My current work began with a journey to Beijing in 2006. I painted as I journeyed from Asia to Europe and back again over several years.
Along the way, I was interested in the resonance, both conceptually and visually, between the Taoist, Shan Shui (mountain water) ink painters of China and such as Shen Zhou and Guo Xi and romantic painters of early nineteenth century Europe like Caspar David Friedrich or the American romantics like Thomas Cole.
Throughout my journeys, encounters with painters from Beijing to London, the Nepalese Himalayas to the Mekong river has been a pleasure and deepened my vision of the methods and modes of painting from ancient times to contemporary practice.
The colours of Indian street life and the exquisite Indian miniature paintings, textiles and Buddhist Thanka paintings also caused me to entirely rethink my previous concepts of colour. Contemporary abstract painting in China developed out of the Shui Mo tradition (ink wash painting) as well as the Lai Thai ornate decoration on the Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai furnished me with fresh conceptual reference.
I think the important learning experience for me was to catch a view of myself without identity …one of the mass of a global human fraternity; all of us, wether commuting to work and back home in one day or moving home across the globe, fellow travellers from day one until our journey's end.
Since 2009 I have worked on images of people travelling along. I have combined these with natural patterns that pervade the images and assert a unifying field. I hope to create a tension where the snap-shot narrative images of people journeying are somewhat harmonised with the meta-pattern that run throughout each painting and images of people and things almost struggle to be seen as separate and distinct from the pervasive pattern.
For me, the paintings are my contemplation of the personal, heart-felt experiences, the intimate, the passions and the human experience within the universal and impersonal field.
The use of pattern, geometry and colour as signifiers of a fundamental creation has a rich heritage in visual arts across cultures. In Thailand's 'Lai Thai' decorative, linear designs of temple ornamentation and Chinese Shan Shui ,Taoist ink painting or the rendering of swirling clouds and foliage in the works of Thomas Cole or Freidrich, the organic patterns frame the human drama within a divine source of nature.
Natural patterns in my work are usually derived from particular vegetation typically found in a place. Thus they may signify nature itself, place or origin as well the life-cycle of organisms. Most of these natural patterns are drawn from the vegetation and landscape of Australia where I grew up. Some patterns I use in the images are from elsewhere and were discovered while travelling.
Could he see the airport of his namesake, Marco Polo himself would surely not believe the mass of humanity simultaneously in transit across the globe and the breadth of their travels. Contemporary airports, train and Bus stations are immense architectural spaces catering for a global flow of mass transit with travelators, sheep-stall queues and systems that simultaneously cater for and depersonalise us at once. Like the natural landscapes of Friedrich or Turner, the contemporary architectural spaces of the airports, railway stations and bus terminals overwhelm the individual and reframe us as an insignificant detail. Save the tightly-clutched passport, we are, in transit, stripped of all contextual points of reference and thus individual identity.
I really like these kinds of spaces. Partly because they are huge and light filled interior spaces and also because sometimes, as a “no one” transiting from “somewhere” via “nowhere” to “somewhere else”, I have felt such a joy of lightness and liberation…similar to walking alone very far into natural spaces.
People in my current paintings are framed within the context of architecture and modes of travel – a mass of humanity in perpetual journey.
In my view however, it is important to respect the personal within the universal. I think that within the collective universe (or just the subway carriage) there are as many personal universes of sensory experience, anxiousness, passion, confusion as there are passengers aboard.
In painting I visualise this dual reality of universal and personal existence.
Although I am painting people within a contemporary context, I feel that my work connects to a shared conceptual heritage within traditions such as Taoist Shan Shui, Buddhist Lai Thai design and Romantic European painting in which other artists also contemplated these eternal themes.