Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Cosmic Dreaming: Simulation? Oil on linen 31 x 56 cm 2018

Continuing with my 'pale blue dot' interest, I introduce you to Cosmic Dreaming: Simulation?. 

I was thinking about recent discoveries of potentially habitable exo-planets [example NASA site] orbiting distant stars. And, I was thinking about the unlikelihood of humans retreating to alternative planets outside our solar system in the near future, let alone the not-so-near future. That there might be life [of some kind] on these distant exo-planets is certainly intriguing though. 

But, with regards to humans travelling in space, getting to Mars is difficult enough! Plus, Mars will be obliterated, along with the rest of our solar system, when the sun reaches its final demise in around 4 billion years. So, staying within the solar system is doomed! Getting to Mars, though, is a stepping stone for all sorts of reasons. 

I was also thinking about the urgent need to look after the planet we do call home - Earth. We need to look after the planet, its non-human inhabitants and ourselves in order to sustain life. No good having escape plans, to set up home on an exo-planet, if we perish before we develop technology that will allow us to retreat elsewhere. But, this may be our fate...

While I was thinking about planetary sustainability, I was also thinking about simulation and dreams. 

So, is my painting an image from a dream, where alternative habitable planets, other 'pale blue dots', offer tantalising refuge for a beleaguered human species? Or, is the painting an image of a simulation, perhaps a game...a way to dupe us into thinking there are alternatives? The painting is not a game though.

Regular readers know of my interest in contemporary militarised technology, ubiquitous surveillance and increasingly autonomous weapon systems. While Cosmic Dreaming: Simulation? does not refer directly to weapons or surveillance, it is linked to my dronescapes. It is linked by the cosmic perspective I take in many of my paintings. This perspective allows the viewer to fly. For example, in Cosmic Dreaming: Simulation?, are you above, below or beside the three pale blue dots? Are you on another planet, or in a spacecraft? Or, are you a spirit, a ghost from the future, maybe 10 billion years time - long after our solar system existed? Or perhaps you are a downloaded mind transmitted, ad infinitum, along an energy wave of some kind? Are you caught in some kind of simulation? 

As a painting, Cosmic Dreaming: Simulation? offers many alternative interpretations. But, for me,  the power of human 'vision', in all its permutations - sight, insight, imagination and dreams - is an overarching consideration. This painting is, therefore, a resistance to the insidious infiltration of technological scoping, disguised as 'vision'. 


Look again at that dot. (Sagan) Oil on linen 23 x 29.5 cm 2017

                                              Showing Them Our Home Oil on linen 30 x 56 cm 2017


Wednesday, January 03, 2018


Mountains and Metaphors oil on linen 80 x 200 cm 2005

   Queensland Landscape (Unreal) Oil on linen 50 x 90 cm 2017

In this post I have chosen four paintings I painted over a decade ago and four very recent paintings. I have coupled one older painting with one recent painting. These paintings resonate with each other, in uncanny ways, across the years. In fact, I found quite a few that did this, but four from 'then' and four from 'now' are enough. 

                              UNREAL LANDSCAPES - METAPHORS

So, above, I have posted Mountains and Metaphors and Queensland Landscape (Unreal). There are twelve years between them 2005 - 2017. And, I can tell you, I was not thinking about Mountains and Metaphors when I painted Queensland Landscape (Unreal). Yet, maybe at some subliminal level I was, because there are obvious visual connections. What I can tell you is that both paintings are inspired by the Bunya Mountains, part of the Great Dividing Range that winds up the East coast of Australia. The Bunya Mountains cut a majestic silhouette against the expansive rural Queensland skies of my childhood. I lived on a flat treeless plain where the mountains in the distant east beckoned with sculptural monumentality. The western horizon offered no such aesthetic - it was flat and endless, mirages often merging landscape and sky into one. 

Looking at these two paintings at the beginning of 2018 is an interesting experiment for me. Given that I referenced mountains as metaphors in the earlier painting, there is a kind of unreality attached to the image. This unreality is expounded in the later painting, where I question our experiences with landscape in a world mediated by technology. 

A mountain, when standing at its foothills, is a metaphor for something to overcome. However, when at the top of the mountain, it acts as something not only overcome, but revelatory. From the top you can look towards a new horizon, and back to an old one - horizon being a metaphor too! But, what happens when the mountains are simulations? 


Braid Oil on board 90 x 60 cm 2007 

Imagining the Post-Human Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

I don't paint many portraits, well not obvious ones. But Braid (above) is a self-portrait, not of my face, but of the back of my head, and my long plait. Oh, and my heart too! Just over ten years ago my hair was a lot browner than it is now! My long hair is one of my distinguishing physical characteristics - apart from being very tall. 

I was looking through my paintings and it struck me that my 2016 Post Human series of works on paper, feature a 'figure' with a heart, or a simulation of a heart. The binary code accompanying the figures suggests some kind of simulation, proxy, or downloaded data. 

Am I painting myself as a post-human, my hair standing on its ends in horror, or is it excitement? The code 00111111 'screams' a question mark loaded with many questions. Why? How? Am I ok? Am I lonely?

Below, I Am A Post-Human  seems to have an answer!

My Future Post-Human Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

I Am A Post-Human Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

01001001 00100000 01100001 01101101 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110000 01101111 01110011 01110100 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 00101110


 Forever Connected Oil on linen 120 x 80 cm 2008

Crossing the Rubicon Gouache on paper 76 x 56 cm 2017

Forever Connected and Crossing the Rubicon both feature a tree-of-life seemingly reaching to the heavens. The tree-of-life is an age old transcultural symbol. It is shared by the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In Forever Connected I wanted to demonstrate the power of symbols to draw people together - I certainly experienced this when I exhibited in Abu Dhabi in late 2005. The conversations I shared, on a daily basis, with people from all over the region were triggered by my paintings where the tree-of-life echoed across the ages. 

With Forever Connected I was also referencing the story of Moses and the burning bush - the bush on fire, but not consumed by it. This story is also shared by the three Abrahamic religions. 

Looking at Crossing the Rubicon and Forever Connected together, I see that fire also links them. This has come as a surprise observation. The fire in Crossing the Rubicon indicates the impossibility of turning back. I've written more about this in my post for Crossing the Rubicon


Earth's Pulse Oil on linen 80 x 200 2005

Space Net Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Earth's Pulse and Space Net , painted 12 years apart, aesthetically resonate. The Earth, indicated by the round shape in both paintings, hovers in a cosmic landscape. Various signals or vibrations transmit to and from Earth. In Earth's Pulse these 'transmissions' seem to be cosmic forces, rhythms of the universe. In Space Net I was thinking about signals netting the planet, ricocheting from node to node, and occupying space using node-satellites.

Space Net speaks to the increasing prevalence of surveillance and monitoring technologies. Whereas, Earth's Pulse speaks to our hearts - in fact, in Abu Dhabi a male visitor to my 2005 exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, stood in front of this painting for a long time. He was a huge man, dressed in white robes - I am not sure which part of the Middle East he came from. He turned to me and said "This painting reminds me of my mortality."

Maybe Space Net indicates a kind of planetary life support, or heart bypass scenario - metaphorically speaking?

This experiment in searching for resonances between paintings created years apart has been really interesting for me. One could say that the present is always evident in the past, but there are other thoughts too. I hope you have enjoyed this uncanny - perhaps curious -  journey. It will continue!


Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Showing Them Our Home Oil on linen 30 x 56 cm 2017

Here's me with my three daughters. They are all adults now. We hover in space as we gaze upon Earth - a pale blue dot - home. 

An experience with perspective - temporal, spatial, metaphoric.

Looking back upon my role as a parent, there are many things I consider important. One is that as a significant adult in a young person's life, whether parent or other, the role of introducing them to the world, our Earthly home and universal environment, is up there on top of the list. One could say that birth is an introduction to the world, and yes it is, but as time goes by, the world is a continuously unfolding mystery. 

There are many ways to introduce someone to broader terrains and ideas. For me, engaging perspective - literal and metaphoric - transcends distance, and in doing so, imagination and compassion are ignited. In catapulting a person from one point of view to another, the world and oneself, dances the minute up close, the next flung to a distance - at one instant close enough to feel breath, the next flung so far away that features disappear - exposing a much bigger picture.      

Polymath Grandmother
My maternal grandmother D. E Ross - a polymath - knew the constellations and planets. She would take me and my two younger brothers out into dark nights, to show us various celestial entities. In Western Queensland there was no light pollution, thus our night skies were [and are] truly wondrous. As a child I was interested in my grandmother's impromptu lessons, but as an adult I look back and recognise a special introduction to the world, our universal one. I wonder if my interest in far horizons and cosmic perspectives was spurred by my grandmother's urgings to look up and wonder.

One of my daughters  has shown a keen interest in space, the outer-space kind of space. She has attended one of the International Space University's Summer programs, held in Adelaide, at the University of South Australia. As a law graduate, she has interests in how current and future legal frameworks will cope with issues such as mining on other planets/moons, space travel and so on. Her impetus comes from a concern for humanity, but also the environment beyond Earth. Maybe discussions about my cosmic paintings, and the things that influenced them, worked their way into my daughter's consciousness? An introduction to 'our world', the universal one, via art!

OUR - our
When I showed my daughters Showing Them Our World  they all understood it. The 'our' in the title is not only about us as a family, but all of humanity - the collective OUR. This latter sentiment is truly conveyed by Carl Sagan's words in his book Pale Blue Dot (1994). I have a number of pale blue dot paintings - inspired by perspective, Sagan's words and the famous photograph taken by Voyager 1 as it started its exit from the solar system in February 1990. I recently wrote a post about a few of my pale blue dot paintings. You can read more at this link Pale Blue Dot - Planet Earth 

It is unanimous - all four of us - this painting is never for sale. 


Saturday, December 23, 2017


Look again at that dot. (Sagan) Oil on linen 23 x 29.5 cm 2017

Carl Sagan wrote:

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

You can read more if you buy Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot, or check out HERE, or you can hear him speak HERE.

In 1990, as Voyager 1 started its exit from the solar system Sagan suggested that the spacecraft's camera be turned back towards Earth. The photograph called "Pale Blue Dot" showed Earth as a pale blue dot among a myriad of other shining celestial entities - a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. After the photograph was taken, the spacecraft's camera was turned off, to conserve power. Voyage 1 is now in interstellar space, the only human-made object travelling beyond the solar system. 

Although Look again at that dot. (Sagan) is a small painting, using cosmic perspectives, it channels big ideas. Sagan's commentary makes it clear that the past and future history of the human species relies upon the Earth. It is our home. 

How are we going, looking after it? 


Merry Christmas 
and Cheers,

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Queensland Landscape (Unreal) Oil on linen 50 x 90 cm 2017


On Friday I graduated with a Master of Philosophy (M. Phil) from the University of Queensland. It was a very exciting and fulfilling day. There are a couple of photos below. 

My thesis title was Drones and Night Vision: Militarised Technology in Paintings by George Gittoes and Jon Cattapan. 

Many thanks to my rigorous and wonderful supervisors, Dr. Fiona Nicoll [before she left for Alberta Uni], Dr.Amelia Barikin and Dr. Paolo Magagnoli. The two external examiner reports were returned within two weeks of thesis submission with no requests for corrections or changes. But, with a topic that involved research into the paintings and practices of such thought provoking artists as Gittoes and Cattapan, AND research into drones, autonomous weapons and ubiquitous surveillance, how could anyone lose interest!

I deliberately chose to undertake cross-disciplinary research because, at the end of the day, I wanted the research to trigger inspirations for my own creative practice. The research into militarised technology came from my longer term interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies. But, especially for an M. Phil, I had to narrow the topic down. I am really happy with how my focus on the legal, ethical, cultural and technical aspects of airborne weaponisable drones, ubiquitous surveillance and burgeoning developments in autonomous weapon systems has provided informed inspiration for my recent paintings. So, onto the next stage....lots of painting and a possible book, based on my thesis.

At the University of Queensland, St. Lucia campus.

At the University of Queensland, St. Lucia campus. In the Great Court.


Queensland Landscape (Unreal) (top) is spoof-ish. It is a landscape, but is it a real one? Or is it an unreal one?

It was inspired by my rural Queensland childhood landscape. To the East of our farm, in the middle of flat treeless Pirrinuan Plain, the Bunya Mountain range cut a majestic silhouette against the seemingly endless sky. Thus, the mountain silhouette in Queensland Landscape (Unreal) could be the Bunya Mountains, which is, in fact, part of the Great Dividing Range that runs down the East coast of Australia. 

But, the orange-red background and the almost fluorescent green appear unnatural. Is the  image a simulation, a fake environment? But, I have painted it - it is not a digitally produced simulation. Can a painting be a simulation in the 21st cyber-century? Can a painting, be a simulation of a simulation, a double entendre play with mimicry without algorithmic assistance? 

I have painted landscapes for decades. So, with a long history of painting landscapes, is  Queensland Landscape (Unreal) an amalgam of many images, if not all? Here, I take a different turn and ponder how generative software is capable of producing many design iterations from provided parameters and sources. Also, bots [internet robots] that can generate fake news, images and online engagement, because they can access mind blowing amounts of data to use, manipulate and appropriate. But, is this similar to engaging memory for the creation of an image? Queensland Landscape (Unreal) speaks to the way my memories, perhaps a source of data and parameters, have created a landscape that could be real and unreal. I lived with the Bunya Mountain silhouette until early adulthood. My childhood landscape of flat treeless plains, distant mountains and huge skies, is part of who I am. In my 20s and 30s I lived in another rural Queensland landscape, further west, beyond my childhood home. There were more trees, a few hills, but massive skies and hazy flat horizons still dominated.

But, to say my memories are data, reduces the impact of how those memories are formed and indeed remembered. I say this because it is not just about me 'downloading' visual memories. It is also about feelings, reminders of heat and dust in Summer, and frost and cold winds in Winter. It's about storm clouds rolling in, and heavy rain obscuring landscape features. Its about my parents ricocheting from worry about no rain, to worries about destructive floods. It's about memories of playing in mud, or watching snakes disappear into cracks when the black soil was starved of moisture. It's about my two younger brothers and I walking out to the main road to catch the school bus. We walked easterly towards the Bunya Mountains. Sometimes we talked, sometimes were fought! It's about the big boys on the bus shouting things out the window to me as I ran to catch the bus - I was often late. It's about going up to the Bunya Mountains for family picnics. We relished the lush green, the rainforest, the waterfall  and the different animals and birds. We were aware of the important Aboriginal connection to the Bunya Mountains. We knew it was a very significant meeting place for Aboriginal people and respected that.    

Queensland Landscape (Unreal) encapsulates all my memories and much more, some I may not be even aware of. It holds secrets behind its spoof of computer generated, bot manipulated unreal-ness. Maybe it is a cosmic landscape - regular readers will know where that idea comes from!

Me with my parents-on a tractor-the Pirrinuan Plain, Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia. 
Early 1960s.

Me in 2014 on a visit to my childhood landscape. I am positioned against the western horizon. In the opposite direction the Bunya Mountains cut their majestic silhouette against, as you can see, the endless sky. 


Sunday, December 10, 2017


Drone Ghost oil on  canvas 25 x 25 cm 2017

Drone Ghost is a small painting. But, the drone looms large. 

Is the drone actually a ghost - are you looking back to a past? If so, from this imagined future, what kinds of advanced technologies now exist? What might have replaced the drone? 

Alternatively, is the 'drone ghost' a subterfuge, a mechanism of stealth? Even though the white ghostly drone seems submerged in water, or obscured by mist, this may be a deliberate ploy. Indeed, its weapons are neither submerged nor obscured. Rather, they are 'ripe' for rapid response firing. The four red Hellfire missiles and two guided missiles 'scream' their ready intent. 

I have played, again, with perspective - as a viewer, are you above the 'drone ghost' looking down upon it or are you below the drone looking up towards it? Are you, in fact, flying around it, turning the monitoring and surveillance back onto the drone - its subterfuge, its stealth exposed?

The ripe red of the tree-of-life also 'screams' its readiness to stand guard, to withhold, to protect. It also takes on a disguise, a potential counter-subterfuge - appearing as a tree, a river system, perhaps a mountain range, or even a vascular system or a cross section of some kind of viscera.  

Is there a winner, a victor?


Please read A Droned Future? An Online Visual Essay This is my response to the release of Slaughterbots a short film about a potential future dominated by threats posed by lethal autonomous


Please check out my Christmas 2017 page - for Christmas gift ideas. Drone Ghost is one of the suggestions!


Sunday, December 03, 2017


Pale Blue Dot Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2014 Private Collection

I offer you a selection of paintings that depict a.......................................... 
pale blue dot - aka Earth

I am taking the descriptor 'pale blue dot', coined by Carl Sagan for the famous photograph Voyager 1 took as it left the solar system in February 1990. At Sagan's suggestion the spacecraft's camera was turned back towards Earth. Soon after, the camera was turned off in order to conserve power for the spacecraft's continuing interstellar journey.  You can read and listen to Carl Sagan's famous words describing the photograph, and the effect it had on him and many others HERE

A snippet from Sagan:
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

How poignant is - no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves?

In an era where emerging technologies pose existential risks, saving us from ourselves is a useful thought to ponder. In an era where weapons systems are increasingly interconnected across military and civilian arenas, and increasingly autonomous, saving us from ourselves takes on even more poignancy.  

Before continuing to look and read:
* Please check out my Christmas 2017 page - gift ideas for you!

Me in the studio working on Pale Blue Dot - helped by a glass a bubbly! 

Pale Blue Dot - AKA Earth Oil on canvas 90 x 100 cm 2017

Anomaly Detection no 2 Oil on linen 120 x 180 cm 2017

Detail of Anomaly Detection no 2

Rose Tinted Landing Oil on canvas 40 x 50 cm 2017

Have we accepted ubiquitous surveillance and always present potential targeting into our collective subconscious? I call it a 'landing' on our subconscious - a kind of insidious colonisation of imagination presented as a way to save ourselves! 

Launching the New Horizon oil on canvas 60 x 92 cm 2017

In Launching the New Horizon there is a pale blue dot, set amongst the array of other celestial dots. The 'new horizon' is created by the flat wings of the unmanned weaponised drone.

21st Century Cloud Fantasy Oil on canvas 67 x 76 cm 2017

 Australian Landscape Cutout Oil on linen 50 x 70 cm 2015

From a cosmic perspective it becomes apparent that Earth is our only home, at least for the foreseeable future. Concepts of nationhood, land ownership, borders, and sovereign power seem futile. If we all dug to the centre of the Earth, we'd all meet as one!

Planet $ oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2011

Carl Sagan The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. 

Planet $ poses questions about how we 'value' our safe harbor, our home. 

Will the way we 'value' things help save us from ourselves? 


Please Check Out
My Christmas 2017 page. It has seven oil paintings and seven works on paper, all $2,000 or under. Special Christmas gift ideas!



Sunday, November 26, 2017


Cloud Eyes Oil on canvas 40 x 40 cm 2017

In Cloud Eyes I have painted the clouds in night vision green...surveillance green. I ask, how does persistent surveillance and monitoring change our relationship with landscape and environment? Are we even aware of changes? Is landscape altered by the invisible signals that connect, transmit and receive informational, image and behavoural data? I try to expose these invisible signals, layering them over ambiguous landscapes - landscapes that could be anywhere.  

I also try to play with the viewer's perspective - for example with Cloud Eyes, are you above looking down upon my cloud eyes, or are you below them? By playing with perspectives, enabling even simultaneous viewpoints, I attempt to release the grip of machine and cyber surveillance, allowing the human gaze to turn the surveillance back. This is augmented by the sense that the viewer can freely fly around in my paintings. My clouds are visual metaphors for surveillance drones - regular readers will have guessed that!

The red background in Cloud Eyes could be an earthly landscape - maybe a barren desert, a bloodied landscape, or perhaps one rich in minerals. Or, it could be a sky filled with noxious gasses, a close-up of a brilliant sunset, or even the sun itself? In the 21st century the sky and space become part of the 'colonisable' landscape!

Vision, Seeing - Scoping
The eyes in Cloud Eyes are unblinking - they are not human. Here, I challenge ascribing notions of vision or seeing to machine, digital and cyber technologies - drones. They do not see, they do not have vision [literal, imaginational] - instead - they SCOPE! And, when you think about it, 'scoping' befits the contingencies of surveillance ie: monitoring, targeting, manhunting and attack, much better than vision and seeing.... 

By ascribing human qualities of vision and seeing, do we anthropomorphise surveillance technologies in ways that ultimately blind us?

There is more to think about, but I will leave the painting for you to ponder.


Please take a look at my last post A Droned Future? An online Visual Essay where I respond to recent high level UN debates about lethal autonomous weapons. I also address the newly released 7 minute film "Slaughterbots". This film, produced by AI and robotics researchers, portrays a seemingly scifi future - but is it? There is a link to the film in my post.