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'.


  1. There have been a few artists who have tried to express the horror of war. It's difficult to convey the real emotion though. I somehow think a more oblique view is more effective. I think Goya's 'Saturn Eating His Children' is one of the most evocative images about the predatory mutilation and destruction of human lives and bodies.

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