Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I've been in the work zone since I last wrote here - I've made the work for my upcoming exhibition 'nervousSYSTEM' @ Gallerysmith in North Melbourne Nov 10 - Dec 10 2011.
Here is my artist statement to go with this work:

This past winter found me in a frightening place. My own body, the bodies of others, even landscapes I treasure – under attack; Illness, injury, the threat of death. Events demonstrated that eventual confrontation with tragedy is inescapable. Tragedy is essentially a part of life, just as predation belongs in life. 

My artists’ task then was to find visual equivalence for the experience inside my body; the nuanced throb of adrenaline and fright, pulsing into the tiniest branches of my nervous system, a deep primal anxiety of annihilation persisting in my psyche and expressed as the surge and flutter of hair triggered impulses- escape! survive!

Making the work, I've understood how important, how truly vital is the art of metaphor. The act of creating these images, of taking dried up twigs and desiccated straw and forming them into pictures, has made a space for fear in my life. I found myself shifting into a new acceptance of its presence.

And witnessing the delicate and responsive light sensitivity of the paper I soften and find compassion for the depth of my feelings, accept that sensitivity must amplify sorrow, and I hear how the heart calls for a willing vulnerability and the courage to feel.

As this process metaphorically revitalised the plants, so my feelings have been transformed.

I've learned how, under cover of darkness, hope grows back, forging its way through tiny capillaries, and developing tender new roots.

titles in order below

Friday, August 26, 2011


I really like the writing of Michael Pollan in his book 'The Botany of Desire'. He describes 'the zone' of creative consciousness I've been pondering thus:

" What Nietzsche is describing is a kind of transcendence - a mental state of complete and utter absorption well known to artists, athletes, gamblers, musicians, dancers, soldiers in battle, mystics, meditators and the devout during prayer. Something very like it occurs during sex too, or while under the influence of certain drugs. It is a state that depends on losing oneself in the moment, usually by training a powerful depthless concentration on One Big Thing (or in the Eastern tradition, One Big Nothing)."                      

He also said " psychoactive plants are bridges between the world of matter and spirit, or, to update the vocabulary, chemistry and consciousness."

And this is complemented by another author Lorin Roche in 'Whole Body Meditations' who states 'There are times on the quest when what we need is the restful immersion in total darkness." He did not mean the darkroom, but it fits.

This is the appeal for me of the blackness in a photogram. In a world of overwhelming sensation, multiplicity and complexity; darkness is the antidote, the calm meditative space of emptiness to which I aspire. Emptiness is paradoxically also wholeness.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


So I've progressed the work for Impact a bit and got a branch printed, the next thing is to use these prints as 'negatives' and print through them to make the inverted image. I can do this so easily in Photoshop and post it here, as you see;

- but actually doing it in the darkroom requires long slow exposures and followed by a hard days slog over a chemical tray.  I find myself avoiding getting in there to do it. This has not been helped by the glorious spring sunshine, the vigour of growth in the vegie garden seems so much more urgent.

Much darkroom work is hard yakka.  It is a portal into a parallel world where  things are strangely different. White paper turns black and blackness is evidence of light.   You have to learn differently and in the darkroom, you do some things by feel. You get comfortable working this way and skilled over time. There is the thrill of seeing the print bloom in the developer bath, followed by the tedium of fixing and washing for hours and hours after what was originally a very short exposure time.

The work is always an interplay of constructive planning and chance.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


These prints have been difficult in their execution - wrangling large branches into the darkroom and leaving enough room to work is an achievement in itself. There are a few issues with the light lock since I re-clad the building and some fogging occurred across one print - a blow given how long the set up and processing took. No time to re-do it on that day.

The thing that takes the most time is the washing. Printing onto a thick fibre based paper means that the prints have to be washed for hours to remove all traces of the chemicals and ensure archival stability for the long haul. The colder the wash water the longer the time extends. In mid winter my hands ache from the work of constantly agitating and turning the prints to keep the water circulating. This all happens outside using water that is gravity fed from a bush dam a kilometre away - it would not be possible to wash with clean tank water, not only because you would quickly run out of supply but also because the water pump would burn out if it were made to work for consecutive hours.

Anyway - I had rationalised that I only had the resources to print one of the branches I 'sketched', but when it came to it I could not resist printing all three as they each had qualities I liked. It will be interesting to see where things go from here.

Monday, July 25, 2011


I have been having a wonderful time working  with Melbourne artists Ros Aitkins and Marian Crawford on a collaborative project for IMPACT 7, the international printmaking conference hosted by Monash University in September 2011.

Our methods―etching, photogram and wood engraving―have historically been employed to record the discovery of botanical flora. Australia's settlers used illustration and classification to order their knowledge of the plants and animals in the new land. 

Our mediums follow this artistic tradition, but  flag a modern predicament in which the disappearance rather than discovery of plant life  is marked and noted. 

We have focused on three particular Manna Gum trees, Eucalyptus viminalis, growing within a few miles of my studio. They are remnants of the old forest, which have somehow escaped the mass culling, and then the ringbarking by stock. Their lives are marginal and lonely and I feel awe and sadness when I pass or visit them. 

Tonight I visited the closest tree, to commune and choose a branch that I can print as a photogram. I selected three branches that had potential and brought them back to the studio to photograph. 

These photographs help me 'see' the way my images might be finally composed. Taking various pictures is the equivalent of making sketches of where things are located. This is  helps enormously to narrow the choice.  I only have the time and resources to print one. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Rain; all day and night. Flooded in. Its so wet here that the worms have no choice but to surface and lie stretched out on the dirt road, totally vulnerable, just trying the breathe. They are all over the road, maybe thousands of them, a bonanza if the the birds are watching, but they're not, they're all fluffed up in the trees with their heads tucked under their wings. 

This new 'water' work is a study for something bigger that I'm currently putting together in the studio for an exhibition to be called 'nervousSYSTEM', showing at GALLERYSMITH in November 2011.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


'Godlike Harmony' is the brand name of a set of cheap Chinese artist brushes I have. I love the name, for the way it infers smooth progress across paper and creative flow; that slipstream to a wonderful place where time relinquishes its hold and everything is animated and in dynamic relationship. 

You notice from this place  that connections previously unperceived become visible, extraordinary new meanings emerge via their strange and unpredictable juxtaposition. All assumptions are up for review. Perhaps this approaches  'beginners mind'; it is undeniably an opening to the energy of the unconscious. 

This is the central experience of art making for me - getting into the 'zone' where I can 'play', working with the elements I've assembled - surrendering the narrative that I've  followed closely during the hunt for the individual objects, extracting them from their original context and eventually allowing them to come to rest on the surface of the paper,  finding their own right and true location within the structure of the image.

This is the way I can 'collaborate' with the universe;  making images that, in a moment of exposure,  define the energy of the world.