time. Most of us experience this feeling when confronted with a mirror. We see before us not an object, but an intertwining of vision, movement and object that somehow we animate. This intertwining is, I believe, where abstract and figurative meet.
In this work I photograph staged scenes where I place myself in relation to distorted mirror images and inflatable pool toys. I then paint these photographs as accurately as possible in line with the figurative tradition. The resulting work, which attempts to remain true to figurative accuracy, has the strange quality of being both abstract and figurative at the same time.
2006 Mission Statement:
Sacred and Doomed
This latest series of work grew out of a long period where I was working somewhere in between figurative and abstract. In that work I explored what I call internal landscapes. I borrowed liberally from the scientific literature images that are meant to classify and break down bodies and earth into neat little components. I allowed these images to intermingle and feed from one another. To grow and intertwine.
This latest series finds me returning to many of the same themes but in the more classical language of portraiture and landscape. The body on canvas as representation of self. The body as sacred and doomed object among many objects in an unforgiving world.
When I first moved to NYC from Australia I found the anonymity and freedom invigorating. I also felt isolated and shipwrecked, I sometimes felt like I was riding a wild beast, trying to hold on. It can take a lot of energy to stay grounded here. To stay connected to place.
These works are a reflection upon that notion, that of being removed and alienated from one’s country of origin. For me, there is a strange presence when deep within the Australian landscape. This presence in turn impresses and implants itself deep within the Aussie psyche. I am awed, humbled but ultimately empowered by the forces of a landscape, which combine extreme violence and relentless cruelty with a soothing rustling gentleness and acceptance of all man's attempts at manipulation.
My attachment and connectedness to this power remains strongly with me in New York City where the landscape has become shaped, hardened and predictable, and strangely has come to dominate its creators. Still, these days I feel more firmly planted. People, the millions of people replace landscape and in a sense they are the landscape.
These works find people in intimate yet strange moments and places. Bodies caught in the act of falling, flying, reaching, dying, of coming unstuck. I'm using these motifs as a vehicle for discussing human emotion, in particular 'attachment'. Attachment to one another, to place and memory.
2006 Mission notes :
The modern world has a hard time viewing the body as anything other than a
biological machine. Landscape in this view is simply a resource to be put
into the great global capital steam engine. There is no poetry for most
people today. Earth and bodies are cogs in a large for profit enterprise.
Death is something that simply gets in the way. An item on the expense
However, from a philosophical perspective the body is our opening on to the
world. This opening is not something that can be understood in any way using
the metaphor of a machine. Consciousness, self awareness, life is not
something that can be fine tuned and made to work efficiently.
Painting, because it in many ways mimics this opening on to the world (out
of nowhere comes a world), by its very nature challenges the body as
machine, the landscape as fuel.
My interest in landscape, the body, death is at bottom an intuitive grasp
that these are all things that cannot be understood by science or the great
for profit enterprise of capitalism and technology. Death, the landscape,
bodies are poetic by nature...
There is also something about these three elements, body, landscape and
death, that links them...bodies return to the landscape when they die.
However, while alive they live inside them...landscape as mother.
But death is everywhere and always in the landscape and on the horizon reminding us of that to which we
return...I think I’m trying to capture that element of life that reminds
us that death is always everywhere present.
When you get a shiver the irish have a saying. "Someone just walked across
2005 Mission Notes: (see - 'All is not lost" painting in Graveyards portfolio)
Recently I was camping with friends in a relatively remote area in South West Queensland, Australia.
Late afternoon had fallen and the sun had sunk below the tree line leaving us to frolic in the purple light of dusk, alone, safe and surrounded by trees. I noted that the trees looked like very tall pale beings receding into and yet illuminating the night.
I tried to listen to the night, but instead of hearing it, I felt myself being watched. I felt it (the bush) listening. The ghostly silver bark of the trees, the last wash of color fading from the dusty green of the leaves, the cool air, the snap of small branches underfoot, all grass, saplings, shrubs and animals listened gently to us.
I felt self-conscious for all of us, for in me there are the traces of my ancestors, I am part of the European history that met Native history and ploughed right over it.
In those moments of historical awareness and guilty feelings I realized that our dark and mysterious history claims many players, has many scenes, is complex, perplexing and has no ending. Dark events, a silent witness and the passage of time.
I am fascinated by the darker side of recent Australian history particularly certain iconographical 'events' (be they myth or fact) that helped to shape my understanding of the natural world and my place within it. It’s not so much the events themselves but the fact that they took place in the bush – by accident or design?
It comes as no surprise that criminals use the cover of darkness and tree density to conceal certain horrific acts. But it is interesting to note that despite human involvement the bush appears to conceal certain clues and objects -a shred of cloth, a strand of hair, a partly buried human femur bone -fragments of lives extinguished. The bush keeps these objects, fondles them, hides them and sometimes gives them back. It is the passage and hand of time that returns these objects, perhaps? And in doing so delivers to us the possibility of discovering, dark and secret histories.
And yet there is one common element present in all of these secret histories. It is the long and spindly arm reaching into the crime scene photograph in the background. It is the rotting ground cover and peat moss that conceals a body. It is the dust on the boots of some man. It is footprints, fossils, and ancient bones. It is the disappearing bush walking trails. It is the air, the ocean and it is the land. And all of it is deeply personal, beautiful and weirdly melancholic.
2003 Mission Statement : These paintings illustrate the enigma of the body. Not the body as an object or organism that poses questions for science. But the body as an experience we live, a unique opening onto a world that possesses us more than we possess it. These works are meant to suggest that the experience of embodiment demands something more than what science teaches us about bodies. Rather than viewing the body as a kind of carnal steam engine that can be made more and more efficient, these works return to a place where bodies are lived. And where they are lived is in the past, present and future. In other objects and other people. I refer to these paintings as 'intestinals'. Gut sectors, crossections, plants and viscera sewn together on canvas in paint. Reassembled cross-sections of my emotional life frozen in flux. In creating these works I sneak glances at my emotional landscape and paint what I see (feel) in a visual idiom whose narrative character’s consist of colour, matter and form. This idiom is intricately circuitous and involute yet strangely literal at times. For example I might use a large red pulpy mass to invoke lovesickness, devotedness or obsession. A coil of vines, veins and small intestines might mean complicated neurotica, or recurring guilt. And a more complex form or system of forms might be a combination of all of the above emotional elements -its meaning shifting as its surroundings grow. Sometimes recognizable yet unrelated forms or objects will evolve spontaneously within the painting. I like to think of this as my unconscious memories or fantasy bubbling to the surface to speak though the incidental mark-making process. Discovering these visual trinkets is like tasting one’s own blood for the first time: shocking and wonderful. So I leave these trinkets in the work for others to find and decipher and imbue with their own meaning. Thereby allowing these works to tell other peoples stories; or reflect other people’s emotional state, no matter how bloody, shocking and wonderful.