I studied art at the East Sydney Technical College, School of Fine Arts from 1986 to 1989 specialising in printmaking. I followed this with employment at the University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts 1991-92 as a printmaking technician. I furthered my academic qualifications with a Post Graduate Diploma from Sydney College of the Arts (University of Sydney) in 1993. In 2007 I completed a Master of Fine Art in Printmaking at the National Art School, East Sydney.
I specialize in lino cut and wood engraved work, and mostly produce ugly stories for beautiful people or as one critic put it “sometimes wry observations of the contemporary Australian cultural condition”. I try to produce work that is both aesthetically reconciled and also has a slightly deeper level of discourse than the common commodity based postcards which are produced in abundance within the Australian visual arts sector. My work is held in collections in Australia and overseas some of which are held in great esteem.
I have made prints since I was 16, literally making hundreds (if not quite thousands) of them. My printing style is not spontaneous in the way that it can be for a painter. It is a considered and thoughtful process. It is somewhat introspective and cathartic in the hypnotic qualities of its creation.
I gravitate frequently toward the dark psyche in the topics I explore. In my normal life I avoid that darker side of life where I can. However in my art, I feel that I am safe to explore, to report and to fight back. I read a number of books on post-Jungian psychology when I was younger and the works of Joseph Campbell, Robert Bly, Mathew Fox and Rilke have haunted my perceptions ever since.
From where I sit, I am frequently frustrated by a lack of content in the fine arts. Polemical art can be stimulating and engaging but I seldom see examples of work that engage aggressively with social issues from within the mainstream or the back streets of Australian art. There are some wonderful examples in early 19th century Australian printmaking however – artists such as Noel Counihan and Yosl Bergner, and later artists such as Barbara Hanrahan.
Seduced by punk rock, I invested heavily in the writings of the Situationist International. Their dogmatic statement that “Young people everywhere have been allowed to choose between love and a garbage disposal unit" [and that]" everywhere they have chosen the garbage disposal unit”[i] has to my mind a resonance greater currently than it could ever have had back in the ’60s or ’70s. Communism has been outed everywhere as a murderous sham. Democracy is arguably a placebo for real autonomy. There really does seem little room left for idealism that is not narcissistic. That does not stop a person from crying out.
I am a 50-something who still finds great joy in creating art. I will digress here a moment and explain that I went to art school at 15. I went because I love art, love creating things, I especially love that Zen moment when you get lost in your work. There was also an urgency to leaving school because it was clear that I could not survive in that environment any longer.
My first drawing class was a revelation. I had a wonderful drawing teacher, Dalia Meron, who had an interest in Jung (which I have retained) and who asked each of us in turn why we wanted to become artists. It’s a gorgeous and humorous thing that every art class I’ve ever attended has people who will give exactly the same reasons for wanting to become artists.
The personality types are always similar, as is the reasoning. Some are catching up for lost time given to home, hearth and children. Some imagine that their genius will be discovered (and why not), and others look to legitimise themselves. My favourites are always those who create art because there is simply no other life possible to them. I count myself in that group now but at the time I sat for the first time, I was attempting to understand consciously what propelled me to art school.
I stated that “it seems to me that for much of my life someone was attempting to fuck with my head and that art would provide me the opportunity to mess back with their heads”. Dalia went pale, the room went dead. There is not a lot you can say to that statement, coming from the mouth of a kid with serious social issues. I was 15, punk was in its death throes and I was an “art school anarchist”. The statement just slipped out, and like many things that slip out it contained a grain of truth. Dalia, to her credit, saved the day by doing what any good parent or competent teacher might do and passed directly onto the next person without discussion.
Fortunately I’ve become a much happier person, I’ve whittled that ‘man bites dog attitude’ down (it is still clearly there but tempered often with a bit of humour, charm, or manual dexterity), hopefully redeeming me a little. The desire to get into people’s heads however is still with me, but the impetus is more about engagement, to start discussion, to be heard and to challenge and be challenged.