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1. Introduction

2. Noble Beast

3. Introversion

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2.03 - Deliverance

Offering - Noble Beast

The paintings in this group measure approximately 2x1.5m. Some of the earlier stages of the paintings were developed by working with charcoal and matte mediums and rubbing back through layers.

Works in this series describe the rising of imaginative forms from an empty, ‘drought stricken’ state. The empty vessels of the skulls are like dry wells from which the imagination rises in one last-ditch effort to find sustenance.

The drought endured throughout Australia during the first decade of the 21st century contributed to the development of metaphor and imagery in some works produced during this time. Images of dry soaks and salt pans are common, even to urban Australians confronted by daily newspapers.

Direct reference to that occurrence is misleading, however, as I tend not to let a source of inspiration ‘rise to the surface’ before allowing it to reveal itself within the work. These paintings deal more generally with the desertification of the imagination and the great drain that is placed on the wellspring of the mind by the very act of its conjuring.

 

The beast heads that rear up are the embodiment of the larger impulses that lead me on and that drive the creative process. Therefore, they are animals of ritual labour, adorned with jewels and 'eye-flowers'. These decorations relate to visual phenomena that occur behind closed eyes and they appear in earlier work. 

Subconsciously, I was aware of the adoration and decoration of beasts within ceremonies of various cultures, but I also kept in mind, from my own culture, the melancholy image of the stricken beast kneeling by the dry waterhole. Although the pictures describe my need for animalistic directives and urges to be honoured and revered, there is also the awareness that they need to be fed and nourished; that can be a burden of responsibility that the animal is not able to manage for itself.

In some images, the ghostly tears of the beast heads seem to generate the lakes from which they rise and drink. This is a way of describing how a chimerical being might look to feed itself and overcome its grief, once removed from the dismal reality of a decaying earth or drought-stricken imagination.

Images of subterranean streams and secret reservoirs inside the dry loam of the head have appeared in my work since 1990. I was aware, also, of tales of early explorers suffering from dehydration and the imaginative state the mind may resort to when starved for nourishment. These paintings attempt to describe an autonomous mirage that seeks to sustain itself from the psychic energies of the imagination.

 

'The Farmer’s Thirsty Eyes' is a major work measuring 2x3m. Although not the last image on this page, it was the culmination of the series.

A ‘spirit farmer’ is conjured from dry bones beneath, like a hallucination that may occur at the final stages of water deprivation. His desperate eyes project, like binoculars, the heads of thirsty beasts who seek the source of their own origin so that it might nourish their wellbeing. They forage for saltlicks of thought and reservoirs of creative activity.



'Soak' (1.5x2m) continues to explore the animal's head as an apparition, a projection of a state of mind. In a similar way to the toad in the series The Underturned Stone, I used the form of cattle to evoke an aspect of the human spirit. In these pictures, the clumsy bovine head reaches out relentlessly towards sustenance. It is a dumb creature, like the creative drive itself, knowing only that it wants to be fed.

Without having clear forms of visual reference available at the time, it wasn't until later that I realised how much the ox heads look like my dog.



Smaller paintings and drawings accompanied the larger works.

 

  

Antler forms that emanate from the head, such as those in Heads and Horns, have long been present in my work. Around the time of producing this series, the antlers started to resemble the colourful disposable latex painting gloves that I was using. Many of these discarded gloves littered the floor of my studio. The listless forms of these many gloves seemed like the spent casings of endless reaching! The 'hand horns' entered many paintings and drawings I was to do over time.


This painting is titled 'Burning Glove' and it measures approximately 2x1.5m. A disembodied glove extends between the spirit form of man and beast, showing a burning desire to nourish the imagination.

 

Explore this theme

1. Introduction

2. Noble Beast (You Are Here)

3. Introversion