Flutter and Fade

Small mural paste-up, a touch of colour in a drab underpass

Small mural paste-up, a touch of colour in a drab underpass

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.

BIRDS 2

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The Protest

"Rally For Refugees" 2014 spray enamel acrylic and oil pastel on paper 52 x 64 cm

“Rally For Refugees” 2014 spray enamel acrylic and oil pastel on paper 52 x 64 cm

I Still Call Australia Home

 

"I Still Call Australia Home" (bus stop paste-up) acrylic on paper February 2013

“I Still Call Australia Home” (bus stop paste-up) acrylic on paper 

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?”

Recent work on paper.

Recent work on paper.

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Children in Detention

"Children in Detention" 2014 crayon, acrylic and enamel on paper 50 x 64 cm My latest picture...

“Children in Detention” 2014 crayon, acrylic and enamel on paper 50 x 64 cm
My latest picture…

Children In Detention

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The United Nations guidelines on the detention of asylum seekers make it clear that children, protected by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, should not be placed in detention for any length of time. The experience of detention may mimic the experience of human rights abuses, persecution and terror. Detention is highly traumatising for children who are less able to understand explanations as to the reason they have been detained.

Recent picture, part stencil part drawing

Recent picture, part stencil part drawing

Seeking Asylum Through Art

"Journey's" 2014 each 84 x 64 cm Gouache, ink and enamel on paper

“Journey’s” 2014 each 84 x 64 cm Gouache, ink and enamel on paper

  Night after night, absorbing the news, one politician proclaiming indignation over the oppositions antics, watching the latest “move to the right” over asylum seeker policy, and feeling exasperated that my sense of social justice is again being offended by the elected governments rhetoric and fervent desire to punish people arriving by boat in the name of boarder security. I don’t want to be someone remonstrating on the couch. I don’t know what it is like to be a refugee. I’ve never had to flee for my life, to leave my homeland and all that I hold dear. I can read stories, and I can reflect on the divergent arguments that pervade our media. What good is art in the face of such human suffering? I quote here from a passionate defence mounted by my wife Catherine Jean-Krista in the face of such criticism –

 “That sublime, profound transcendental thing…. or that great, satirical, biting and devastatingly insightful portrayal….. or that beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, emotion-inducing or soothing vision…. or that all encompassing installation style experience which places you in another’s shoes…. that culturally resonant, tradition-invoking form…. or that empathic link created through the sudden illumination of another perspective…. that temporal and ephemeral created moment…. or that eternally resonant phrase… or that medium that communicates across language barriers…. Art.”

 

Boat People…

“Boat People” 2013 Spray Enamel and Gouache on paper 46 x 60 cm

An image from my Boat People series which has been selected as a finalist in this years Cliftons Art Prize for the Canberra region. These pictures are derived from images and attitudes in the Australian media on the topic of Boat People. I am interested in the general public discourse surrounding the treatment and processing of asylum seekers and seek to elucidate a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice, hope and misery of the refugee. I work with a variety of traditional mediums, ranging from acrylic, oil and gouache to stencils and pasted-up street art.