The Invisible Artist

New paste-up -  more kangaroos!

New paste-up – more kangaroos!

Every night I crash, despite the desire to continue the street art project. Then, overwhelmed by a sense of uselessness, I abort and seek the comfort of the pillow instead. I’ve been sitting on a number of pieces for a while now, but last night the urgency had returned. The ANU bus stop has bared the remnants of an earlier work since April, and the temptation to add to the spidery grasses has been a nagging constant.

Hard at work, 45 after 12, I was surprised by two students retiring late. They walked straight paste, didn’t even cast a glance, like I was invisible – and maybe I am. The work something to pick at between buses, as invisible as I?

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The night all around seems to reduce most personal fears, and the belief in invisibility has crept in though still the curved concrete does provide a nook to hide a body not really wanting to be seen, and with each passing taxi, I curl into the cream surround – similarly black as the vista beyond the reach of street lights, the air smelling of dew and me accepting of the ritual.

"The Roo" (bus stop paste-up) acrylic on paper April 2014

“The Roo” (bus stop paste-up) acrylic on paper April 2014

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Art in a vacuum

New paste-up on in a bus stop on Belconnen Way

New paste-up on in a bus stop on Belconnen Way

I’ve seen this ‘Art’ stencil for about a month in a bus shelter that previously sported my Valentines Tableau paste-up. A question? a statement? or a challenge? I could not decide. My idea was simple, art in a vacuum – seemed an appropriate surround for the lonely words and last night, having fallen asleep on the couch (for a change!), I awoke with my feet tangled in the delicate wire that was my paste-up to be. The time was right and the feeling,nothing a yawn or a cloud could dismiss.

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The air was spring clean weighed down by photinia blossom and expectancy. The young crimson leaves highlighted at the tips, touched by the full moon. An unmarked Police car raced a red light sirens blazing, seemingly reaching 160 km before the road dips at the edge of Scullin. An animal something between an over fed tom cat and a bull mastiff was in hot pursuit. The job was swift, and the transformation of the public amenity pleasing, and I returned home with the thought ‘why the great hiatus?’

"Valentines Tableaux" (bus stop paste-up) Mixed media on paper February 2013

“Valentines Tableaux” (bus stop paste-up) Mixed media on paper February 2013

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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Variations on a theme

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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.

Abbott Proof Fence

My response to pro Abbott graffiti

My response to pro Abbott graffiti

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A better photo of the bird mural. I’m thinking of turning this place into a street art gallery.

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.

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Bike Riding and Street Art

 

It is rare that I lead with a photograph over art work, but I liked this shot.

It is rare that I lead with a photograph over art work, but I liked this shot.

It seems an unlikely combination, taking my eldest 2 kids out for a bike adventure on a sunny Sunday, packed with water bottles, stencil, paste-up, and enough art materials to get the job done.

 

I painted the dog the night before last. Paste-up in a close to home park in Higgins.

I painted the dog the night before last. Paste-up in a close to home park in Higgins.

 

I couldn't resist adding to this pro Howard graffiti

I couldn’t resist adding to this pro Howard graffiti

When I lived in the bush, I took a bike out across sheep paddocks to reach far off woodlands. Drawing board over my shoulder art materials in a backpack – oh and an appropriate beverage of a reasonable vintage. I had my share of spills. On one occasion I was screaming down hill at dusk, scattering the heard and sending cockatoos screeching off into high perches – meeting head on the dank cool air that settles in the low lands and soaks right into the dewy greens. I hit a rock, or sheep bones obscured by a tuft of wallaby grass and flew over the handlebars like some over sized cocky in a trench coat. I walked the bike home the rest of the way that evening, and was extra thankful the alcohol dulled the pain. 

But the real object of todays journey was finding a tall playground tower we spied from across Ginninderra Creek in the Umbagong Districk Park last weekend. It didn’t disappoint and we dubbed it “Rocket Tower Playground” – a good place to play tips.

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Someone got here before us, but we still felt the right to rename our destination.

Someone got here before us, but we still felt the right to rename our destination.