Saturday, October 14, 2017


Persistent Situational Awareness Oil on linen 100 x 70 cm 2017

'Persistent situational awareness' is a term used by the military for devices that enable integrated, real-time spatial and temporal awareness of an environment. The environment can be multifaceted ie: from the cyber 'environment', to the physical battlefield and broader locales. The word 'persistent' indicates that the situational awareness persists- unabated. It is clearly associated with capabilities that ensure persistent surveillance. 

One of the important capabilities of militarised unmanned air vehicles [UAV], commonly called drones, is the technology that enables 'persistent situational awareness'. Technology includes sensor and data connectivity with various systems on the aircraft, and inter-connectivity with support infrastructure, including, but not limited to, ground control stations and satellites. The fact that drones are capable of long range, long endurance operations requires capabilities of persistent situational awareness. 

With my new painting Persistent Situational Awareness I have played with ideas of environment and surveillance. 

Maybe the green ball is a planet emitting signals that transmit and collect data that assists in the planet's 'persistent situational awareness', placing it in a position of tactical and attack readiness. In a sense a militarised planet - maybe Earth, maybe not...

Or, maybe my 'landscape' is actually a close-up image of an eye, with the green ball representing a pupil. The blue could be a section of the iris, and the red could be the lip of the lower eye-lid. The clouds could be pterygiums-like, ie; benign growths on the eye, semi-obscuring vision! Now, that's an interesting metaphor. Or the clouds could, in fact, be clouds reflected on the eye as it incessantly gazes, gathering and transmitting data and instructions. Reality, glimpsed in reflection....

If it is an eye, then it is obviously not a normal eye... 

I am also playing with the idea of the airborne drone being colloquially called an 'eye-in-the-sky'. The green-eye/pupil indicating the drone's night vision capabilities - perhaps the red, indicating its thermal imaging capabilities, or any number of other bloody things. The idea of the 'green-eyed monster' plays into my thoughts - a term coined by Shakespeare in Othello [Act 3: Scene 3] it apparently refers to a cat toying with its prey, before devouring it. Iago to Othello says:

Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. 

The idea that a green-eyed monster mocks death, feeding upon its victims, is a salient one to ponder as the weapons for contemporary battles become more asymmetrically, insidiously and persistently deployed and 'aware'. 

Persistent Situational Awareness intersects with my interest in creating images that can be interpreted as something vast, and at the next instance, as something small. An oscillating dance between the micro and the macro is a theme which runs through my work. 

At the end of the day, Persistent Situational Awareness is a landscape, but I propose it offers a renegotiated idea of what landscape might mean in the 21st century.


Sunday, October 08, 2017


Tactics oil on linen 70 x 100 cm 2017

I wrote another post called Tactics very recently. You can access it HERE  . 

Tactics, above, is the same painting I previously discussed. However, a few weeks ago I decided to add clouds. The white clouds give more clues to the drone's tactics of camouflage and subterfuge. They alert us to a 'droning' of the sky, where new layers are artificially created by pervasive technology, its apparatus and signals. Indeed, the white drone seemingly attempts to mimic a cloud! 

But, strategic tactics are not only evidenced in the actions and appearance of the drone!

The red cloud 'cries'. It cries tears of blood. But, like the 'tactics' of the tree-of-life as it sends roots and new shoots underground, the cloud's tears might also be a way to preserve life. By shedding tears of blood, LIFE can seep into the universal matrix, for resurrection at some other time or place.  

Detail Tactics 

Here is an extract from my previous post Tactics:

"The airborne weaponised drone is targeting the tree-of-life. The tree is isolated in a 'kill box', a virtual three dimensional graphic that delineates a zone around an identified target. Emanating rays above the tree-of-life indicate ongoing surveillance by another drone or maybe a control base of some kind. Whatever it is, the signals represent persistent surveillance by manned and unmanned entities. At the end of each white signal-ray, a small red box indicates potential further targeting.


The tree-of-life has sent its roots under the 'kill box'. A survival tactic subverting the digital reach! The tree's roots seek out places that a drone cannot penetrate - maybe literal subterranean places, but maybe spiritual realms? The tree succeeds in sending out new green shoots, to bring forth life. BUT, it may not represent human life - and - it may not be on this planet - or - even in the universe! This may sound loopy, but I am thinking of theories about multiverses, and I am also thinking about a future where humanity/life may have left planet Earth. Indeed, we humans are already planning settlements on Mars. But, Mars is still in our solar system. What about humanity/life in other solar systems, even galaxies? An extreme escape!"


Saturday, September 30, 2017


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

Carl Sagan's description of Earth as a 'pale blue dot' was coined after seeing the photograph Voyager 1 took as it left the solar system, February 1990. On Sagan's suggestion the spacecraft's camera was turned back towards Earth. The image of Earth, identifiable as a pale blue dot, set among a myriad of other celestial entities had, and still has, a profound affect on people. The colour blue indicates an environment that can sustain life. Voyager 1's camera was turned off not long after the famous image was taken, to enable scientists to re-purpose computers. Sagan wrote a book called Pale Blue Dot in 1994. Voyager 1 is still travelling in interstellar space. Please visit this NASA website for more information.  

In Pale Blue Dot: AKA Earth I have played with a scoping type perspective. It feels like Voyager 1 is falling back to Earth, maybe? Or, perhaps that we have been catapulted at speed away from Earth. The red flames around the pale blue dot, could represent the increasingly volatile nature of Earth's existence. They could also indicate some kind of renewal?

Regular readers will identify my play with a surveillance-like perspective, mimicking but also extending that of a militarised drone, a recurrent figure in some of my other recent paintings. Clearly, you and I, are well above or beyond the current reach of drones. Our 'surveillance' is far more sophisticated - it embraces imagination! The cosmic perspective 'reveals' the fiery threat-potential around Earth. Cosmologists, such as Lord Martin Rees suggest, that like at no other time in human history, the decisions we make now will affect whether life on Earth continues into the next centuries. A cosmic perspective reveals the kind of metaphoric precipice we now hover upon.

P.S. Please read another recent post Anomaly Detection with more paintings that represent the 'pale blue dot'

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Swarm Clouds, Brewing Oil on canvas 36 x 45 cm 2017

Drone swarms - you might think this is a scifi suggestion - but no, it is not. Just Google "drone swarm technology" and you will find out about drones operating in groups or 'swarms'. It is a relatively recent technology, but one with an array of possibilities for civilian and military uses. As regular readers know, I am interested in militarised airborne drone deployment. 

I am seriously perturbed by the fact that there are people in the world who are afraid of the sky. In places such as Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and more, the sky is a place that harbours persistent surveillance and threat, due to the deployment of weaponised drones. In an age where a human-made machine now travels in  interstellar space ie: Voyager 1, it is an indictment on ideas of progress that even one person is afraid of our sky. Although -  there could be an argument that we human beings have now not only managed to pollute Earth, and low Earth orbit with 'space debris', we have also started to 'pollute' interstellar space! 

Cosmic perspectives
The fact remains, though, that we have a capacity to take on cosmic perspectives. These are based on scientific research of our solar system, our galaxy and galaxies beyond. Even notions of a multi-verse, based on scientific possibility, imagination and curiosity, indicate abilities to think beyond the limits of our Earthly environments. Yet, we invent machines - unmanned, increasingly autonomous ones - that create 'false skies' that limit perspective. 

Country Queensland Skies
I grew up on my parents' grain farm between Dalby and Jimbour, S. E Queensland, Australia. The farm was situated on a treeless, black-soil plain. As a result of the emptiness of the landscape, the sky dominated as a vast space. It was variously relentlessly blue, or tumultuously grey with storm clouds, or velvety black with the Milky Way glistening like an array of scattered jewels. For me, to even think about being afraid of the sky is deplorable. The skies of my childhood were so enormous, that to have them harbouring persistent threat, is a nightmare thought. For me it is only a thought - but for others on this planet it is a ghastly reality!

Swarm Clouds, Brewing suggests that swarms of drones create new sky elements, such as clouds. These false clouds threaten, as they create a kind of ceiling in the sky - one that inhibits perspective. This inhibition is literally real for those on the ground. For those who perpetuate increasing colonisation of the sky with systems designed for persistent surveillance and attack readiness, the inhibition of perspective is metaphoric, and dangerous. It is dangerous because perspective is not just about space, it is also about time. If the future is already militarised, then what?

Earlier Drone Swarm post and painting The New Clouds 


War Art: Museums, Militarisation and Militantism panel has been accepted for the International Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco, April, 2018. And I am on the panel to discuss my dronescapes. Very excited to be presenting about my work in such an environment. There are five speakers, plus the Chair and a Discussant. 

Shall keep you updated.


Saturday, September 16, 2017


Anomaly Detection (Number 2) Oil on linen 120 x 180 cm 2017

The term 'anomaly detection' is a technical one. With contemporary technology and the help of algorithms and artificial intelligence, systems have been devised to detect unusual online behaviours, discrepancies in documentation, weaknesses in cyber systems, and unusual patterns in things like financial transactions and movements of people etc. Anomaly detection enables, in many cases, preemptive action such as isolating/fixing weaknesses in cyber systems, identifying potentially dangerous activities and malign intent. Anomalies can be detected in image, written and online data that is collected, analysed and stored. 

Where did the idea for Anomaly Detection (Number 2) come from?
The idea came after I saw a drone manufacturer's promotional video that demonstrated anomaly detection capabilities of airborne drones. This is where the drone's wide-area electro-optical surveillance systems can cast such a wide net that, for example, three vehicles travelling at speed and many kilometers apart, could be identified as aiming for the same destination. In the case of war and conflict zones this may indicate that the vehicles are aiming for a target, either to destroy it, deliver insurgents to it, or possibly protect a valuable human asset. The latter, of course, in the eyes of those watching may be considered a high value target - HVT.  

So in Anomaly Detection (Number 2) I have turned the surveillance back onto the drones; in this case three weaponised Grey Eagle drones. I am suggesting that imagination can deploy its own wide-area - even cosmic - surveillance capabilities to question whether technologies designed to detect, monitor, surveil and target, are really beneficial for humanity and the planet. In this painting the three drones seem to be aiming for the same destination - the pale blue dot. Here, I am drawing upon Carl Sagan's term for Earth as it was seen in a photograph taken by spacecraft Voyager 1 as it started to leave the solar system in February 1990. The photograph showed Earth as a small pale blue dot situated within and against a myriad of other shining celestial entities. Earth is blue because we have water, and oxygen in our atmosphere; signs of a planetary environment that can sustain life. The three drones in Anomaly Detection (Number 2) potentially threaten the pale blue dot

Anomaly Detection (Number 2) poses a few questions about the vulnerability of humanity and Earth's environment in an age of accelerating technological development. The drones can be seen as literal threats or a metaphor for a society seduced by technology, or exhausted by it. The three drones are painted as if they are pixelated, thus representing their reliance on, and use of, digital and cyber systems. The pixels also suggest a kind of virtual reality, mimicking images seen on computer screens, either those used by drone operators or those used for war games and simulations. There is plenty of room for anomaly detection!

New Sky
The drones are also painted blue to reflect upon the way vertical threat creates a new sky. This is particularly so in places such as Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan where drone operations and attacks have made people fearful of the sky. In an age where Voyager 1 now travels in interstellar space, the fact that people on Earth are afraid of the sky, is an indictment on humanity. 

Anomaly Detection (Number 2) is another of my dronesscapes, but it is also a cosmic landscape provoking and pushing perspective, of all kinds, beyond Earth, even beyond the solar system - and - possibly this universe!  


In 2014 I painted Pale Blue Dot [below]

 Pale Blue Dot Oil on linen 120 x 160 2014

Anomaly Detection
I recently painted another Anomaly Detection painting [below]. It is a work on paper, depicting three weaponised Reaper drones aiming for the tree-of-life. 

Anomaly Detection Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Sunday, September 10, 2017


Drone: Enduring Presence (Meta Landing) Oil on linen 30 x 40 cm 2017

Here is a painting of an airborne drone. It is armed with two guided missiles and four Hellfire missiles. Its wide-area electro-optical surveillance system is identified by the darker red spot under its nose. The drone's wheels are down, as if readying to land, or perhaps readying to take off. However, although there is an indication of a landing tarmac, its appearance is ambiguous. It presents as if it is an illuminated field, but one with a translucent, non-material appearance. It could be a number of things - a lit landing field, an indication of the drone's pervasive surveillance capabilities - or - even a symbol of pervasive threat.  

If it is an illuminated landing field, the drone appears to be landing in the sky. The landing field, therefore, connotes a kind of cosmic one. This implies an almost imperial prerogative over the sky. If the illuminated area under the drone indicates its pervasive surveillance capabilities, the empire building prerogative is made even more intentional. That the illumination wraps around the drone gives the appearance of an almost godly or at least, a celestial quality. Certainly, empire building seductions...However, presented this way, the drone is clearly a false god and a false star. In either case - a warning.

There is a lot to think about and say in this age of fast paced drone and autonomous systems development. Apart from the technical aspects, which are quite remarkable, there are contingent social, ethical and political ramifications, especially regarding weaponised technologies. If you believe that war is always inevitable, the continuing development of weapons' systems is also inevitable. Hand clapping stuff for weapons' manufacturers and neo-liberal market forces that reach into the future in ways that militarise imaginations. Hence the 'meta landing' idea presented in the title of Drone: Enduring Presence (Meta Landing). A 'meta landing' goes well beyond simply landing on a tarmac in a military base. It represents a landing into consciousness and the future.

I wonder what it would be like if we seriously posed questions that related to the idea that war is not inevitable. In the small chance that it is not inevitable lies a future for humanity that is radically different to the one driven by beliefs that war is inevitable. 


Saturday, September 02, 2017


An Invitation to Fly  Oil on linen 40 x 50 cm 

When I was a child I flew! Yes, I did. 

Somehow, I knew what my parent's farm looked like from above. This was without flying over it in a plane. Also, the farm was on a flat treeless plain, so there were no hills to gaze down upon my childhood landscape. Although my Mum grew a beautiful garden on the flat plain, there were no really tall trees to climb high enough to gain an aerial view. My Father's HAM Radio aerial was probably the tallest thing on the farm - and - it was far too difficult to climb, especially to the top!

I flew!

How I flew I am not sure, but certainly my imagination had a part to play. And, it continues.

Over the years my paintings give testimony to an ability to 'transport' myself above and beyond a landscape, local and planetary! The aerial perspective is one of the common themes that runs through my work. So, it is not hard to understand why I am interested in cosmology, the scientific study of the universe across all temporal and spatial scales. Additionally, my interest in airborne militarised drones and their increasingly autonomous capabilities can be contextualised into themes of aerial perspective. However, I try to elevate myself beyond the reach of the drone to turn the gaze back onto it - in fact - to roam around the drone - above, below, beside it - taking cosmological perspectives. By doing this, I invite the viewer to also play around with perspectives. [Please browse through other posts to see more of my 'dronescapes'].

An Invitation to Fly recalls my childhood daydreams and imaginings. Relentless blue skies, occasionally dotted with white fluffy clouds, seemed to invite me to fly. The flat western horizon often shimmered with mirages that melted land and sky into oneness. This certainly helped to generate a feeling of being aloft, as if the ground had slipped away, leaving me hovering. 

An aerial perspective, even a cosmic one, though, can help us orient the way we perceive threats to our planetary environment and the plants and creatures that inhabit it. These creatures include us human beings. As Carl Sagan's commentary on the famous "Pale Blue Dot" photograph notes, for the current moment there is nowhere else for us to call 'home'*. Sustainable interplanetary squatting by humans is some time away! More specifically the increasing colonisation of the skies by surveillance and lethally equipped drone weaponry disrupts perspective by creating a layer of threat that impedes access to cosmic perspectives, even imagining them. If the sky is 'falling in', as it metaphorically does in conflict places such as Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it is an indictment on us all - especially in an age where astronomers and cosmologists are discovering more about our universal environment - which may actually be a multiversal one. 

An Invitation to Fly could be an invitation to you. It could be my childhood memory. But, maybe we are already flying and we are gazing down upon Earth - is it actually Earth? Or. are we on Earth gazing upwards, about to take off? 

* My painting and post Pale Blue Dot 

Monday, August 28, 2017


Sensored oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2017

We humans are increasingly 'sensored' beings. By this, I mean, we are equipped with, attached to or carrying devices that are operated by digital and cyber systems that interconnect across skies, land, seas and space. They interconnect using even more devices such as satellites, land-based receivers, servers and more. 

The devices we interact with, whether a phone, a car, a computer, an implant or other - 'sensorise' us. They make us a part of, or even a node in, cyber and digital networking systems. And - in a funny way, they also censor/ise us, but maybe we have not fully comprehended this yet? 

Transhuman - Translandscape
As our bodies carry devices in ways that transform us into transhuman-like creatures, they also transform the way our landscape or environment operates or is viewed. For example, skies 'colonised' by unmanned weaponised airborne drones change the way the sky is perceived. This is particularly so in places such as Yeman, Somalia and Afghanistan where the skies are seen by many as harbouring a potential lethality. In these cases the landscape becomes vulnerable, offering little refuge when vertical surveillance penetrates even the privacy of everyday life. A landscape crisscrossed with humans carrying and using devices, and buildings equipped with even more, develops another layer - not geographic - but, an unseen layer of signals. These signals variously traverse the globe, bounce from earth to satellites and back again. A 'translandscape' possibly? Another recent painting and post Space Net refers to this kind of activity. 

In Sensored red 'signals' emanate from behind a cloud. What lurks behind this cloud? A drone maybe? The red signals continue beyond the painting. They indicate a wide net, a net of surveillance. In doing so, they reveal how the sky is now 'sensored' in a way that is not dissimilar to the 'sensorising' of human beings. It's an insidious process - don't you think? 

Like many of my paintings - dronescapes, landscapes. cosmic landscapes - the viewer could be above the clouds looking down upon a landscape, maybe a seascape. In this case a drone is possibly lurking below the clouds. However, the viewer could also be on the ground looking up into the sky where a drone could potentially be lurking above the clouds. With these two possible perspectives the painting somehow provides a powerful stimulus for imaginative flying around a drone - in ways that turn the surveillance back onto it.    



Now for something a bit different. The photo below is me in the very back of a landcruiser. We've just driven around checking cattle. 

I spent a fabulous weekend out in Western Queensland - Roma, Mitchell and Mungallala. 

An old school friend has a cattle property beyond Mungallala. We had a camp fire, damper, homemade sausages. And, we helped check on cattle, their water [it is very dry]. We saw a brown snake - early for the season. We saw hundreds of kangaroos, both dead an alive. And, emus - so many - all alive! We went to the Mitchell Art Show, the Mitchell Camel and Pig Races, and had a wonderful dip in the Mitchell artesian spa. One of us bought a hat, a country man's hat, from the fabulous Samios Trading Post store in Mitchell. Two people in our group were from Europe and it was so much fun to see country Australia through their eyes. Everything, absolutely everything, was new to them. 

We spent a day in Roma too. Visited Moorelands nursery where you can have a bite to eat amongst an oasis of plants, bush crafts, children playing and more. We also visited the BIG RIG which tells you all about the history of the oil and gas industry out there. This recent history has been somewhat controversial with the increase in coal seam gas exploration.