Friday, February 17, 2017


Secrets Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Upright and upside down trees-of-life - roots - multiple mini landscapes - emanating pink rays - glistening stars or are they galaxies?  - skies - clouds - landforms - the cosmos - and ---- secrets!

If you are new to my blog you are likely to 'read' this painting quite differently to those who visit often - initially anyway. 

For those who do visit often they will notice the absence of airborne weaponised drones. They will, however, think twice about the emanating rays in the distance. Are they signs of hidden drones loitering beyond sight, their long range and long dwell capabilities enabling persistent surveillance? Or, are they evidence of suns in the far distant reaches of the universe? Regular visitors might also notice how these rays contrast with the pale green roots, and the upright and upside-down trees. 

New and regular visitors will notice an ambiguous perspective - are you above, below, inside, outside, in front of a landscape? Is it a 'scape' of the land or of the sky? Maybe, it's a 'scape' revealing multi-universes? 

I called the painting Secrets for a few reasons. One is to remind us that keeping secrets in the cyber and digital age of the 21st century is very difficult! Whether secrets are revealed now or at some time in the future is largely out of our hands. Algorithms will trawl through data and come up with correlations that 'reveal' biases, likes, dislikes, habits etc whether we like it or not! 

But, a painting with upside down trees, an ambiguous perspective, emanating pink rays, pale dots, green roots and an overwhelming sense of beauty keeps its secrets by being enchanting, even beguiling. Whatever secrets it might hold, they are there forever - so I am told!  

Once an artist has a body of work it is exciting to see relationships between works, even over decades. A body of work is a dynamic entity made up of equally dynamic parts. Yes, individual pieces can be appreciated separately, but connections between works can sometimes reveal - secrets!

P.S. Please check out my new DRONESCAPES page here on my BLOG and my updated 'galleries' on my website

Saturday, February 11, 2017


Cradle Gouache and Watercolour on Paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

As I sit here in my office in sweltering heat I ponder the state of the planet. Here in Brisbane we have experienced days of drastic heat - one after the other. All over Australia people are sweltering under record high temperatures. The odd hot day or two is bearable, but day after day of heat + humidity is debilitating. The relentlessness of the heat is significant, because to me at least, it demonstrates change in weather patterns. I grew up in Western Queensland, Australia. Then as an adult I spent 18 year further west, before moving to Brisbane 16 years ago. Yes, it got hot out west, but I don't remember weeks of relentless heat - like we are experiencing now. I noticed it last year too, but had not previously noticed it 

So, are we humans like a frogs put in water that is slowly brought to boiling point - but the frogs do not notice they are being cooked?! Maybe?

In the 60s and 70s when I was at primary school we learnt about pollution; air, water, soil, land etc. Yet, here we are a few decades later still talking about the effects of pollution - humanmade pollution! Even if humankind's pollution is ultimately not a major contributor to climate change/global warming it cannot be helping! Even if it is a minor contributor, what if it is the thing that causes the balance to tip - the last ingredient - AND - so something that demands to be addressed - by all of us? Arguing about addressing human generated pollution seems pointless because one way or another it is a major problem.

Added to environmental turmoil the world is also experiencing other kinds of turmoil - economic, political, social and cultural. My guess is that they are all connected.

So, I painted Cradle with humanity and the tree-of-life linked in a vast landscape as a way to envision Earth - our planet - our home. After all, it is ACTUALLY our 'cradle' as it nurtures us in every way. Let's look after it and each other....

Below is another 'cradle' work from 2015 In the Cradle 

In the Cradle Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015


Red Rain on the front of Hecate and What I think About When I am Planking featured on conference material. February 2017

My painting Red Rain  is featured on the front cover of HECATE Hecate is a journal that prints material relating to women. It is is an internationally circulated refereed journal. It is published twice a year by Hecate Press, in association with the Research Group for Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change Research, in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland.

My painting What I Think About When Planking  is featuring in printed and online material for the international conference Excess Desire and Twentieth to Twenty-First Century Women's Writing  

P.S Please check out my new DRONESCAPES page 

Sunday, February 05, 2017


 Manhunting Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


1. I have made a designated DRONESCAPES  page here on my blog. There are 18 of my dronescape - cosmic landscape paintings.

2. My painting Red Rain  is featured on the front cover of HECATE Hecate is a journal that prints material relating to women. It is is an internationally circulated refereed journal. It is published twice a year by Hecate Press, in association with the Research Group for Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change Research, in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland.

3. My painting What I Think About When Planking  is featuring in printed and online material for the international conference Excess Desire and Twentieth to Twenty-First Century Women's Writing  



I first came across the term "manhunt" in regards to airborne drone surveillance and targeting in French philosopher Gregoire Chamayou's book Drone Theory. He makes the startling and horrific claim that in the age of the drone the whole world is potentially a manhunting ground.(Chamayou: 38, 52-53) And, let's not forget that in some parts of the world 'manhunts' conducted from the air already occur. In many cases targeting is based on patterns of behaviour or data collected from devices such as mobile phones, GPS and so on. In these cases a target may not even have a name - this is called a 'signature strike' rather than a 'personality strike'. (this information is available in numerous places including newspaper article as well as books like Chamayou's Drone Theory)

I have come across the idea of manhunt/manhunting in other articles and books a number of times since reading Drone Theory. The threat from above informs architect Eyal Weizman's theory of the verticality of threat and international relations academic Alex Danchev's provocatively titled article Bug Splat: The Art of the Drone . Media studies academic Mark Andrejevic writes about the ubiquity of targeting surveillance in a number of articles and essays. And, there are others.

In the last few weeks I have read two articles by lecturer in human geography at Glasgow University, Ian Shaw. These articles are The Great War of Enclosure: Securing the Skies and The Urbanisation of Drone Warfare: Policing Surplus Populations in the Dronepolis . Both of these pieces are wake-up calls about the threats posed by accelerating technical, operative and usage developments in drone technology. Increasing autonomy and swarm capabilities trigger many questions about drone use in both military and civilian situations. The insidious thing is that the divide between civilian and military is becoming increasingly blurred.

Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2016

Manhunting and Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell 

I painted Manhunting after reading Shaw's two articles and I painted Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell before reading the articles. Shaw's ideas about the reduction of some populations to a "surplus" category where data often acts as a proxy for the human really resonated with me.

Binary Code
Both paintings depict life and humanity in painted binary code. How? In Manhunting I have painted Human in binary code at the bottom of the painting, over and over. This represents a population under surveillance, potentially targeted.

In Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell I have painted the word LIFE in binary code at the bottom of the painting. And, the word DRONE is painted in binary code on the Gray Eagle drone.

In both paintings 'signals' emanate from the drone, a Reaper drone in Manhunting.  They are simultaneously surveillance and targeting signals, on the one hand 'sucking' in our data and on the other hand perhaps lasers pinpointing targets? Both the Gray Eagle drone and Reaper drone are armed with missiles. They are ready to attack. The targets below the drones are strings of binary code acting as proxies for humanity and life. There are no names, just contained in the reductive 'space' between zeros and ones.


I have deliberately painted the binary code in attractive colours to make the strings of code look like ribbons, to inject personality, to stir the pot so-to-speak. Hand painting the code also means the zeros and ones are not perfect. Can code really represent life and humanity in all the foibles and amazing attributes that come with flesh, blood, emotions, spirit, creativity...?

In Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell I have also included trees-of-life to act as beacons to guide us. In Manhunting there is no tree. But, I look at the empty space on the far right of the strings of binary code in two ways. One is that human life completely ceases and autonomous artificial life systems rule the world! The other is that life covertly goes underground, ready and waiting for regrowth some time in the future.

A Selection of related posts.


my 'gallery' DRONESCAPES


Saturday, January 21, 2017


Through the Mists of Time Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 75.5 cm 2017

As regular readers know, my recent paintings have been influenced by my M. Phil research into contemporary militarised technology. Recent work has featured the figure of the unmanned air vehicle, commonly called the drone, often in juxtaposition with my interpretation of the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol. 


This new painting Through the Mists of Time does not feature a drone. Rather, it focuses on humanity - unplugged from all cyber and digital technologies.

A result of my research focusing on contemporary militarised technology is a counter balancing re-focus on questions associated with what it means to be human in the 21st century. That's why the tree-of-life figures so strongly in my work, with or without drones! The tree, as an age-old transcultural/religious symbol 'speaks' of all life and its systems. 

In Through the Mists of Time I wanted to place humanity, as represented by the male and female figures, in a cosmic seemingly timeless landscape. The figures seem to 'cast' a tree-of-life shadow, or new root system, at the same time as they project a tree-of-life into the sky - the endless future. A 'stream' of leaves gives the impression of time passing, the white oval shape alludes to renewal and birth, while the small round tree hovers like a fire fly, ready to illuminate, play, guide, tease. Small dots make up various parts of the painting - are they stars, new universes, energy particles, past and future histories? 

I am interested in investigating human agency in an age where unseen algorithms influence so much of our lives. I suggest that in an age of increasing automation, and developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, questions about human agency are important.

I was a fare way into completing this painting - and it did take some time - when I decided to re-read some of my Mother's and Grandmother's poems in their joint anthology Out There (1986). Well, one of my Mother's poems 'sang' to my new painting. In fact, I took its title from a line of my Mother's poem. The poem is:

Grafting Time
by Elsie Brimblecombe 
Published in Out There by D. E Ross [my grandmother] and Elsie Brimblecombe, Elise Publishing, Dalby, 1986.

If I squeeze the golden fruits
Of time, and suck the juice
Till from the leathered skins
The pith and core and rind
   fall free

The seed beyond the centre
Of that fruit will score
Their mark and drop
Beyond the pearly orchard gates
   and grow

There is this land crossed by days
And falling within the season's drop
Those fruits will bear
Upon the hour, the stop
And go of earth's frantic measure

But if I could graft the trees
Of time and from that union
Spring a growing season
Rooted in the current flow
I would grow and tree of life
   beyond record

A tree whose branches spread
Beyond our lives and those gone by
A tree which blossomed
Through the mists of time
And set its fruits to ripen
In the thinking of the wise.


Please check out recent and older posts for more on my work figuring the drone, the tree-of-life and cosmic landscapes.


Saturday, January 14, 2017


Shadowy Drone Play gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

What was I thinking about when I painted Shadowy Drone Play? The answer is, a lot of things. 

I was thinking about the literal shadow a drone might cast. Perhaps the dark blue drone is a shadow? But, it cannot be the shadow of the checked drone, because they are going in opposite directions. Is there another drone above us that casts this dark shadow? Maybe it is not a shadow at all? Maybe it is a drone, camouflaged against the blue sky - a droned sky. The checked drone mimics an expression of pixels, possibly camouflaging itself for virtual representation? Or is Shadowy Drone Play a 'screen shot' of a game or possibly a remote pilot's screen where the digital signal is disrupted and the image begins to break down? 

Are we looking down upon these two drones or are we looking up at them? If they are, however, on a screen  we could be receiving images from another drone who is beside them or a even a satellite image which has been rotated? Maybe we are seeing only two drones of a much larger swarm of them, our image received by another swarm member? Regular readers know how I love to play with perspective. 

The word shadowy has other connotations other than casting a literal shadow. Words like covert, secret, clandestine, furtive and stealth come to mind! Yes, politically charged! Maybe the pixelated drone is expressing some kind of stealth capability with the other drone as a decoy? Lots of possibilities. 

This painting is deliberately ambiguous! That's not a surprise. I like ambiguity, because it holds the potential to open out into possibilities I have not thought about - by you! 


Sunday, January 08, 2017


 Sky - Drone - Net gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Surveillance is a hot topic. Cyber-hacking, data collection, Big Data, device monitoring, video surveillance, tracking by GPS systems, drone surveillance and lordy knows what other kinds! We have stories of the recent US election being influenced by another foreign country's surveillance, hacking, stealth! And, closer to home, after browsing the internet for holiday accommodation, I have social media sites advertising special deals in the very same places. There are some hot deals in Port MacQuarie!  Oh, and we now have a tracking device that we can attach to our cat, the one who thinks he is a person and sometimes a bird. This device can be monitored by a mobile phone. Even pets are subject to surveillance! Actually, this is going to make life a lot easier - I hope...

In this post I have two surveillance paintings. As regular readers know I am fascinated by the figure of the unmanned airborne military drone. Its surveillance, monitoring and attack capabilities are both sophisticated and alarming.There are many moral and ethical questions associated with remotely piloted unmanned drones, especially as autonomy in many of their operative systems increases. Political questions collide with moral and ethical ones. Various interests and debates seem to fall into a quagmire, but research and development into increasing autonomy, stealth capability, non-reliance on GPS or communications satellites etc continues. Politics, and definitely the law, play a game of constant catch-up!

In the meantime the public is subject to persistent surveillance. In some parts of the world ie: Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, this surveillance takes on life and death perspectives.

I imagine an array of signals forming a net across the sky. Here, I take cultural critic Mark Andrejevic's idea of "the droning of experience" and call our contemporary skies "droned skies". In my imagination the sky is diminished, its endlessness restricted as fear mingles with the signals to create a tight and opaque 'net' the obscures perspective, distance, imagination.

Now that does not seem such a happy note to end this post on!

Please focus on my two paintings Sky - Drone - Net and Swarm Surveillance. In both it is unclear whether you are above or below the net of signals. There's hope! 

Swarm Surveillance Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Monday, January 02, 2017


Scoping New Skies Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Ubiquitous and persistent surveillance via visual and data monitoring creates a new layer of 'reality' whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Most people, however, are aware, albeit in varying degrees. People in Yemen, Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan are aware in an extreme way as they experience remotely piloted airborne drones that hover above their homes and territories. These drones provide surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence to other, mostly western authorities, in the name of activities such as counter-insurgency operations. These drones can also target and attack. In a way the sky falls in! 

People in the west are monitored and surveilled via their use of digital devices, their movements across the world caught on surveillance cameras, their cars tracked by GPS devices and so on. Perhaps, rather than a new sky it is a whole new world? If it a whole new world, it will have a sky of sorts...? But, maybe this new sky acts like a blanket, a mechanism of suffocation. After all virtual reality gives the impression of 3 dimensions, but this is an algorithmic instruction. Maybe the 'sky' really has fallen - into the reduction that lies between zeros and ones? Here it is sobering to think about a statement made in 1994 by cultural critic Paul Virilio, in an interview with visual artist Louise Wilson. 

These new technologies try to make virtual reality more powerful than actual reality, which is the true accident. The day when virtual reality becomes more powerful than reality will be the day of the big accident.(1)   

Scoping New Skies plays with all the thoughts expressed in the above paragraphs and more. 

In the painting, the drone scopes using co-ordinates, multiple electro-optical and data collection devices. It is also equipped with Hellfire and guided missiles. The tree-of-life sits atop a planet, maybe Earth? The tree's roots seem protected by the arced dome-like shape of the planet, but...maybe its actually more interesting than that? Maybe the dome is a kind of cosmic protector - one that the drone's surveillance systems cannot penetrate or even detect? The cosmic sky is a reminder that there is a universal space beyond the drone-space, and the orbits of GPS and communications satellites currently used to support a drone's operation. 

And, there's more...
But, I'll leave it to you now!

1. Paul Virilio. Interview with Louise Wilson "Cyberwar, God and Television: Interview with Paul Virilio", C Theory, December 1, 1994.  


Please check out another 'sky' post and painting NEW SKY 


Please check out my last post A VISIT TO THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL 


Monday, December 26, 2016


The Australian War Memorial December 21, 2016. The Last Post ceremony is performed each afternoon. I was there for the commemoration for Norman Leslie Oliver, who died from wounds sustained during World War 1.

I've been to Canberra, Australia's capitol city, to visit the Australian War Memorial. I was there to do some research for my M. Phil studies at the University of Queensland. After meeting curatorial staff to see some of the paintings, currently held in storage, by the artists I am researching ie: George Gittoes and Jon Cattapan, I spent time in the Commemorative Courtyard/Roll of Honour and a long time looking at the Memorial's extensive collections. These collections encompass an array of material from various wars and conflicts Australia has been involved with. This includes Australia's most recent involvement in the Middle East. It also includes special mention of peacekeeping activities in various places over decades. Display items include newspaper clippings, old film footage, photographs, items collected by soldiers, actual weapons, actual aircraft, maps, simulations of battles, recordings, paintings, sculptures, medals, dioramas, and so much more - including a surveillance drone!

I spent all day on the 21st  December at the War Memorial - I  had to be asked to leave at 5 pm - I had lost track of time. I was inside a simulation at the time. It was a World War 2 bomber and the floor of the 'aircraft' was actually vibrating. The all-round sound was so effective it took the woman, asking me to leave, some time to get my attention!

Given my M. Phil research approach I was particularly interested in exhibits and commentary on militarised technology, both pre and post digital/cyber.

German Enigma - Code Machine - Spook hardware.

This exhibition is a MUST SEE

"For Country, for Nation is thematic in structure. Within each theme are stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience during wartime and peace." 

I hope  For Country, For Nation  gets to tour around Australia. This exhibition is meaningful in many ways. It includes old photographs, memorabilia, commentary from current Indigenous service men and women, Elder commentary and artistic reflections by contemporary Indigenous artists. It is not a permanent show, but I was told it will be up well into 2017. 

Please visit the War Memorial's webpage for For Country, For Nation . Also, the Memorial's page Indigenous Service i Australia's Armed Forces in Peace and War - Overview 

Of particular interest to me - regular readers will not be surprised - was the smallish surveillance ScanEagle drone suspended from the ceiling in the Middle East Display . This is a new display opened in October 2016.  There is also a photograph, attached to an nearby wall, of one of these drones being catapulted into the air by soldiers. The photograph is accompanied by didactic information which explains Australian use of airborne drone surveillance technology in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Exhibition Didactic Australian War Memorial 

The Heron drone mentioned in the War Memorial's didactic information [image above] is an Israeli made drone which has been used by Australian forces for surveillance purposes. You can read more about Australian drone operation at the Royal Australian Air Force "Technology" pages HERE .

Look up, there's a drone! The 'figure' in the glass cabinet 'wears' bomb proofing gear.

I think some people would miss seeing the drone as the exhibit is quite crowded, housed in a small space and the drone hangs quite close to the ceiling. However, if you do notice it... it does provide a good opportunity to view the underside of the drone [Photo Below]. I could not get the whole of the drone's underbelly in my photograph as I only had my iPad turned onto 'Selfie' mode.

Underbelly of a surveillance drone - Australian War Memorial

The Memorial's Anzac Hall extension houses an array of air and maritime exhibits, including actual aircraft, moving images, etc. The Aircraft Hall  exhibits planes, photographs and other memorabilia. 

I could not help wonder how the airborne drone will feature in the future, not only at the Australian War Memorial, but in other museums and memorials around the world. 

Will Reaper, Predator, Gray Eagle and other drones, with their array of surveillance and weapon's technology, be included in exhibits dedicated to the history of aircraft or will they be included in exhibits dedicated to surveillance, military technology, weapons or...? Or, will there be "Unmanned Systems" exhibitions? 

Given the debates about unmanned systems and increasingly autonomous systems*, questions will need to be asked about remote killing, increasing asymmetry in combatant capabilities, terrorist tactics, increasing dual-use nature of cyber connectivity, civilian deaths and more. These questions will influence the way 21st century militarised technology and its effects will be exhibited. 

*The UN has agreed to tackle the issue of autonomous weapons in 2017.

Military airborne photographic surveillance has a long history. The photo below describes early aerial photography during World War 1. This didactic information was included in an interactive large-scale map of Gallipoli [Turkey] and surrounds. The original photographs, taken during the war, have been montaged together to form a very large interactive topographical map. Visitors to the War Memorial can access information by touching points on the large screen. Of course these early airborne surveillance activities were manned - and - in open cockpits! Very different to contemporary remotely piloted long range, long dwell systems with wide area surveillance capabilities, that currently rely on GPS and communications satellites.  

The contrast between the World War 1 surveillance exhibit and the airborne surveillance ScanEagle drone got me thinking [again]...what will militarised technology bring in the next 100 years? Considering the accelerating pace of technological development I'm not sure we can even imagine what it will be like. And, then again, there's the question astronomer and cosmologist Martin Rees raises in his early 2003/4 book Our Final Century    - will humanity survive the 21st century? Indeed, will militarised technology, by mistake, accident or in the hands of aberrant groups, lead to humanity's demise?

World War 1 exhibit: Aerial photographs of Gallipoli and surrounds.

The Australian War Memorial achieves a balanced approach to how it memorialises war and conflict. The gravitas of war's companion - death - is pervasive. And, it's not just about Australian deaths, but also casualties, military and civilian, on all sides. It is very sad.

The gravitas of death - regarding Australian troops - is solemnly felt when walking along the Roll of Honour. This long list of the names of the fallen runs around the two sides of the Commemorative Courtyard. Name after name, after name, after name - of young men and women who have been killed in war and conflict situations.

My paternal grandfather's older brother Louis Hugh Brimblecombe died in France at age 22, from gunshot wounds to his back. He enlisted in July 1917 and died August 1918. It was strange, but as I walked along the Roll of Honour his name jumped out at me. He is buried at Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-Sur-Somme, France. 

My grandfather Wilfred John Brimblecombe CBE [1898 - 1973] did survive the war. He enlisted as a private in 1915 [age 17] and returned home as a Sargent [age 21] in 1919. He was initially in the 6th Lighthorse, but was transferred to the 2nd Lighthorse Machine Gun Squadron. He spent the war in the Middle East. On returning to Australia he and another brother farmed a large block of rich black-soil on the Pirrinuan plain between Dalby and Jimbour, Queensland, Australia. My grandfather was politically active, particularly in agri-politics, and became the Federal member for Maranoa [nearly 732,000 sq kilometers] in the House of Representatives in 1951, during Sir Robert Menzies second stint as Prime Minister. He retired in 1966.   

Louis Hugh Brimblecombe and other young lives lost during World War 1. 

There is no way I could say a visit to the Australian War Memorial is enjoyable, in the sense of joy and laughter...thank goodness. Rather, it is a riveting, moving, sad, educational and thought provoking experience. 

Reading some of the didactic information about the fate of people in war and conflict situations is harrowing. Seeing re-enactments on film...I cannot watch them for very long. Old footage of Lighthorsemen atop their horses made me wonder if my grandfather was one of the soldiers. The Last Post, which is played each afternoon at the Last Post Ceremony  in the War Memorial's Commemorative Courtyard leaves you with a sense of sadness for all involved - for humanity.

My visit to the War Memorial has made me wonder even more about the future. Regular readers know that in many of my own paintings I have been juxtaposing the age-old transcultural/religious symbol of the tree-of-life with the military airborne drone to question humanity's fate in an era of accelerating technological development. Places like the Australian War Memorial attend to the past where humanity remains central - in loss, life and death, participation, invention, survival. What will the future bring? And, how can places like the War Memorial provoke questions that probe the future?

New Sky Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 75.6 cm 2016

Persistent Surveillance and Strike Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Combat Proven, Long-Range, Long-Dwell Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 75.6 cm 2016