UNCERTAIN JOURNEYS

Exhibition Invitation

Today was bump in for my exhibition “Uncertain Journeys”.

The image of the boat has been a recurring theme in my painting for three years. Imagining the claustrophobic hull – the hell of uncertainty. The forced migration of people is a defining aspect of the times and the “illegal” journey to Australia by boat is now part of our modern mythology.

I worked night shift 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 little idea where they were headed, but anywhere was better than the danger and persecution they faced at home.

We have been bombarded with images and discussion in the media regarding the plight of refuges seeking asylum. This reflects upon our collective character as a nation, and resides in our hearts and minds, either to solidify prejudice or to create a powerful sense of injustice.

These pictures have grown out of this turbulence, my perspective – sensitive to the issues, and reflective about the discussion and consequences of government policy.

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2. “Night Wishes” 2014 70.5 x 50.5 cm Oil and enamel on board

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3. DETERANCE NOT PROTECTION 2015 27 X 33 CM Enamel and graphite on paper

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4. “A CERTAIN MARITIME INCIDENT” 2016 120 x 98.5 cm Acrylic on Linen

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5. “ON THE HULL” 2015 25 x 34 cm Gouache on paper

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6. “RISK THE SEAS” 2015 39 x 49 cm Oil on board

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7. “HOPE PEOPLE NOT BOAT PEOPLE” 2015 24 x 29 cm Gouache on paper

SIEV 221 NO.2SIEV 221 NO.3

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8. “SIEV 221 OFF CHRISTMAS ISLAND” (each 46 x 60 cm)          oil on board

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9. “RAFT ADRIFT No.1” 2015 36 X 24 CM Gouache on paper

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10. “LIVES IN LIMBO” 2015 78 x 37 cm Gouache and enamel on paper

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11. “RALLY FOR REFUGEES No.1” 45.5 x 60 cm Enamel on board

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12. “RALLY FOR REFUGEES No.2” 2015 40 x 50 cm Acrylic on board

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13. “THE BURNING OF SIEV 36” 2016 36 x 47 cm Oil on paper

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14. “THE DROWNED” 2016 76 x 48 cm Gouache and enamel on paper

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15. “BEHIND THE WIRE” 2014 57.5 x 74 cm Enamel on board

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16. “TRANSFEREES” 2014 52 X 47 CM Enamel on paper

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17. “VOYAGE No.1” 2014 98 x 138 cm Acrylic on board

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18. “VOYAGE No.2” 2015 39 x 62 cm Gouache and enamel on paper

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19. “WE HIDE OUR SHAME IN THE WITHHELD NAMES” 2014 48 X 63 cm Enamel on paper

THE SURVIVERS

20. “THE SURVIVORS” 2015 52 X 64 CM Gouache on paper

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21. “IN THE HULL” 2015 46.5 X 48 CM Gouache on board

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22. “AGAINST THE WAVES ” 2015 45 x 29 cm Gouache on paper

The Queue

23. “THERE IS NO QUEUE WHEN YOU RUN FOR YOUR LIFE” 2015 64 x 50 cm Ink, pastel and gouache on paper

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24. “MEMORY OF THE GUN” 2015 38 x 31 cm Gouache and ink on paper

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25. “NATIONAL INTEREST” 2016 78 x 38 cm Gouache and enamel on paper

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26. “UNCERTAIN JOURNEYS” 2014 79.5 x 54 cm Gouache and enamel on board

DETENTION 9B

27. “DETENTION” 2014 50 x 63 cm Enamel on board

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28. “YOU WON’T BE SETTLED IN AUSTRALIA” 2014 78 x 52 cm Gouache and enamel on paper

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29. “RAFT ADRIFT No.2” 2016 37 X 48 CM Gouache on paper

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30. “ON THE WIRE” 2015 61 x 46 cm enamel on board

The Survivors

"The Survivors" 2014 Gouache on paper 53 x 65 cm

“The Survivors” 2014 Gouache on paper 53 x 65 cm

It would have been good to put together this exhibition, but it is time to move on now. Thinking about a broader canvas, a “Duty of Care” series that could incorporate recent themes as well as those images still to come. Of course I imagine large monolithic works, gallery pieces that will never see the inside of a gallery. However first I must make space in the garage, a depressing exercise that fills me with dread!

"The Voyage" 2014 Gouache on paper. 60 x 84cm.

“The Voyage” 2014 Gouache on paper. 60 x 84cm.

I’ve worked mostly on paper this year. A size that can be worked on my lap in the lounge room. “The Voyage” was finished last night, and is the last of these pictures.

"Family" 2014 Acrylic and spray enamel on paper 45 x 45 cm

“Family” 2014 Acrylic and spray enamel on paper 45 x 45 cm

"A new death" 2014 Acrylic on paper 60 x 50 cm

“A new death” 2014 Acrylic on paper 60 x 50 cm

The Boat

"The Boat" 2014 Acrylic and enamel on board 98 x 138 cm

“The Boat” 2014 Acrylic and enamel on board 98 x 138 cm

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.

"Boat" 201440 x 60 cm enamel on paper

“Boat” 201440 x 60 cm enamel on paper

"Boat" Acrylic on board 60 x 80 cm 2014

“Boat” Acrylic on board 60 x 80 cm 2014

"Voyage" 2013 spray enamel and gouache on paper 100 x 192cm

“Voyage” 2013 spray enamel and gouache on paper 100 x 192cm

"Seeking Asylum"  (bus stop paste-up) Stencil August 2013

“Seeking Asylum” (bus stop paste-up) Stencil August 2013

"Boat" 2013

“Boat” 2013 100 x 192 cm

'Voyage No.2" 2013 spray enamel & gouache on paper 50 x 64 cm

‘Voyage No.2″ 2013 spray enamel & gouache on paper 50 x 64 cm

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Children behind wire

new image from the "behind the Wire" series. 54  64 cm mixed media on paper

new image from the “behind the Wire” series. 54 64 cm mixed media on paper

Variations on a theme

BIRDS SMALL

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.

Behind the wire

Behind the wire

 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.

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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