Freedom Through Abstraction

The original scene fragmented into a kaleidoscope of colours

All through my childhood I drew voraciously and I developed a reasonable talent for realistic drawing. I also had a rich imagination and loved cartooning. When I left school I attended life-drawing classes once a week at Meadowbank TAFE. This taught me a lot about representing the human form. In 1985 I successfully applied to art school, in part due to my portfolio of figure drawings.

Art school exposed me to alternative approaches to making and thinking about art. I was 21 years old and open to new ideas and challenges. In my 2nd year I recall a specific moment when I had an epiphany that had a lasting effect on my relationship with paint and painting. 

I was working on a painting of a man break-dancing in a desert with a couple of dingos looking on. I wanted to capture the movement of the dancer as his legs whirled above him. I began attacking the painting with sweeping brushstrokes, applying them quickly to emulate the rhythm of the dance. In the process I began painting over the man and the dogs and they became hidden beneath the swirl of lines. I became immersed in the lushness of the paint as the original scene fragmented into a kaleidoscope of colours. 

The EPIPHANY I had was: there was actually no ‘thing’ in the picture. Any semblance of a recognisable subject was an illusion. All there was was PAINT. 

However, this breakthrough did not lead me to become a purely ‘abstract painter’. I was too interested in the world of people, places and things to want to abandon them. What abstraction did offer was the licence to explore subject matter outside the confines of conventional pictorial representation, and to revel in the sheer delights of paint and it’s properties.

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