Saturday, August 28, 2010
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.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
This body of sculpture is dedicated to the memory of Nick Waterlow, the late director
of Ivan Dougherty Gallery in Sydney, who included my work in the group show
"Confrontations" in 1993. Almost fittingly, some of our last correspondence was about
my previous body of sculpture, "Communicating with the Cosmos... Mysterious Threads"
2008-9, and in particular about "Flight", a piece based, in part, on the Holy Trinity and
depicting God the Father, so may his 'flight' to the heavens be a joyous one. I find it
peculiar how the recently departed tend to make the quick whip-around, on there way out,
a final farewell, so I got my long awaited studio visit, all be it very brief.
The current work is predominately about the spiritual association between love and death,
this also seeming strangely relevant. When museum directors or curators, whose
opinions you respect, respond to your work, it is almost like love, more of the divine
variety than any other but definitely the kind of connection with your work you are looking
for. So, this one is for Nick, thank-you for all your kind words of praise and support.
... the unicorn in the Bundahish (Ch. XIX):
Regarding the three-legged ass, they say that it stands amid the wide-formed ocean, and
its feet are three, eyes six, mouths nine, ears two, and horn one, body white, food spiritual, and it is righteous. And two of its six eyes are in the position of eyes, two on the top of the head, and two in the position of the hump; with the sharpness of six eyes it
overcomes and destroys. Of the mouths three are in the head, three in the hump,
and three in the inner part of the flanks; and each mouth is about the size of a cottage,
and it is itself as large as Mount Alvand. Each one of the three feet, when it is placed on
the ground, is as much as a flock of a thousand sheep comes under when they repose together; and each pastern is so great in its circuit that a thousand men with a thousand horses may pass inside. As for the two ears, it is Mazendaran which they will
encompass. The one horn is as it were of gold and hollow, and a thousand branch
horns have grown upon it, some befitting a camel, some befitting a horse, some
befitting an ox, some befitting an ass, both great and small. With that horn it will
vanquish and dissipate all the vile corruption due to efforts of noxious creatures.
When that ass shall hold its neck in the ocean its ears will terrify, and all the water of the
wide-formed ocean will shake with agitation, and the side of Ganavad will tremble. When
it utters a cry all the female water-creatures of Auharmazd, will become pregnant; and all
pregnant noxious water-creatures, when they hear that cry, will cast their young. When it stales in the ocean all the sea-water will become purified, which is in the seven regions
of the earth-it is even on that account when all asses which come into water stale in the
water-as it says thus: "If, O three-legged ass! You were not created for the water, all the
water in the sea would have perished from the contamination which the poison of the
evil spirit has brought into its water, through the death of the creatures of Auharmazd."
Tistar seizes the water more completely from the ocean with assistance of the three-
legged ass. Of ambergris also (ambar-ik) it is declared, that it is the dung of the three-
legged ass; for if it has much spirit food, then also moisture of liquid nourishment goes through the veins pertaining to the body into the urine, and the dung is cast away.
The monster is evidently based on the number three.
Three is regarded universally as a fundamental number, expressive of an intellectual
and spiritual order in God, the cosmos or mankind, and either synthesizes the three-
in-one of all living beings or else results from the conjunction of one and two produced
in this case, 'from the marriage of Heaven and Earth'...
Three also denotes the levels of human life, material, rational and spiritual or divine, as
well as the three stages of mystical development, purgative, illuminative and unitive...
The basic rationale of this universal phenomenon of threes must no doubt be sought in
a metaphysic of composite and contingent being and in a global view of manifold
oneness of all that exists in nature and which is summarized as the three stages of
being-appearance, development and destruction (or transformation); or birth, growth
and death; or again in astrological tradition increase, culmination and decrease.
Penguin Dictionary of Symbols
I have been obsessed with numbers a lot with my work, often every piece of material
used is measured to a specific length. So, the only prerequisite for this series was that I
used three, three metre lengths of steel rod, one to depict a head, another a body of
some form or conjoining element and thirdly the standing feet or base.
You feel that most people are as spiritually disconnected in love as they are in death,
being too distracted, unwilling or unable to connect.
For Trinitarians, emphasis in Genesis 1:26 is on plurality in the Deity, and in 1:27 on the
unity of divine Essence. A possible interpretation of Genesis 1:26 is that God's
relationship in the Trinity are mirrored in man by the ideal relationship between husband
and wife, two persons becoming one flesh, as described in Eve's creation...
In the Trinitarian view, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost share the one
essence, substance or being. The central and crucial affirmation of Christian faith is
that there is one saviour, God and one salvation, manifest in Jesus Christ, to which
there is access only because of the Holy Spirit...
"By nature he is neither immortal nor mortal. Sometimes on a single day he shoots into
life when he's successful, and then dies, and then (taking after his father) comes back to
life again. The resources he obtains keep on draining away, so that Love is neither wholly
without resources nor rich. He is also between wisdom and ignorance. The position is
this. None of the gods loves wisdom or has the desire to become wise-because they are;
nor does anyone else who is already wise love wisdom or have the desire to become
wise. The problem with the ignorant person is precisely that, despite not being good or
intelligent, he regards himself as satisfactory. If someone doesn't think he's in need of
something, he can't desire what he doesn't think he needs."
Diotima's dialogue with Socrates- The Symposium by Plato
The sculptures are also painted with the seven colours of the rainbow underneath the
In Ancient Greece, the rainbow was Iris, swift footed messenger of the gods. It was also,
in more generalized fashion, a symbol of the relationship between Heaven and Earth
and gods and mortals-a divine form of speech.
Penguin Dictionary of Symbols
The black wax, the only colour not in the rainbow, describes all the dribbly goo of being
human, the blood, the mucus, the shit, the vomit, the urine, the cum, the snot and so
forth. The fake fur is the hair. Whenever you use this particular shade of blue you
always feel like you are appropriating Yves Klein and visions of the Virgin Mary,
sometimes thought as the female and forth element of the Trinity.
The spiritual association between love and death, becoming one with another person
in 'ideal love' as with the Holy Trinity, becoming one with God or in death becoming
one with pure spirit have for me always felt the same.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Communicating with the Cosmos... Mysterious Threads
Feeling like I have been responding to something on another level for a while now,
'Communicating with the Cosmos... Mysterious Threads', continues my investigation
into some strange language of half formed monsters, creatures and body parts that
Gustave Flaubert describes so well in 'The Temptation of St. Anthony' when writing
about the same.
The series, half abstraction is mirrored with semi-figurative counterparts. For example,
the elephant headed god Ganesha, a god of new beginnings, wisdom, good fortune,
a grunty, green, fleshy beast almost plant like in abstraction is described in the most
linear, hollow and skeletal form in the figurative with 'Ganesha and the Mouse'. 'Flight'
suggesting the essence of flight has 'Flightless', the skeleton of a Siren standing stock
still. 'All mucked up, guts squishing in my toes-D' has 'Blemmyae', a monster with his
head in his chest. Then separate pieces, 'Lemure' or a ghost, holding a hollow flag
whose head has fallen off and he holds this in his hand. Underneath a Daphne image,
in 'Growth Emo II', someone has hung themselves. Also, 'Big Ears', a creature with over-
sized ear lobes which flap to his side and dangle on the ground as he runs. In the
figurative form, the colour has gone and is pared down to the natural colour of beeswax,
a wonderful, luscious, organic substance coupled with some stitched, painted fabric
pieces, painted white. Some of these creatures run as if in a state of panic or are trying
to escape there fate, others are stumped, have given up and are immovable. Matter is
disintegrating, disappearing completely in parts, is transforming and transcending into
another state. Perhaps like the god Shiva as Nataraja (Lord of Dance) who in his
cosmic dance, dances the world into extinction only to dance it back into existence
again, these creatures do a cosmic dance of there own.
These hybrid forms, part human, animal, god or plant seem to have been with us from
the beginning. For example, the New Zealand Maoris depict beaked, three-clawed,
bird-like monsters in there mythology, the ancient Egyptians have a number of animal/
human gods like Anubis, part human/part jackal or Horus, the falcon headed god and
Sphinxes, then there is ancient Greek mythology. I am interested in probing further
into questions of existence that these strange beings also bring forward. Those that
perhaps have not been brought into conscious awareness yet or at least not my own.
Other artists work seem to throw up similar questions such as Mantegna's 'Minerva
Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue' 1500-1502, a painting I was fortunate
enough to view, in a show in Paris, at the Louvre, late in 2008. The exquisite flying baby
creatures with owl faces and others with butterfly wings or some part deer/part human,
a centaur and Daphne seem so natural in there hybridity. Another favourite, I always
make a pilgrimage to see when in Munich, at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, is
Tilman Riemenschneider's, 'St. Mary Magdalene', 1490-1492, her animal fur-like coating
and the feathered breasts and bodies of the surrounding angels have a similar realness
about them, something unexplainable.
In my art viewing, other than contemporary art, I am often attracted to museums of
ancient sculpture such as the Glyptothek in Munich. Although in some ways it is
tragic that there are only fragments left due to the ravages of war and time, I prefer
the work in this state and imagining something else entirely in the bits that are missing.
Also, in the collection of ancient sculpture at the Kunsthistorisches in Vienna,
there are two fragments, one of a centaur, the other of Eros that hold my captivation
I can only describe so much for you and the rest hopefully the work will communicate