Posted on September 27, 2014
The image of the boat has been a recurring theme in my painting for two years. Imagining the claustrophobic hull – the hell of uncertainty. I worked night shift earlier in the year with a young man who made such a journey in 2001. Although only 8 years old at the time, he vividly described three nights jammed in with asylum seekers from a variety of countries, sharing the same goal and the same fear in the wilderness of hours huddled together clutching make shift weapons. They had no idea where they were headed, but for Jamil, fleeing recruitment by the Taliban in Afghanistan, anywhere was a better option than the home he had known. For his parents returning to the motherland remains desirable if not attainable as yet, but not for Jamil, having grown up in Australia, he is now an Aussie, studying medical science at uni, contemplating a gap year, and working shifts to top up the coffers. The idea of returning to Afghanistan now seems foreign, although he wears his ‘boat person’ badge with honor and a wry smile.
Posted on September 21, 2014
Posted on August 23, 2014
The transformation comes and goes, sometimes gradually, sometimes at more regular intervals, like the sun falling on wing tips and then it is all consuming. Those beams of light exposing uncertainty, blue fading to leave the shape of a new painting, gleaming, full of promise but not yet real, just an idea. Outlined against the sky, brilliant like metal but in equal part, already a failure. Work consumes me – my day job takes almost as much as I can give. Then with the promise of a shiny playground, I flounder and stall. The new remains unformed, just a list on a page, and my lack of courage or energy to start the new series torments me. I replace uncertainty by diving for pearls, those last illusive images that resonate with an accumulated honesty.
Pictures can become like a dialogue that has been over rehearsed. The transition from subject to subject then becomes a device to avoid endless repetition. Knowing the right time to change direction is an art within the art. Whose eye is upon you? Whose attention do you seek? It’s the same old argument – paint for your self, or paint for others? The madness is still strong 27 years on and the ever watchful bird hovers expecting change, demanding success, something that can be measured. Then everything before is relegated, no longer living for me, yet still raw and painful. Angst is like over salting the cook pot, too much will spoil the sincerity. I guess I’m looking for that one image that sums up the whole body of work. A picture that once achieved makes the necessity to continue the subject redundant. Unless I could sell the stuff in which case I would be motivated by commercial concerns, I suppose.
Posted on August 10, 2014
Posted on August 10, 2014
A long afternoon of exploring the back streets lay ahead. This time south of Kingsford Smith drive, a large arterial dividing suburbs and whose street lamps illuminate the back veranda by night. Sunday afternoons also hold a special light, and a mood sharpened by the prospect of diminishing freedom before another working week. It makes one embrace the activity with extra effort and weave a fabric of laughter and simple acts – moment by moment. A tantrum is more easily tolerated, and when a suitably dreary patch of grey presents as a likely ground for street art, the feeling that it was meant to be prevails.
We rounded one curve from a bike path hugging a stretch of green, into another made tunnel like by dense over hanging greenery spilling over back fences on one side, and screening a large concrete culvert on the other. Then down a windy slope to where the grey walls of the underpass presented themselves. The kids dismount, swoop and prowl, flutter and fade as I add my colourful formation – an incongruous mystery. I pick up the pace chased by an encroaching shadow and only a solo jogger bares witness contributing a smiley hello to the afternoon’s proceedings. With the playtime amnesty broken by a fresh tiff, and a coolness returning to the air, we don helmets and head for home, happy to call it a day.
Posted on August 10, 2014
Posted on August 2, 2014
A new home, we are here, almost – yet still caged and treated like a problem to be dealt with. Some invisible process continues, digging for a reason to send us back. If they dig deep enough, I’m afraid they might reach my heart, and damage all that is left of me. I came with only the heart to start again. I will offer it to them in place of identity papers with my lineage scribbled in a spiral to the core. Unpinning the paper heart, I shall then let it float on the breeze before snagging on barbed wire. Animals are kept in pens, to stop them escaping and sheep behind fences to stop them demolishing the garden. If I could speak words with wings, they would also be ripped by the sharp edges, then plummet no further than the rocks and white breakers surrounding the Island. “Will you tell me what is wrong” – he breathed – conscious of the physical process in doing so. The voice seemed distant, though he longed to embrace it, to drown in it rather than be left. Is it true that some have sown their lips together?
“If you lived in a country governed by a tyrannical regime, and your parents had been killed, and family members had been brutalised and put in prison without trial or in some cases shot without trial, what would you then do? You could not go to the government and ask for papers. That would immediately get you into trouble. So people travel without papers, something recognised in the 1954 Refugee Convention, to which Australia was one of the first signatories.
With regard to Australian policy on Nauru and on Manus Island, ask yourself this: are we prepared to allow our government to establish a regime so brutal that the terror it creates would rival the terror from which people flee?”