Sunday, 25 May 2014

off 'out-the-back'

I’m reading through the printed hard copy of my thesis but I’ve fallen out of love with it. I know I can be a fickle lover but to be fair, this is not the story I fell in love with. In the prolonged struggle to get it to the finish line I didn’t notice how much I compromised. I acknowledge a degree of compromise was a necessary means to an end. But so much has been taken out or made more academically palatable - this is definitely not the passionate and personal tale I wanted to tell. In truth I think I have finally realised that despite the enormous amount of work involved, a thesis is a very short chapter in a life. It may sound disrespectful, and although I have had little opportunity to enjoy any accolades that might be coming my way, it is kind of ‘yeah, well I’ve done this thing - so what – what now?’ I’m pretty unimpressed with myself and that’s probably a good thing.

Since finishing the amendments and submitting the final product I have been ‘playing’  - making images about nothing in particular while I make money and develop my digital skills. It’s been fun but inevitably I have become dissatisfied playing in the shallows. I long to plunge head first into the depths again. After going through the trauma of being afraid of even small waves (in the ‘real’ world), I am well and truly back ‘out-the-back’ surfing again, so this paddling around in the shore break will simply not do.

Yesterday I was looking for reference images for a group exhibition in 2015. In case you hadn’t noticed Australia has gone mad discussing and planning the 100th anniversary of WW 1 and because the fleet left for Gallipoli from Albany, this town will take centre stage. The theme of every damned exhibition or community workshop is – you guessed it – ANZAC. I hate the rhetoric around ANZAC, I hate ANZAC day – I think war is a load of apha-male bullshit. (Ok, I know it’s more complex than that). I do think I am justified in being disgusted that the Australian national identity is predominantly based on the WW 1 & 2 ‘diggers’ and an outlaw named Ned Kelly. For a start, women only have bit parts in these ‘heroic’ cultural myths, not to mention indigenous Australians. The local city council supports the group of artists I belong to with in-kind donations like free gallery space, so we queried whether we were going to be shackled to a particular ideology, that is – would we still get assistance if we made anti-war art? Apparently we have been given a free rein, but we’ll see what happens when the show is finally curated.

In my search for reference material for this themed show, I brutalised myself looking at gory images of dismembered bodies and headless corpses. I have always been interested in this topic. I have seen many headless corpses and heads in large glass jars during my student days in the anatomy department at UWA but photographs of real people with real blood was a savage assault on my senses. I had intended to do a very bloody and ‘human’ Goya or George Gittoes inspired work about the brutality of war. However, as I looked at one disturbingly fascinating image after another I was reminded that dismemberment and decapitation are symbolic stages of spiritual evolution. Once again I am confronted with the paradoxes between the material and the psychic, the ephemeral and the eternal. I was kind of looking forward to rendering all that torn and bloody flesh. But the work will now take on a more abstract and symbolic form, which will at least stop me from making any readable contraversial statements that might get me chucked out of the group show.


Jung wrote a lot about ‘synchronicity’ and last night in ‘A Dangerous Method’ on SBS, there he was. It was pure joy watching a dramatisation of the man who has influenced me so much. I took it as a sign - it reminded me how badly I needed to get back to my core study into the evolution of consciousness. After all, although that was the central theme of my thesis, I was only allowed to wade in knee-deep. Thank God, I am off out-the-back again.

image: Cropped section of my painting 'The Minotaur and Me'.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

just as well I look good in a hat

This is page 46 of my thesis, which includes a photograph of The Gap by Mike Lyons - Albany dentist and amateur photographer.


I am having 3 'unofficial' copies of my thesis printed next week locally to make them available for people to read. One will go immediately to my Wise Old Rosicrucian Friend. I suspect only a couple of others will actually put their hands up for the task. Can't say I blame them, you have to have a very good  reason to read something like that.

The official versions of the 153 page document and other appropriate notifications will probably take a couple of months. Graduation is in early September and this is the regalia (and that is what it is officially called) I have to wear or else I'm not allowed to graduate. I don't usually like these types of ceremonies, especially when I am in the thick of it, but I confess I am really looking forward to it. And the nosh up afterwards.

Just as well I look good in a hat.


Monday, 5 May 2014

life after a PhD

Today I chucked my amended thesis in the DropBox and e-mailed a link to my supervisor at Curtin. It has taken me more than 3 weeks of solid work to climb the last bit of the PhD mountain. I thought after 8 years of gruelling study I would be too exhausted to even think about art. Instead, I am chaffing at the bit.

I had a few things left to do in relation to the PhD in the last few months - one of them was an artist's talk just over a week ago for my friends and interested folk who live on the south coast. There were 28 people there and I knew the majority of them quite well. It was a joy to share a condensed version of my journey with them and I was very moved by the support. From the feedback I got most people really enjoyed it and some even found it inspiring. The other task of course was to dive back into the thesis and make the 'minor' amendments recommended by both examiners, who said they really liked it. I'm very relieved they were only minor adjustments, because dealing with them was hard enough. I struggled to get my head back into it because I felt it was done - I'd had enough when I packed it off 6 months ago - but the changes have meant the whole document is very readable now, rather than just some parts of it. I had wanted to unify it as a piece of writing, but ran out of time and energy last September and just had to get it in so I could exhibit in December. Robin has read the amended thesis and agrees it is now very palatable.

So what's next? I have registered a business name Void Art & Design, in honour of the profound insights the PhD has given me on a few levels. I intend on doing some study next semester to learn more about Illustrator, InDesign and PhotoShop. These are all programs I should be able to use professionally if I am serious about doing some graphic design work. I am in the middle of doing a digital drawing for a promotional banner at work and I have finished another small job as well.

But best of all, I am excited about being able to move around in my art practice - between different media as well as subject matter, because I am no longer shackled to one massive idea. I am feeling so much lighter, as though some huge weight has been lifted from me. I am pretty pleased with myself for persevering, in fact I am even a little surprised because there was a time in my life when I didn't get to the finish line on anything. It's nice to know people can change. 

This morning after sending off the thesis for the last time I went for a surf. There were some good sized waves coming through and I had a great time, partly because although I am not ready to leave the planet just yet, I didn't have to worry that I might drown or be eaten by a shark before I had completed my PhD.

image: Girl with Balloons is an unfinished digital version of a small goauche painting of mine.