Saturday, August 28, 2010
The Essence of Being
The Essence of Being
'Let us take the wisdom of the old alchemists to heart: The most natural and perfect
work is to generate its like.'
About drawing. In 1974, when I was six years old, my parents, bored with life, went
hippie. My father gave up a well paying job, they sold the family home, bought a
caravan, a jeep and we took off on a year long trip around Australia. So, I remember
being way out, in the middle of Australia somewhere, watching the sunset, the
Caspar David Friedrich painting. 'The Monk by the Sea', 1808-10, describes where
words would fail, something about the infinite. All I know is the experience changed
how I perceive the world, forever.
Returning to semi-civilization, when the year was out, we moved onto a block of
native bush not far from the coastal town where my grand parents lived in
southeastern Australia. Still in the caravan, there was no electricity or running water
(except tank water) and this is the place where I began to draw. The highlight of
the week was to meet the book bus in the small town, so I borrowed copious
amounts of children's books and started drawing the pictures. My memories of this
place are quite odd, it is as though I am looking down from above, we lived atop a
little hill and I see this in stylized form, in a shape like the infinity symbol but filled in.
This kind of spiritual mapping is described to the full in the paintings by the
Australian Aboriginal artist, Rover Thomas. The stars were also incredible out there,
you could see the milkiness of the milky, Milky Way.
Bored with 'roughing-it', at the end of the year, we moved up the highway to the
nearest town and crawled back into the creature comforts of city life. They kept the
'bush-block' until I was in my late teens, going there most week-ends. At this point,
following the move to the city, my life became very internal. I took up other pursuits
like playing the recorder, clarinet and piano. Moving on from children's books to
fantasy subjects, drawing fairies, goblins, gnomes, then more naturalistic ones of
birds and insects.
Art school is where I stopped using reference material and started drawing from
the unconscious. Taking a little while to get to this language, initially through
painting, where all the animal imagery continued to stir, although I was drawing
abstractly by now, the deeper I tended to delve, the more symbols appeared.
Two symbols were recurrent, through reading Jung recently, I have identified
one as Uroboros, the circular 'tail-eater', the other is something like infinity or
the fish, one in the same in my mind. We were asked to give a lecture once,
at art school, so I started expounding my theories on 'nature' and 'order in chaos'
but was met with no understanding. Therefore, not until recently have I started to
talk about my explorations again.
Before I got to abstraction, some strange little goblins appeared. I thought they
were devils at first because of there grotesque nature, short, black, long snouted,
large footed, pot-bellied and winged. Further reading of Jung however has enabled
me to distinguish them as Cabiri: '... the unseen, creative dwarf-gods, hooded and
cloaked manikins who are kept hidden in the dark cista, but who also appear on
the seashore as little figures about a foot high, where as kinsmen of the
unconscious, they protect navigation, i.e., the venture into darkness and
Not until 2000 did they reappear in my sculpture and a split in my work seemed
to take place. A move across the Tasman to New Zealand also saw the further
development of some semi-figurative hybrids, part-animal, bird, god, tree, part
human, alongside the abstract pieces, part animal, body-part, symbol, part pure
energy. These two elements have been coexisting, almost in conflict with one
another, in my work from this point. I tend to use reference material again for
the figurative, more conscious work, often being reflected in the opposing
unconscious side, in abstraction.
The current body of drawings attempts to join these two opposing sides,
the conscious and unconscious, together. The reference material I have used
includes calendars depicting the street cats of Rome, books from the Glyptothek
Museum collection in Munich, the National Archeological Museum collection
in Athens and another on Italian Renaissance sculpture, charged moments
in the history of sculpture, so figures include Orpheus, Homer, Apollo, Zeus
along with Andrea del Verrocchio's 'Christ' from the Duomo in Pistoia and
Donatello's late sculpture 'St. Mary Magdalen' in the Museo dell'Opera del
Duomo in Florence, one of my all time favourite sculptures. These are matched
in later drawings with symbols of the fish and Uroboros.