Layering, repetition, variation are the central tenets of my art practice. What is always paramount is how the paintings are made rather than what they say. And in the last decade, the surgical scalpel rather than the paintbrush has been my primary tool. I have been cutting perhaps more than painting. But whatever I am doing, a total immersion in process is the secret key to the vast and sustaining body of work I have produced since 1981.
At that time I made a simple but profound discovery, which was the possibility of painting on canvas board panels. Not only on single panels but on many panels (up to as many as 300) arranged together in a grid to form a larger composite image. But the irony is that while I love the convenience and flexibility of the canvas board, I am not in love with the grid. The aesthetic of the grid is something I resist and struggle against, yet it is nevertheless a dominant aspect of my work.
In this new group of paintings for Adelaide, I move forward, yet stay in the same place. The twelve works span the interval between 77074 to 80708 - the cumulative total number of panels completed since 1981. 'Landscape' continues to be the dominant theme with references here to Albert Namatjira's various depictions of Haast's Bluff, to Hans Heysen's excursions to the Flinders Ranges and Rosalie Gascoigne's response to the Monaro region in South-Eastern Australia (where I live) as well as references to the faded sunflowers of Egon Schiele, to Gustav Klimt's slender birch trunks and to the silhouetted rose of Philipp Otto Runge. Consequently I seem to be in two minds as to where I should locate my psyche - next to the central Australian ghost gum or the Latvian birch tree - in Europe or in the Antipodes.
My Shadow of the Hereafter, the major work in this exhibition, is based on Hans Heysen's watercolour Land of the Oratunga, 1932. But today no landscape can be immune from the layering of language, human thought, culture and history. So I've added a kind of 'poetics of ghosts' to my version of Heysen's original - the names of vanished white settlements and erased Aboriginal societies. Thus a stark but sublime topography is witness to not only the transience of human existence and the failure of the local, but also the futility of human endeavour.
14 August 2007