Paintings: Before and with Freya

20180312_204542-1
Before Freya
20180415_135312-1-1
with Freya

Bloggers have a lot to say about having children, some of the best blog articles ever written are about the expectations and realities of having children.

Instead of thrashing all this out in words I created two artworks.

The first painting “before Freya” was created in a particularly stressful period of my life before the baby was born. Filled with anxiety and anticipation a small period of grace descended on us both before the baby was born. Like in the eye of a storm I took the time to document it with my first painting ‘Before Freya’.

A month or so after the baby had been born, things seemed much different, I was in a very different state of mind. Full of curiosity and confidence I was discovering something and learning things and full of love for the new baby. And so I painted ‘With Freya.

 

 

 

Why do we ask: are we alone?

Whilst camping recently I was staring up at the night sky and asked this: Are we alone? Fuelled partly by alcohol and due to the beauty and fascination of the universe of stars I could see. The question seemed to unravel for me in it’s complexity.

I came across a strain of thought that seemed to offer a faint hope of understanding.

Why do we ask, are we alone?

Why is it that so many minds have been dedicated to this idea of finding other life in the universe. The question itself seems a ‘Normative’ way to consider this problem. We are making a statement on how the universe ought to be. It is a consideration of one species without enough information.

What is it about the universe that we think it unfathomable that we might actually be alone? What is the thing that motivates us to WANT to have other life out there on other planets.

In the morning I observed a very small finch bouncing around exploring for food. The birds precise mathematical dance filled me with fascination. The bird took a second to stop very close to where I was sitting, for a long time it considered me and then darted off far into the distance looking for food in the bark of a tree. It was part of that creatures biology to search for food in new areas, to seek new foraging grounds to be curious, to look for mates to expand it’s world and survive and to be curious.

Humans are like this, we left Africa for new fertile lands in exploration to colonise every continent on this planet.  It is built within our psychology  to ask “Are we alone”  to explore the next valley, next river, next continent and eventually the next planet and again to be curious.

Humans have developed to be hugely social beings our co-dependency and collaboration is one stratagem for survival. It is most likely why the idea of being alone in the universe terrifies us. Simply because it threatens our views so ingrained to how we survived and survive as a species. Just think as a species one of our worst punishments is solitary confinement, essentially for one human to feel totally alone is a punishment close to death.

We seek to not be alone, however not being alone in the universe would imply that we are in reality looking for species very much like ourselves. What happens if we find sentient life and they are not like us? (A possibility). Or  finding that the only life out there are just micro-organisms?  Micro-organisms will only temporarily give us the impression we are less alone, after all we cannot communicate with a lump of goo. We may continue the search for sentient life regardless of results forever searching for it.

It is interesting to me this question ‘why do we ask, why are we alone’?  It supplied me with hours of contemplation while I sat around the campfire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914

Featured image

I remember when I was in primary school I was fascinated by a book my father gave me about the world wars, in the first chapters I would stare at the comic like pictures of the Kaiser taking a bite out of the globe, I remember the little picture of the car in which Franz Ferdinand was killed, the whole thing just seemed odd, just one person the killing of Franz Ferdinand lead to the events that kicked off a massive world war costing millions of lives, how?

The book starts with an excellent introduction, detailing why the book is worthy of some contemplation, with philosophical points raised by Clarke, namely “Is any war really inevitable”  in the conclusion Clarke also cleverly distances himFeatured imageself from pointing fingers at any one party and generates some philosophical contemplation about the broader problem:

The outbreak of war in 1914 is not an Agatha Christie drama at the end of which we will discover the culprit standing over a corpse in a conservatory with a smoking pistol. There is no smoking gun this story; or rather, there is one in the hands of every major character.

It is a curious way to think about things, that each party seemed to blame each other, hence mutually assuring its own destruction, a sort of ‘Mexican stand off’ of nations.

Yet standing back, from Clarkes rather ambivalent conclusions, I felt that he often set to point out something else entirely.

From the very beginning Clarke sets to outline how violent and turbulent the Serbians could be even to their own monarchy, how violent nationalist elements inside their own country were actively supported by the Serbian government, how the country never really attempted to hide its contempt for Austria for annexing Bosnia Herzegovina in 1908.

In today’s world, these kind of things are called terrorist activities and are looked on very dimly indeed. Entertain for a second that a nationalist element somewhere in the world assassinated Prince Charles, if a country was found to be clearly behind the actions there would be massive ramifications and investigations to who was behind it, if it was certain to be linked to a nation then there would be a proper independent investigation and then action taken against by the UN and then other nations.

But back in 1914 there seemed to be little interest in following up the links between the Black Hand and the Serbian nationalists.  Many knew they had links to senior military leaders and politicians but never really put any effort into proving it as true. If they had done this logical thing then the cause for the war would of been extinguished, or at least the alliance may have even sought to punish Serbia or let Austria just take its revenge and keep the dispute local. It was this simple following through that could of made so much difference.

Yet in the situation that unfolded, Russia, France and England all came in defending Serbia against an Austrian invasion. This was something of a revelation to me, I had never really thought that the so called ‘good guys’ of the war could of potentially been defending a country that had essentially poured petrol on and lit the fuse to start it.

During the slow lead up to the war the mind begins to boggle at the many possibilities for peace, it seems all parties, France, Germany, England and Austria all tried but failed to secure any effort at peace, individuals had a good go at it, but all seemed to sort of give up powerless at the bureaucratic mess that unfolded.

It is also confusing that histories nominated bad guy – Germany seemed to want to avoid the war altogether right up to the very last moments and clearly thought it could be localized to the Balkan region, this is not the history that we are taught in school.

As a history book, this was tedious but rewarding, there is no doubt I have a much deeper understanding of prewar conditions including a very detailed account of the assassination itself and the events leading up the court case afterwards which made fascinating reading.

This book was a mammoth undertaking just one page of the in depth analysis of pre-war European political landscape had the effect of setting me off to a good nights sleep. There were a few times I nearly gave up, but then out of the blue an astonishing episode in history that I was previously unaware of would keep me glued to the page.

As for understanding of why it happened, I think this is a task that historians and thinkers will have difficulty really understanding for a very long time, however I am glad this book exists because there are plenty of unexpected events that unfolded that just don’t fit into any nationalistic history of the war.

The standard doorbell

download

Sometimes I have a sort of philosophical thought bubble, I spend weeks going over a certain subject that fascinates me, mostly the ideas thought of long before my time, covered by science or philosophy. However there is a joy in this process of personal discovery, Buckminster Fuller did this sort of thing in the 1960’s there is value in exploring old ideas, covering well trodden ground just for the sake of it from a modern perspective.

My journey starts with the humble doorbell, I was knocking doors for an upcoming by-election and I started to take note how many people have doorbells. There are a bewildering array of different doorbells, most had a simple functionality: – You pressed the button and the chime went off, that seemed to dictate the overall ‘look’ of a doorbell button. However the particulars of the doorbell seemed to wildly deviate; different colours, chimes, material and design.

The functional played a part for the position of the doorbell, it had to be available for the person at the door to simply press, it was common that people had their doorbell placed at exactly the same height and on the right hand side.  The electric doorbell was invented around 1831, before that people had all sorts of ornate and ingenious ways to tell the homeowner there was someone at the door, these are still around and used, the twisty ringer, the actual bell with a rope on it and the metal fixed knocker are some examples.

At first glance all this seems obvious, humans have a sort of standard for doorbells, I mean there isn’t a huge amount to think about there. But there also seemed a standard for where to ‘place’ the doorbell and a standard for the way the doorbell was actually presented. As I went to each house I started to realise there was a standard and functionality for everything on a house, for the letterbox, the gutters the driveway for the whole house even. Give a child a pen and paper and ask them to draw a house..they draw a roof to windows and a front garden our mental picture of a house is universally standardised from a very young age.

download (1)

In Bill Brysons book At Home, he covers briefly the history of many domestic objects, in the beginning of his book he discusses the salt and pepper shaker, Bryson asks an interesting question about the nature of the salt and pepper shaker: Why salt and pepper, why not say salt and cinnamon? What led to them being those particular spices becoming standardised? (He does in fact go into detail to explain the historical reasons why) but his original questioning fascinated me,  you could ask the same question for doorbells, why a door ‘bell’ and not a door ‘buzzer’, why a ‘button’ not a ‘switch’.

 

09cave-master1050
Hand outlines found on a cave wall in Indonesia are at least 39,900 years old

I left my ideas about the doorbell for a few weeks until something in the media re-ignited my thinking on the door bell and the concept of standardisation. Some human cave paintings from the Indonesian Island of Sulawesi were dated to about 43, 000 years ago much earlier than any other human art, the striking thing about them is not just their age but their similarity in style and application to paintings from northern Australia from a much later date.

There seems to be a cultural and artistic standardisation going right back almost as far as we can find human artifacts, however the concept of standardisation itself, seems to be framed as a recent discovery mainly confined to the industrial revolution.

Historians and archaeologists sometimes point to a little earlier to weights, coins and measures as examples of standardisation. But here we have on this very ancient wall, painted so long ago signs people culturally had a very precise standard, a form that had to be taught and shared culturally through communication the look and feel of these hand paintings was to persist for thousands of years.

Back to the doorbell, the odd thing about the door bell is that in today’s world it is largely a mass manufactured item something that for 100 years or so people could purchase and place on their door, like in star wars with all the outdated robots hanging around to go to the incinerator there are just a stupid array of different makes and models of doorbells that exist however we can all identify them as standard doorbells.

Philosophy bubbles to the surface here, and I am reminded of the ‘idea’ we have of something, like a Platonic and objects we imagine a perfect doorbell in our minds and a perfect place to place or to think about the object or idea,  this is reinforced by seeing it in existence, in similar places on other houses making or forming a kind of standard of doorbells in our minds.

This standarisation, applies to literally everything we do and create, standardisation is only something we apply to the real world, the actual time and outcome of these material objects is not secured unless a similar idea is imposed on them for the whole duration of their existence, this is where the complexity of the longevity of the hand paintings comes into view.

Psychologically, we can apply standarisation to things like behavior, our behavior can be split up into ideas that require a certain level of standarisiation so it can be communicated, it is here that life itself is included, because like us many species communicate to survive.

Bee’s must standarise how they collect honey or a beaver must standardise how he builds a dam, life must also have the facitlity to create door bells.

I  am not sure how I got so far away from my original thinking about doorbells, but I feel we are linked to this mental formation of standarisiation and the more you look around, the more you start to see it, in objects we create, in our ideas we think about  and in people and their personalities,  even in animals and insects and their behavior.

Yet I can’t see a reason for it other than mere survival, there are objects on our planet like a volcano that are not crafted by standards, but by physical inhert interactions only, yet it is only our minds that form categories and standards for these things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A personal cul-de-sac, short stories and poetry

1766871325c9573de4fd1fb5ac7d6eed

I am at this point in my life thirty seven, for large swathes of my life, I have imagined for some egotistical reason that I could be a writer.

Like many an ambition in life, I just imagined I could do it and never really put any serious work into improving my writing or learning with some proper aim the art of the written word.

I too often would read of a great writer who sat down and just ‘started writing’ somone like Hemingway or Hunter S Thompson, around them coffee cups and cigarette butts would appear and out mist like magic a novel.

It is arrogant to think I could just write something important without any practice or patience, my position reminds me of people I have met in my life who never went to university but have often told me they could easily complete a degree. This kind of thing is easy to pontificate about but to actually complete, well that is a very different proposition.

As a result I have here a collection of very short stories and poetry that never went anywhere, a collection of dead ends.

Some of these are nearly 20 years old and are written in diaries and notebooks I have collected over the years. Some of the material was written during difficult times in my life, some I don’t even remember why I wrote it or what it was about.

Even if none of the stories are completed or I don’t remember my original aim they display a personal narrative, an enjoyment of writing that I feel should be part of this blog.

Pines (2002)

A great pine panorama opened out neatly in all directions as far as he could see. The bright blue sky above and the deep green ocean of treetops below. The cicadas sung away in two separate rhythmic chants. One chant seemed to be in discussion with the other and the harmony slightly altered with each wave of noise, small birds chirped cheerfully in the tree canopy as he felt himself drop downwards.

All at once he felt his being collapse and drop beneath the ground; there under the carpet of brown pine needles among the rocks dirt and gravel he was part of the dark underworld, he felt uncomfortable and felt the gnawing of the rocks and sand.

Jye opened his eyes finding himself facing downwards on the pine green couch, the cushion cover was a dark green polyester which was extremely itchy and uncomfortable to the skin. He pulled himself to a sitting position and itched lethargically his red cheek.

He walked over to kitchen feeling the cold tiles on his bare feet and became aware that there was something or someone else walking behind him .

Judith walked past on her way to the bathroom which was at the back of the house behind the kitchen.

“hey dude” she said smiling

“hey Judith”, Jye said equally cheerfully taking another swig of water.

She disappeared and he heard the squeak and rattle of the old pipes as that shower came into being, he for a short time tried to imagine her naked under the shower, but he had never seen her naked and had a difficult time trying to imagine what shape colour or texture of the image of this picture. It played out in his mind like a censored video and the whole image felt a little odd.

Ghost In the Coal (2000)

Tom watched Greg carefully extract his packet of drum tobacco. He very gently put his fingers into the packet and pulled out very thin cigarette.

Greg had a certain stance that his whole body formed while he smoked a cigarette, his body relaxed as he pushed his groin forward and spread his legs apart.

Out of the silence he let pass an almighty burp, one that could of been heard some distance away.

“There not much we can do but wait mate” Greg said while blew smoke in towards him.

Tom just gave a nod of understanding, knowing any conversation would be strained and difficult.

Greg’s shoes made a distinctive crunching sound of movement

“I’m going up in into the cab to listen to the footy” he darted with enthusiasm up the cab of the loader flicking the butt  of  his cigarette into the coal heap, the bright white butt object stood out in stark contrast to the coal, it smoldered away sending small decorative smoke patterns into the air.

The door made an almighty crash, and he started up the machine.

It became noisy; Tom walked over to a small generator some distance from the loader, there it was silent and sat on the tow bar arm and felt totally blank.

The was a massive mountain of black coal in front of him and he grabbed for a small piece in front of his shoe.

He gripped at the fragile, sharp shiny piece of coal and closed his eyes and imagined the green world of the Carboniferous period. Somewhere around 250 million years ago this pile of black rock was alive, thriving even.

It was odd, he thought, to be surrounded by the fossilized remains of dead forest.

Looking at the black material it took some imagination to perceive that forest, it seemed to Tom like such a calm beautiful place, green and natural, no noisy humans.

And now this… Tom looked at at the neat pile of coal about 5 stories high towering above him.

Manchester Not

It was the afternoon and Stan had decided to observe the beach and its transient population. He took a position in a small dip sandwiched between two groups of people enjoying the sun. The area was a narrow channel of about six metres from the ocean, in this channel his head operated like an automatic fan slowly observing the tiniest fragment of interest.

His head jerked; confronted by a brunette in a small colourful bikini who meandered so close to him that her shadow was on his blue and green beach towel. Stan paused in an internal gasp as the blue sky enveloped this bronze beauty. She was well proportioned, her skin it had a reflective hue that reminded him of a dry wetsuit.

The girl seem to pause purposefully there in front of him, spending an eternity with her hands on her hips scanning the panorama. She slowly moved her delicate hands outwards and ran headlong into the cold surf, the water seemed to reflect off her skin like that of sea mammal and she took off into the sea like it was her natural habitat.

He gazed at the ocean as it swallowed the girl and imagined a tsunami headed towards the beach, a asteroid hitting the ocean, a warship opening fire, a giant fracture in the earth opening up and swallowing the beach, a volcano erupting and an army of piranhas headed directly for the swimmers in the surf.

It occurred to Stan that whenever he went to relax, he often began running through different disaster scenarios.

Stan turned his head and checked on his sunbaking girlfriend, she lay silent face down in the sand in her chocolate brown bikini, for the last half hour she had been giving grunting noises for answers to his questions.

He picked up a small cup full of sand and let it spill out slowly onto his leg, he observed his hands for a long period of time. They where thick fat and white. They looked battle worn,  his fingernails where dark black from the coal dust and the lines in his hands where stained by coal dirt that soap would never reach.

Cold white 

Cold white milky marble, hands together in prayer eyes shut prepared for the afterlife.

An effigy I became transfixed by at the Louvre

Ready to open her eyes and see heaven for eternity, Death Lovingly captured.

My mind races as I imagine her thoughts at her own effigy.

Did she pause over herself with grief, or take comfort in her pious repose.

Tumbleweed (1998)

Tumbleweed, twist and turn

Strike my lighter watch you burn

Dusty path, has ended here

Fade away, you disappear

Stone and Brick (1998)

Stone and brick

Mortar and tower

Iron, steel and aluminum

Personality, no persons

A polis, linked by trade

Pitching battles

We give our will

Penitus (2000)

Downwards from the concrete bridge.

A drowsy shoal, a petrol-shimmering plasma ebb.

Lines across the breadth of river like undulating layers of geography

Eddie currents in motion

Purple paisley kaladascope surface

White packet of tiny teddies floating undulating in the breeze

Small sprites around the peer, untied split second

Sprites uneven explosion on the surface of the water.

Cars come by so close distract attention, people on bikes

Cars thrushing, thrashing, meshing, wind, whoosh, speed, exhaust noise

Urban river, no natural state

Man made sandstone bank

Artificial man made bank

Worn industrial past.

Smooth sandstone, mud bank with mud just a couple of inches back from the wash

People on bikes, wind in trees.

Tim’s Lost Shoe – Article from Urchin Magazine 2005

tims-lost-shoe

I wrote this article in 2005 for a small youth arts magazine in Newcastle called Urchin, which was run by group called Octapod.

I attached this design from the magazine, because I also designed the article when I was starting out as a graphic designer. (Yes the image is of me)

Tim’s Lost Shoe.

I am acutely aware of my surroundings today.

I feel unusually creative. Like the 300 metre tsunami that engulfed half of Mexico (or at least what we know as Mexico) 250 million years ago. It has engulfed me and flooded the forests of everyday life without giving even the smallest insect of boredom or triviality a chance.

Sure I lost my shoe, and I really liked those shoes, still it’s only half bad, I can still look at my one remaining shoe and remember the times they were together.

Yesterday I was dehydrated and wandering amongst the bright sand dunes of Stockton beach, following the small mammal tracks that seem to just stop, without explanation.

There was a point where after a few hours, the whole world I knew disappeared, and I became a speck on the landscape. I became distinctly aware of this when an F/18 hornet screamed overhead. I wondered what my lone figure in the dunes looked like from above, but I suspected the pilot had some tactical objective to complete, and was contemplating the amount of degrees to come in at when bombing a strategic location, only having a mere second to contemplate his position on our earth.

It was at this point that I made a kind of holy ascension above my worldly domain, and looked down on the earth from above. It was like a 3D computer modeler looking down on a landscape he had just created. Panning around from different angles, I became aware of something other than ‘I’. My surroundings and being was more than simply perception and awareness – I felt placed in some kind of computer game, in which I had very little control.

I sat down and began to wonder what freedom meant. I might really know what freedom was if I was locked up as a prisoner of war, or in a small room, for a long period of time. With my normal freedom (freedom of movement and control) starved I might have some unique vision into what freedom actually is.

What is freedom? Those of us who have read even the smallest snippets of philosophy are aware of the idea that freedom is a myth. Philosophers since the 15th century decided that we are merely machines, plopped into this world, with little choice or freedom. On close inspection, this revelation seems somewhat true. Look at our lives – we are prisoners to our body and mind. Some of the things we imagine give us freedom are simply things our bodies and social pressures dictate that we feel. Even love can be seen in purely chemical, social and biological ways.

If love were universal, and not attached to social and biological needs, then why not love sand, or telephone poles, or even other species with the same passion and determination that humans place on their counterparts.

Was I free, here, wandering around without any real objective? I still had worldly issues to worry about. I was thirsty because the heat and sand gave my tongue this coarse feeling, distinctly reminding me of an old Abbott and Costello movie, where they had joined the foreign legion and got lost in the dunes of Sudan. It always made me want to drink gallons of water.

Also, I was aware that I was 800 metres or so from my car – my ticket back to civilization. It’s like that when you go camping or on holidays, and you need some firm root back to the real world. Some safety blanket that grounds you there, in ‘civilisation’, where things move along quite nicely, waiting patiently for you to return to pay its bills, taxes and fines, to read its papers, and generally feel warm and fuzzy in front of your computer or television, in the quiet safety of your house.

Walking back, I looked at the city of Newcastle. I shut my eyes just so the world became a blur, and imagined what it looked like before settlement. But it was hopeless. The landscape has changed so much that it’s hard to get any real picture. I had the faintest image from viewing a few paintings by convict and artist, Joseph Lycett. They reminded me of the scrub a little bit up the coast that nobody really notices or cares about.

Australia before Europeans must have been such a quiet, unified place – the land whole, even pure. With what feels like an almost abstract life force of its own, the Aboriginals respected this. These dunes were like this 1000 years ago. This gave me some pause for thought, because I had no real need to squint my eyes. This is how they looked for so long. However, I was acutely aware of the 4wd tracks and scattered beer bottles and assorted little heaps of trash every couple of metres, which where actually quite fascinating. They were a record of people’s days at the beach, and camping trips. There in the sand for all time. Were they any different to the Aboriginal shell middens just a few hundred metres away?

The dunes were talking to me. But the safety of civilisation was calling, and as I slowly returned, my shoe fell from my bag. Soon to be engulfed by the slow moving sands.

Urban division – A study

H.P 1
Water colour study H.P 1 2013
H.P-2
Water Colour study H.P  2013

Many years ago I became fascinated by the way the human mind imposes itself on geography how the mind creates landscapes ideas of what here is,  where we are in the landscape.

I completed a few paintings on the subject, at the time I was just starting out in Graphic design still finding my feet.  One of my teachers at the time was Michael Cusack  http://michaelcusack.net.au

I showed him my art and he offered me some guidance and direction and I wish I actually listened to him. He even kindly gave me the boards to paint these pictures on, that was 10 years ago. phew!

Highmore : Oil on Canvas 2004
Highmore : Oil on Canvas 2004
Coushatta : Oil on Canvas 2004
Coushatta : Oil on Canvas 2004
Be quick -2002
Be quick -2002

I started as sort of an abstract cubist, splicing up existence making commentary about the world around us. I was angry an angry young man. Now after all those years many things have changed, I feel a distinct change in my style. I am in a better and relaxed place to look at the world. I still love to paint in the cubist style but I am not as angry and my images are starting to look different because of this.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑