Month: February 2015

Colour persists

The arts reflect the influence we humans exert upon the world of which we are a part. For me the role of the arts is to nourish and replenish, to sustain our inner life and to affirm our ability to respond in a sentient way to what we observe around us. Through the arts, we colour our existence.

The arts gather together our visions of who we are, where we have come from and what we will become. Through music and movement, through poetry and literature, through story and song, through the imaginative construction of image, we assert our ability to shape our lives, our world, our future.

Colour is a characteristic of life. Living things lose their colour when they die.

In these paintings, colour stands for all that is living and hopeful, vital and transcendent.

Colour persists.

East wind

1 East wind

acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

The colours of this painting suggest central mainland Australia, yet there is something indefinably Japanese about it. I have always found Japanese art and design very beautiful. For me, growing up on mainland Australia, there was always a metaphoric wind blowing from the East.

Approaching zero 1

2 Approaching zero 1
acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

Approaching zero 2

3 Approaching zero 2
acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

In mathematics, zero is the point from which all reckoning proceeds, the neutral value between positive and negative, the point of intersection of the axes on a graph. It might be thought of as nothing, or as the point of perfect balance.

Family Lines

4 Family lines
acrylic on canvas
175 x 175 cm

This painting contemplates the curious blend of individual colours and characteristics that go to make up every family. Crochet is a skill passed on to me by my paternal grandmother, who used to make huge scarves for us all. Often she wove coloured strands between the crocheted stitches, producing garments that were known throughout the family as “Nanna’s horse blankets”: warm and comforting, and slightly scratchy and inflexible, but always lovingly made… a fair metaphor for family life in general.

Colour persists

5 Colour persists 2
acrylic on canvas
108 x 130 cm

Colour persisits sketch

6 Colour persists (sketch)
acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

Living things lose their colour when they die.

Colour persists in all that is living and therefore hopeful.


7 Chant
acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

The repeated “crochet” motif with five lines “woven” through it vaguely resembles a musical score, but with only one continuous low note.

Tim Winton: “In the south, which boils with gothic clouds, the sky’s commotion can render you so feverish your thoughts are closer to music than language.”

From the deep

8 From the deep
acrylic on canvas
(diptych) 2 panels each 90 x 70cm

The ocean is sometimes used as a metaphor for the subconscious mind. After storms, fishing nets draw up fragments of seaweed broken by the sea’s turbulence. Similarly, thoughts rise to consciousness from the depths of the psyche, sometimes to be captured in works of art. The right hand side of this painting contains lines of text relating to the sea, taken from many sources, from Pete Hay to Virginia Wolff.

First rain

9 First rain
acrylic on canvas
110 x 130 cm

Hobart’s climate is surprisingly dry. Having lived in many parts of Australia including the tropics, I miss the heavy summer rains. The first few drops of a good fall bring the senses alert with anticipation… and then comes the deluge and the sudden flush of green growth that follows. There is nothing like the smell of rain on dry ground.

Red red rose

10 Red, red rose
acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

I enjoy exploring the boundaries of image and text. This painting is based on the words of Robert Burns.

“My love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June:
My love is like a melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.”

The place where waters meet

11 The place where waters meet
acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

In India, near Allahabad, there is a place considered holy by Hindus, called Sangam, where the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswat meet. It is said that the colours of each river can be seen as they combine at Sangam.

The words in this painting are taken from the poem Where Water Comes Together with Other Water by Raymond Carver:

“I love creeks and the music they make.
And rills, in glades and meadows, before
they have a chance to become creeks.
I may even love them best of all
for their secrecy….
…And the places streams flow into rivers.
The open mouths of rivers where they join the sea….
It pleases me, loving rivers.
Loving them all the way back
to their source.
Loving everything that increases me.”

The Door

12 The Door
acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

A poem by Charles Tomlinson was the starting point for this painting, and set me searching for other references to doors.

“Too little
has been said
of the door, its one
face turned to the night’s
downpour and its other
to the shift and glisten of the firelight….

…too little
has been said
of our coming through and leaving by them.”

Cropped field

13 Cropped Field
acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

A little field painting; a little painting of a field. Cropped. After harvest.


14 The River
acrylic on canvas
110 x 130 cm

The river flows by, bearing on its surface small, bright leaves and the reflection of all that stands beside it. The river flows on, deeply, darkly, but we only see the surface. If we focus differently, we can sometimes see what lies beneath.

Australian parrots, Latin names

15 Australian parrots, Latin names

acrylic on canvas
110 x 130 cm

Rainbow lorikeet: Triglossus haematodus.
Pale-headed rosella: Platycercus adscitus.

Bright feathers. Clustered in trees, or flashing by.

Regardless of any name we give it, a parrot is simply itself.

Score for frogs and rain

16 Score for frogs and rain
acrylic on canvas
45 x 45 cm

In Australia’s tropical north there are times when rain falls heavily after dark, in great curtains, parallel strands, drumming where it lands, its sound broken only by frog song. It’s the noisiest kind of peace I know.

Time and space

17 Time and space
acrylic on canvas
110 x 180 cm

There are many grid-like diagrams representing time and space, drawn to demonstrate the physical “laws” that govern them. However, we don’t really experience time and space that way. Places that seemed huge to us as children are surprisingly small when we revisit them. The time it takes to reach a destination always seems longer than the trip home.

For me, time and space swoop and fold like a blowing curtain as I make forays into the landscape, and into memory.


18 History
acrylic on canvas
175 x 175 cm

An interaction occurs. It is documented. Later, the documentation is reinterpreted from different points of view. Patterns are sought, lines of logic drawn. Detail is emphasised, and obliterated, as the process continues over time.

History is written and rewritten, and in the end the interpretation obscures the event.

These are the processes of history, regardless of the scale of the event. The original interaction might have been of national or personal importance; the process is the same.

This painting began with a series of overlapping panels. The rest is history.

Piecework of recall-1

19 Piecework of recall
acrylic on canvas
110 x 130 cm

Not long before I began this painting I met a friend I had not seen for decades and we reminisced about our early lives. Each of us remembered things the other had not; each of us was able to shed light for the other on the events of long ago.

We piece together our memories so that they make sense to us, finding order where we can. But there are always pieces floating outside the pattern, sometimes in the memories of others, which must be allowed to find their place in the whole.


20 A butterfly flaps its wings in China… somewhere a love affair begins
acrylic on canvas
Diptych: 2 panels each 45 x 45cm

“The butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.” (Wikipedia)

The idea of a small occurrence influencing later events is more appealing to me than “fate” or “destiny”. It demonstrates the inter-connectedness of all things, while reserving judgment as to the likely outcome.

These paintings are from my solo exhibition Colour persists at Handmark, Hobart, January 2015

My grateful thanks to:

• Allanah Dopson and the wonderful staff at Handmark for looking after me and my work so well

• Scott Turnbull at Turnbull Family Funerals for generously providing me with studio space

Andrew Veivers for enliving the opening of the exhibition with his splendid music

• My family, especially Neil, for their patience, and even enthusiasm, for my work