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 rhythm...one 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. 


Saturday, November 18, 2017


Droned Landscape Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

This post is a visual-essay response to discussions about lethal autonomous weapon systems at the UN, and the release of a short film called Slaughterbots

Regular readers will know why I am interested!

Related posts or articles:

Over the last week high level discussions about lethal autonomous weapon systems have occurred at the United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva. Various state representatives, individuals and organisations have participated in debates about how to define an autonomous weapon system, and the formulation of regulatory guidelines. There have been discussions about possible bans and moratoriums on research into artificial intelligence for use in lethal autonomous weapons systems. Additionally, debates about weapon operations "beyond meaningful human control" have continued. Significantly, AI and robotics researchers are involved, expressing concerns about accelerating developments in autonomous systems capable of being weaponised. These scientists have become an orchestra of concern, with open letters being sent to the Canadian and Australian Prime Ministers, open letters published on the Future of Life Institute  website and more. 

Swarm Clouds Brewing Oil on canvas 36 x 45 cm 2017

Of particular interest to me is a collaboration between scientists, including highly regarded AI and robotics researcher, Prof Stuart Russell [Berkeley University] and the Future of Life Institute. The collaboration is the production of a film portraying how a future with lethal autonomous weapons may look - particularly a future where swarms of autonomous micro-drones can be deployed by powerful entities, state, non-state or other. The film was released to coincide with the UN debates - it was also shown at the UN. 

The 7 minute film is called Slaughterbots. You can see it, and read more about its background HERE. At the end of the film Prof Russell, whilst not discounting the benefits of AI, warns that lethal autonomous weapons are a real threat. He notes that the technology exists now to take autonomy to the next level, and that action is needed to ensure risks are mitigated. The message is - we need to do something before it is too late to retreat, redeem, fix - before we cross the Rubicon. This type of concern drives research into existential risk posed by emerging technologies, where threats may cause irredeemable situations, such as human extinction, or as the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge, puts it - "civilisation collapse". 

Crossing the Rubicon Gouache on paper 76 x 56 cm 2017

The Film 
Slaughterbots is about a fictitious company that produces small autonomous airborne drones that work in swarms. The drones are lethal weapons capable of making operative, targeting and attack decisions on their own. They use the same imaging, tracking etc technology that is increasingly incorporated into our mobile phones and other devices eg: facial recognition. Device inter-connectivity is presented as a vulnerability in this future. Here, I would argue that this is already the case!

The film demonstrates a future where nuance is lost. One could argue this is already occurring! Binaries such as good and bad, wrong and right, drive a megalomaniac style of power, where being labelled 'bad' can be a death warrant. Where this power resides is worrying - it is channeled by a spokesperson for the fictitious drone making company, a non-state, mega-corporate, hegemonic and essentially lawless entity. The sense of power is driven by the spokesperson's almost evangelical presentation, which mimics the high production promotions made by many 21st century corporations and organisations. The celebrity and high entertainment aesthetic of the corporate presentation is seductive...and dangerous. The political and corporate merge, as if collapsed into each other. The 'body politic', with its nuanced layers, seems to no longer exist. 

As the film progresses it becomes clear that ubiquitous surveillance, enabled through multiple devices, social media interaction, GPS tracking etc, is conscripted for targeting, and ultimately precision attack purposes. French philosopher and author of Drone Theory Gregoire Chamayou's notions of manhunting are abjectly expressed in Slaughterbots. There is no consideration for normal legal processes of prosecution, defense, trial, and judgement, because the autonomous systems of surveillance, targeting and attack/assassination collapse them. The 'bad' must die - whoever the 'bad' might be! In Slaughterbots the 'bad' guys are student activists. 

Manhunting Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Slaughterbots also demonstrates that lethal autonomous weapons may not be restricted to military use. This picks up on current developments in security and policing where drones are increasingly used for surveillance and monitoring purposes. Dr. Ian Shaw [Glasgow University] writes about the implications of this in a number of articles. You can access Shaw's writings HERE. The collapse of military, policing and security endeavours into each other is another hint that nuance is being consumed by conglomerates of power.

Additionally, the increasing dual-use military/civilian nature of contemporary technology is highly problematic. In an age where terms like perpetual war and the 'everywhere war' [Gregory] are used, a perpetual market for the peddlers of militarised technology is ensured. In Slaughterbots the sales-pitch style of presenting the swarming and deadly capabilities of autonomous micro drones demonstrates how hype can hijack imagination, to ensure a perpetual market.

Current 'Future of War' rhetoric, emanating form military personnel and defense departments around the world, indicates a kind of priming for the future presented in Slaughterbots.    

Sensored oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2017 

Slaughterbots channels many of the concerns I have tried to express in my paintings over the last two or so years. As regular readers know, these concerns flow from earlier ones about existential risk posed by emerging technologies. However, as a result of research into airborne weaponisable drones, for my recently completed M. Phil [Uni of Queensland], my paintings currently focus on drones, persistent surveillance and increasingly autonomous weapon systems. 

I try not to be illustrative [this is perhaps a necessary trap Slaughterbots falls into], but rather, evocative and provocative - thus, enabling multiple possible 'readings'. Ultimately, I also try to inject some hope. I do this by creating paintings where the viewer is unsure whether they are above or below, beside or in front of the drones, or indications of their presence. By enabling a sense of 'flight' around the drones, even at cosmic distances, I attempt to turn the surveillance and the human gaze back onto technology generally, and weaponised technology, specifically. The cosmic view provides perspectives that may trigger new questions. And, these questions may prompt answers never dreamed of. In addition to the cosmic perspective, I often position drones or indications of their presence with my version of the tree-of-life. It acts as a reminder of both life and hope. 

Stirring the Dark Chasm Gouache and watercolour onf paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

The Tree-of-Life Sends its Energy Underground Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016
Please read an article I wrote about this painting for the Australian Women's Book Review

Landscape and Environment
I couch my concerns within questions about how new 21st century weapons and ubiquitous surveillance mediate and restrict our relationship with landscape and environment. That mediation and restriction of behaviour and movement are likely outcomes in a future with lethal autonomous weapon systems is clearly illustrated in Slaughterbots. For example, people are advised to stay inside, cover their windows etc. They are forced to alter their behaviour to comply with the prevailing binary of good and bad, where divergence, even seeming divergence, is dangerous - a possible death sentence. The film, however, demonstrates that hiding is not possible...
I argue that contemporary technology is already forcing us to renegotiate how we operate within our environments. This is exacerbated by insidious changes to these environments and landscapes. These changes are wrought by invisible signals ricocheting from node to node, crisscrossing land, sky and space. The sky is perhaps the 'landscape' where most change is occurring. The vertical threat from airborne drones changes the way the sky is viewed. It is, in a sense, colonised. This colonisation, however, goes beyond the materiality of deadly drones. It also includes the invisible signals emitted and received by drones, as well as their support infrastructure, eg: ground control stations, and communication and GPS satellites. That the sky is often viewed with fear in places such as Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and others, should not be ignored. Indeed, the mediation and restriction of behaviour and movement by people on planet Earth already occurs! It is an indictment on all of humanity that in an age where Voyager 1 travels in interstellar space, some people on Earth are afraid of the sky.

 Ubiquitous Surveillance: An Invisible Landscape Oil on linen 60 x 110 cm 2017

False Stars, False Clouds - New Landscape Topologies
In my paintings I try to expose the invisible signals emitted and received by technologies designed to surveil, monitor, and perhaps target and attack. I use radiating or criss-crossing lines to disclose new topologies that exist in our landscapes. These radiating lines can also mimic stars and the suns's rays. However, their subterfuge is revealed as a kind of virtual netting, attempting to foreclose perspective.  In a similar way, I suggest that drone swarms, for example, create new types of clouds, false ones. The swarming drones depicted in Slaughterbots occupied the sky, at one instance obscuring it, the next instance, looking like a plague, a cloud of threat, as they plunged with deadly intent into more intimate spaces.

False stars, false clouds - and - false eyes.

Drones do not see - they scope. Even the idea that they have vision is troublesome. Why? Because, vision, in its expanded sense, is not just about seeing with an eye of eyeball and pupil, but also a mind's eye - imagination. The swarming drones in Slaughterbots clearly scoped, using data and information. Their intent was not visionary - in all senses of the word.

I'll stop here, as I have written more than I planned. However, please continue down the page to view a few more of my paintings depicting swarming drones.


The New Clouds Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

 Swarm Surveillance Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

 The Sky is Falling Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016 

 Trees-of-Life Vs The Drones Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

 Drone Clouds Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Rose Tinted Landing oil on canvas 40 x 50 cm 2017

This small painting makes me smile. I think it 'speaks' volumes. 

Civilian/Military - Dual-Use
I've been researching airborne militarised drones for over two years now, and I detect an increasing dilemma between the enthusiasm for the civilian use of drone technology, and the use of drone technology by the military or other security or combatant forces. On the one hand research into drone technology to assist activities such as humanitarian efforts, agriculture, environmental issues, goods delivery, disaster relief and more, are greeted with positive, even exuberant responses. And, rightly so, because the positive outcomes include saving lives, improved time management, economic benefits, and more. On the other hand, weaponisable drone technology that can be used by military or security forces, and/or conscripted by insurgent or criminal entities, presents a future that seems generally less rosy. 

However, for some, developments in militarised drone technology paint a very rosy picture. This is due to outcomes such as increased tactical advantage, political points for not exposing home troops to their possible death in foreign wars, increased reach across land, air and sea domains [even space]. Additionally, proponents of airborne military drones argue that targeting is more precise, even surgical, and thus reduces the likelihood of civilian deaths. These arguments play out in debates around the increasingly autonomous nature of drone technology ie: the use of artificial intelligence in drone operative and decision making activities. Lethal autonomous weapon systems [LAWS], although debated for a few years, are currently gaining more critical attention against accelerating developments in artificial intelligence and drone technology - not just airborne, but also land-based, under sea and on the sea drone technology. 

Lethal Autonomous Weapons LAWS
The debates about LAWS are played out in a number of arenas - and - interestingly many of those who are cautious are scientists, including AI developers and roboticists. In 2015 the Future of Life Institute published Autonomous Weapons: An Open Letter from AI and Robotics Researchers and in 2017 An Open letter to the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. There are ongoing discussions at the UN about the definition of a lethal autonomous weapon system, and ensuing  policy responses. However, the accelerating nature of AI development places policy development and legal responses, in a race they cannot keep up with. And, a new arms race looms - if it is not already under way. Whilst some people call for a ban on LAWS development, others call for a moratorium, until definitions, protocols, guidelines etc are in place. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is one of the active and informed players in the debate about the development and use of LAWS. Another agitator in the debate is the International Committee for Robot Arms Control [ICRAC]. 

Interestingly, the recent UN Institute for Disarmament Research [UNIDIR] report, The Weaponisation of Increasingly Autonomous Technologies: Concerns, Characteristics and Definitional Approaches [download from UNIDIR Publications] points out that the dual-use nature of technology draws together research for civilian purposes, with research and outcomes of militarised technology. So, advances in drone technology and artificial intelligence for use in civilian situations, are likely to also impact on advances in militarised technologies. The lines between civilian/ military use are increasingly blurred, by corporate involvement in technological research - ie: companies developing, selling and servicing technologies that are utilised or utilisable by the military - or other kinds of security forces.   

Rose Tinted Landing
This painting 'speaks' to the complexity that surrounds dual-use military/civilian technology. On the one hand in civilian situations the positive outcomes of drone technology, coupled with autonomous systems such as identification, pattern recognition, anomaly detection and so on, is exciting. Yet, these same capabilities in a militarised or weaponised situation take on more dire possibilities. Conversely though, these capabilities are seen as highly desirable by those who seek tactical advantage and domain dominance. Additionally, the data gathered by civilian use drone technology ie: mapping, animal and human behaviour, etc, is potentially accessible by other entities - I'll let you think about what entities! 

Rose Tinted Landing questions how we human beings embrace technology - the pink drone, seemingly landing on a pink tarmac, demonstrates that technology, with its 21st century characteristics of accelerating complexity and fluidity, has landed on our collective consciousness. Are we metaphorically seeing contemporary technology through rose-tinted eyes/glasses - as the old saying goes? Or, is the painting pointing out that there is no such thing as a rose tinted future - it is all a ruse, a virtual reality, a subterfuge...?

Rose Tinted Landing is another dronescape, but it is also a cosmic landscape. It is part of an underlying quest of mine, to rethink notions of landscape in an era where technology's invisible signals mediate how we operate in our environments and respond to landscape. 

And, on that note, I will leave it to you to think more about - everything!

Other Drone Landing paintings are:


Saturday, November 04, 2017


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

Regular readers will know that 21st Century Cloud Fantasy relates to contemporary surveillance in the broadest sense - visual surveillance, data collection and mining, online behaviour monitoring, physical tracking and so on. It also relates to the way I attempt to turn the surveillance back upon itself, by placing the viewer in multiple orientations, even simultaneously. Like with many of my paintings over the years, 21st Century Cloud Fantasy takes a cosmic perspective which has the ability to oscillate at multiple close and far distances. Cosmology, the scientific study of the universe across all spatial and temporal scales, informs my visual oscillation. 

For example, are you looking down, as if gazing at something microscopically, but enlarged by some kind of vision device. Or, are you looking up into an endless sky? Or, are you Voyager 1 with its camera turned back towards Earth - like it did in February 1990 as it left the solar system - one last photo Pale Blue Dot before its camera was turned off, and it embarked on its continuing interstellar journey. Are you being propelled away from the pale blue dot, or are you falling towards it?

But, I was thinking of more! 

Clouds have featured a fair bit in my recent paintings. But, whilst they look like atmospheric clouds, I am playing with the idea of The Cloud ie: multiple servers designed to store computer generated information and data in ways where it is retrievable by possibly an array of systems or people. Is anything secure? 

There were so many thoughts going through my head when I painted 21st Century Cloud Fantasy. The choice of colours is deliberate, the targeting appearance is also, as is the positioning of radiating lines with the fluffiness of the clouds. I'll let you think about the painting. However, you might like to read some of my previous posts, where I position militarised systems, like airborne drones - with clouds!

Oh - and - yes, this painting is also a continuation of my attempt to renegotiate what landscape means in the 21st century. A century where the real and the virtual collide - and - where at the same time as humanity has succeeded in sending human-made technology into interstellar space, we also have people in conflict zones who are afraid of the sky - a droned sky. 


Sunday, October 29, 2017


Launching The New Horizon Oil on canvas 60 x 92 cm 2017



Delighted to report that my painting Drone Spiral [below] won the Drone Art Prize at the inaugural World of Drones Congress held in Brisbane, August/September this year. The press release announcing the prize can be viewed HERE or by clicking "Press Release" on the World of drones website.

Dr. Catherine Ball, scientist, and drone entrepreneur commented

“Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox’s work provided a visual interpretation of the juxtaposition between the drone technology we see most in mainstream media, and its inherently complicated relationship with human beings."

Drone Spiral Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm [unframed] 2016


Also, my latest e-Studio Update with a recap of 2017 is available HERE

Launching The New Horizon

Launching The New Horizon [at top of page] continues my interest in how contemporary technologies re-calibrating landscape and our responses to it. As regular readers know I am particularly interested in airborne militarised drones, surveillance and targeting signals associated with ubiquitous surveillance, and increasingly autonomous systems. 

In this painting a weaponised drone's wing-span creates a new horizon line. Long range, long dwell and long endurance capabilities of militarised drones enable a kind of loitering that could be described as an occupation of the sky. Weaponised drones don't simply travel through or across a sky like a fighter jet. That drone swarm technology has hastened over the last couple of years, poses another way for skies to be occupied or colonised - an infiltration of 'new clouds'. As instruments of surveillance, targeting and destruction militarised drones are embedded in the environment in ways that re-orient how we might look at and think about the sky. This is fearfully experienced by people who live in conflict zones situated under droned skies eg: Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia and others. 

In Launching The New Horizon the drone's surveillance net is visible. I've painted it to appear porous to indicate that it may have other meanings. For example could this net, be a span of light illuminating a landing strip? Or, as a visual metaphor, maybe it indicates a landing on our subconscious? Or, maybe the drone presages the arrival of an event horizon, one where humans and machines merge in a singularity, or one where we arrive on the precipice between life and extinction? The latter refers to the event horizon as the zone around a black hole from which there is no escape. The cosmic background of the painting is - very deliberate.

I'll let you continue to ponder. 

P.S. You might like to read Drone: Enduring Presence [Meta Landing]

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Ubiquitous Surveillance: An Invisible Landscape Oil on linen 60 x 110 cm 2017

Ideas visualised in Ubiquitous Surveillance: An Invisible Landscape are also evident in some of my other recent paintings. These ideas are formed around reflections upon the way pervasive and increasingly ubiquitous surveillance, monitoring and data collection, creates invisible layers across, around and through landscapes and skies. In doing so, I suggest that new landscapes, landscape forms and skies are created. However, they are invisible. I try to expose them by revealing the signals, signal and scopic trajectories, of contemporary surveillance technology. I try to convey the criss-cross nature of digital and cyber systems' inter-connectivity. In some of my paintings I reveal the connective reliance on satellites, creating spider web-like - but invisible - patterns that extend beyond Earth's atmosphere into space.

In Ubiquitous Surveillance: An Invisible Landscape I have suggested a new layer of the sky, yet it could be a new topology of the land as well. As with many of my paintings the viewer is not sure whether they are above the clouds looking down or below the clouds, looking up. The new landscape of signals and scopic trajectories suddenly becomes an amorphous entity capable of palpitating in multiple dimensions. Like a shadow, the viewer cannot escape it. No matter where you are the surveillance follows or perhaps catches you in its virtual web.   

Ubiquitous Surveillance: An Invisible Landscape could also indicate the presence of two airborne militarised drones, each emitting signals the send and receive data. The drones are not portrayed, but they could be loitering beyond the painting's edge, beyond the horizon. Perhaps the green signals are surveillance signals scooping up information, images, people's lives? Perhaps the red signals are seeking targets...?

Because I grew up on a grain farm, I am well aware of various kinds of fences. Weld mesh is a type of barrier fencing made from steel wire. It normally presents in sheets of squares or rectangles. It is very strong fencing. In Ubiquitous Surveillance: An Invisible Landscape the lines create a weld mesh-like appearance. Whilst invisible, the pervasive and increasingly ubiquitous nature of surveillance, monitoring and data collection creates a strength. Robustness in systems can be a good thing - but - if it acts as a way to contain, then perhaps it is not such a good thing!