A lot of my paintings are frenetic scenes overflowing with flotsam and jetsam. Half-formed objects and life-forms, fragmenting and bouncing off each other. In these paintings I attempt to create a sense of speed and chaos as a reflection of the modern world.
At age 17 I left the suburbs of Sydney and moved to the inner city. I revelled in the eclectic buzz of city-life: I got a job at Abbey’s bookshop, on George Street, near Town Hall Station. It was the centre of the city, a cauldron of cultural diversity, where I loved wondering anonymous through the busy streets. The bookshop too was a place that contained a plethora of ideas and stories from across the globe and stretching back throughout history. So I was pleased that I had successfully swapped what I perceived as the ‘blandness’ of the suburbs for the ‘richness’ of the city.
After 4 years working I went to Art School where I encountered a multitude of interesting people and thought-provoking viewpoints. This was an extension of my desire to cast a wide net and be open to new experiences. In my last year of art school I lived in a warehouse in Surrey Hills with a bunch of art students. It was a space full of people making art, listening to music (punk, rap, hip-hop and some opera), drinking, taking drugs, going to dance parties and staying up until dawn. It was a stimulating existence. Sometimes a little too stimulating.
Within 4 years of leaving art school I was living on a farm out the back of Kempsey with a young family, and after a few years I became a sole parent with 3 children under the age of 8. After our divorce their mother moved away and I had the kids 100% of the time. However, I did not want to become a martyr to single parenthood, so I continued to fill my life with activities. I kept painting and had several exhibitions. I became actively involved in local community arts events. In 1999 I launched an annual dance party in a bush hall, called The Funkadelic Freak Show. I also completed my Dip Ed to become a qualified High School art teacher. So, although I sometimes missed the city life, my friends and I generated our own social and cultural prosperity.
The years passed and my children grew up.
I recently began painting again after a reasonable break. In order to avoid getting bogged down I started work on about 15 canvases with a flurry of random marks, without focusing too much on outcome. This is often how I approach my painting, starting with an energetic base of abstract colours, shapes and lines from which to work. I then transform the serendipity of visual accidents into something deliberate. A common artistic idea is ‘Less is More’, but I believe that in order to get ‘less’, first you need ‘more’. This is part of my rationale for starting out with busyness then imposing a degree of order to give it some harmony and quietude.
After a few days of painting I found myself standing in front of a typically haphazard and half-formed composition. I stood back to see if I could make any sense of it, turning it upside down and sideways searching for something to grab hold of. This can be a gruelling process because it can make me question whether there is any point to it at all: am I simply indulging in a meaningless pursuit? Then I had an epiphany. While squinting half-consciously at the canvas there appeared a figure of a man holding a baby. He was standing anchored in the street, surrounded by confusion, focused solely on the delicate child in his arms.
I became quite emotional and started to cry. This was me, the father, embracing something profoundly meaningful, standing in a street full of disarray. It reminded me that my most beautiful creative achievement was the raising of my children.
Once a wide-eyed art student revelling in the frenzied excitement of the city, I found a moment of serenity in the acknowledgement of my life as a loving father.