On show in the group exhibition The Solace of Grass with Barbara Penrose and Sally Cox at the Metcalfe Gallery, Brisbane Institute of Art, March 11th to 22nd 2023

Liken wall installation 2.7 x 6m

For this show, gestated over a couple of years, most of the work came about in the months preceding the exhibition in a newly built, rural studio on a property we had moved to a year before.

The paintings evolved from images found in a ring-bound 1940s publication: New Photography – Lighting and Composition by Bruno of Hollywood. It’s a manual in the classic era of pin-up imagery, female nudes formally composed, exquisitely lit objectifications, set pieces with allusions to classical sculpture, clear lines, sharp edges, complicated shadows.

I had picked it up years before but couldn’t begin to see a way of using them until the move into a natural environment. Likening the pixels and film texture of 1940s print photography to the granular texture of rock, cypress bark and rhythmic vegetation around the studio made me look into the photographs as a space of granular rhythms playing ambiently around the pictorial image.

Liken #37
310 x 410 mm casein and acrylic on ply

The regimented structures of repetitive pixels woven into the ‘noisy’ static of celluloid film lead me into spaces akin to those I find walking among lichen covered granite and scratchy-leafed melaleuca. Both the photographic and bush spaces form an austere screen in which narrowly insistent patterns relieve or are provoked by chaotic entanglements.

Liken #5
430 x 385 mm casein and acrylic on printed cotton

The work of an applied artist develops the body as an instrument (the copper-plate engraver’s wrist and burin, the textile weaver’s arm and shuttle, tapestry fingers) while there is a kind of static energy develops between historical DNA mixing with the moment of making.

Liken #2
425 x 375 mm casein and acrylic on printed cotton

Many of these paintings evolve from a transcribed figure or scene which collapses into a play of marks transforming the painting from figure-ground to fluxing space in which the figure’s presence is largely geometric. The cloud-like form of the installation becomes a kind of story board of stilled scenic details.

Installation detail

In early expressions of the erotic in archaic Greek poetry is the perception/experience of a form of static interference.

Liken #26
320 x 320mm acrylic on primed linen

In the space of the erotic the body is a psychedelic concept; it swells and disperses; is mutable; is in a constant state of flux. The erotic space is filled with static electricity as the lines of desire move from lover to beloved and return to the lover transformed.

Liken #30
150 x 210 MM casein and acrylic on ply

This experience of static interference presents a charged space where edges are all important if barely discernible and where things come into focus and vanish again.

Liken #31
310 x 250 mm casein and acrylic on ply

But I return to the painting as Sappho in her poem fr31, the poet is one point in a triangle of relationships – she, swooning takes in the man across the way and is returned to herself a collapsing, emotionally charged and changed figure, or seems to be:

Primary Cause 180 x 120mm acrylic on unprimed linen on ply
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Bending the Light

This work is part of a joint exhibition of paintings by Barbara Penrose, Sally Cox and myself at the Metcalfe Gallery, Brisbane Institute of Art on show from 31st October to 11th November 2020.

Yland Furl and Refraction
synthetic polymer on wood panels

These paintings were made near a creek and river confluence where water and light eddy and refract; they were made during the recent epidemic when the city roads and bridges that usually flow faster than the water and isolate some reaches of the creek as islands, went quiet.

Yland Furl and Refraction
Synthetic polymer on wood panels

In this light the upside-down vision of the world reflected under a moored boat appears more real than the spoiled world above it, and indicative of fragile tensions.

synthetic polymer on woven polyester

Up until a light beam was bent through a lens and the spectrum made visible, seeing the light was an interior metaphor, a light from God. 
The ability to split light was discovered at the time of huge social and cultural splintering with civil war marking the times.

The Splintering (after Abraham Bosse)
2 panels, synthetic polymer on woven polyester

Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan was an attempt to develop ideas of social order.  I became interested in the way light as optics is forced into play with light of a religious nature in the illustration for the famous frontispiece of Leviathan. 
In the image, the figure of the Sovereign/Leviathan looms over a landscape and township, his body is made up of countless tiny figures from the emptied town – it was a new form for an ancient idea of co-opting the many into one.

Synthetic polymer on woven polyester
Bending the Light
synthetic polymer on woven polyester

Hobbes based his idea for the image of the leviathan on an optical device, a kaleidoscope in which fragments of a group of faces drawn on a paper and representing a range of citizenry, crystallize into the single image of the sovereign. The optical instrument presented images of things unable to be seen by the naked eye, and at the time in the mid 1600s, a new way of processing mystery and contradictions at play in the world.

Ether, Chimera
Sumi ink on suede contact, silk print on wood panel

Hobbes’ frontispiece presents to me an image in which esoteric symbolism and physical representation are tightly entwined. The ‘artificial’ figure of the Leviathan is a trick of the light, seen through a window cautiously opened and quickly closed for fear of a storm.

synthetic polymer on Linen
Installation view 1
Installation view 2

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Pattern Boat Transformation

Lampedusa 2020
63 x 55 cm
Lithograph, monoprint, dry point and relief print on Rives tinted etching paper

While I worked on this print  time seemed to slow, we were emerging from an epidemic, traffic in the normally busy area of the Breakfast Creek studio very quiet, people walking, boats reflecting, a calm but unstable energy.

A book I’d read last year had left an impression on me and I’m reminded of it as I draw the nearby boats.

It’s a scene described in Emma Jane Kirby’s 2016 book The Optician Of Lampedusa, an Italian navy diver enters a migrant boat sinking in the waters of the Mediterranean:… You see, they were all holding hands. There had been a young woman, the diver said, dressed in a very white shirt and black trousers who was jammed against the cabin stairwell, blocking the door. When his buddy had yanked her arm to free the body, she had concertinaed and then sprung back, bringing with her a string of other bodies all joined at the hands. It was as if they’d become one giant singular entity, the diver said. Like a Christmas paper chain.

The scene is described in conjunction with a recreational boating holiday, a powerful juxtaposition of the unfolding tragedy within a bucolic scene.

 The print was to follow the basic framework of a painting recently completed, a painting that had sat unfinished for a length of time before arriving, I didn’t understand how it worked and wanted to deconstruct the steps.

 Printmaking has a rich history of evolving methods for repeating an image or text, the older methods haven’t been superceded but sedimented into the body of knowledge always ready to be reinvented into novel  technical constructions. This print was to utilize the qualities of various print processes towards an open-ended result, pretty much simulating the way the original painting had proceeded. 

My art making usually follows a general shape of an image or frame of a system, the layout is given and so frees up the play of small decisions. In this work the vine pattern is a given stylistic image its leaves play across the space according the underlying emergent qualities of a Fibonaci series of curves. It is these curves that the floating figures later position themselves by.

While my input into the layers of imagery was fairly spontaneous in working the mark, an attending care was given to its editioning by Chris. I guess his training as a printer pressed into him a methodical manner of organising his knowledge of printmaking, while his upbringing and education provided a grasp of chemistry and biology. It’s a framework that gives him the architecture to improvise with elements and to envisage something that reaches beyond their standard function. 

Step by step the print consists of :

 lithography – transferring the grease pencil pattern drawing from rough cloth to litho plate.

Monoprint stain repeatedly hand painted on acetate and pressed into the paper. 

Lino relief print in white. 

Dry point print of marks punched into a pvc block.  

Lino relief print inked with a two colour (rainbow) roll.

The print has been a journey of sorts made possible by the tenacity and skills of master printer Christopher Hagen of Greyhand Press and studio intern Rainer Doecke. 

Detail of dry point print over coloured monoprints and white relief.

Printer examines his roll
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