Sunday, December 2, 2012

Piano Pieces


The latest greatest excitement is the upcoming event for the 
2013 Castlemaine State Festival.

It is called Piano Pieces in which I invite all and sundry to tear my piano asunder 
(sorry couldn't resist the word play).  

It is not a destructive event so much as a creative one
 as I am asking everyone to create sculptures, art 
or music/noise making apparatus out of the pieces.

You can read all about it by clicking here

hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Not a Canary

The 'Not a Canary' show is now up!

Here are some pictures of it all:

This is what I had to say about it all:

A series of works about frogs. Or not. Not a pipe.
Not a canary. They are not here to tell us we are going
to die soon of gas in the mine shaft, or pollution in our
waterways. The image is not the thing and the thing is
not the thing we think it is. It is not the meaning we
imbue it with, it is just the thing. A frog. A frog is a
frog and it has its own reason for being. So do canaries.
And here we have a series of images of frogs and the image,
or symbolic representation if you will, of the thing is not
the thing, neither is it the meaning we imbue the thing
with. It is just paint on canvass. It is not my fault you
all see frogs.* Or canaries. Ink blot tests are wack anyway.

*that is a lie

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Not a canary

Here are some paintings I have been working on. I am planning to hang them in a groovy bakery / cafe in Castlemaine in February!

I have been using my living room as a studio for the last month.
Makes it hard to have people around for a cup of tea, but soon I will be finished, the show will be up and I can entertain again!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gil Scott Heron, Chuck Norris and art

In case you didn't know Gil Scott Herron (musician, sometimes called the father of rap) died yesterday so there are lots of tribute type comments and sentiments out there in the land of the internet.

I saw a link to Gil Scott Herron, ( and thought I'd remind myself about him. (I will add a disclaimer before you read further that I don't know that much about Gil Scott Heron, his life or his influence. However I still had some ideas I thought worth sharing...)

As i watched and listened I read the comment directly under the clip. It was:

"Chuck Norris saw Gil Scott Heron, bowed to Gil, shook his hand and said "Thanks for the wonderful music you have given us." After that he got Gil's autograph, got a high five and watched with tears in his eyes as Gil walked into the sunset."

I kind of sighed and rolled my eyes it is overly sentimental and it does that awful thing of building a myth out of a man. I hate that. He was a guy, a really great guy perhaps, maybe a unique, profoundly talented man, but he was human. I object to deifying and mystifying a human. It creates a divide between him and me and the rest of humanity and that does none of us justice. Especially him.

The author of the comment achieved this link to myth quite neatly by linking him to Chuck Norris. In popular culture Chuck Norris is a joke and a Myth. He is the ultimate all American, good guy, martial artist. You use him when you want to demonstrate just how bad ass something is.

some example Chuck Norris Jokes:

  • Chuck Norris died 20 years ago, Death just hasn't built up the courage to tell him yet.
  • There used to be a street names after Chuck Norris, but it was changed because nobody crosses Chuck Norris and lives.
  • Chuck Norris can cut through a hot knife with butter
  • Chuck Norris and Superman once fought each other on a bet. The looser had to start wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants.
  • Some magicians can walk on water, Chuck Norris can swim through land.

(For more fun Chuck Norris facts, jokes and merchandise check out:

So you can see that Chuck Norris is now a myth-man who is better than Superman, Jesus and even Death itself is afraid of him ('Death once had a near Chuck Norris experience'). He has become immortal end ever young, ever powerful and undefeatable. In other jokes god, nature and the laws of physics all bend for him.

I have to admit I really quite like a lot of the better Chuck Norris Jokes. Some of them predictably get quite foul, but as a whole it is a fun game of word play, machismo and ridiculousness.

Anyway, to have Chuck Norris pay respect to Gil Scott Heron is to say that he has earned and deserves the respect of even the baddest mother fuckers, and once you're mates with Chuck, no one will mess with you.

As I pondered the various elements at work within that comment I realised something about the value of art.

I was watching the tall man playing music and surrounded by other men playing music and in the macho context of the Chuck Norris comment it was really clear to me the value of the fact that these men had chosen to focus their lives on music, and art. They had not taken up arms and decided to hurt people. The idea that music as an outlet, art as an outlet... and how you could have every person on the planet making music or art and it would never be too much. You could not have every person on the planet do any other activity and it be ok.

And I guess, on a basic level I was responding the power of the Chuck Norris myth, I was absorbing the idea that it is ok to make art. Chuck Norris approves. Its allowed. I don't have to put on a cape and save the world, I don't have to mount podiums and start preaching and converting, I don't have to contribute anything more than my art. And at the end of my life I may have a) contributed something worthwhile and b) avoided spending my time creating harm (one would hope... a whole other discussion might be about how art can be hurtful and damaging - but lets not go there here and now). And they are both worthy things to have spent a life doing.

Yes, I was being influenced by a tongue in cheek, slightly facetious YouTube comment.

Don't get me wrong. Gil was not a passive, feel good guy with no issues. He was an activist, linked with militant black movements and his music was often angry or loaded with political import. He had drug problems and was in and out of jail.

I am not saying art is the answer to all of societies problems.

But I do need, as an artist myself, reminders about how powerful and positive dedicating your life to art can be. It is so important to be reminded that it is a powerful medium, especially as so much of your time and effort is spent in relatively solitary activity. (perhaps less so for musicians) You can influence people, you can say stuff to a wide audience, you can share a point of view that may not get heard in other arenas, you can inspire, give confidence, improve people's lives without even meeting them.

Some artists make things that just add to the noise in the world, some create peace, some educate, some provide a sense of community to isolated people. And yes, i do think that some do harm. However, it seemed clear to me in that moment, somewhere between Chuck Norris and Gil Scott Heron, that it is worthy. It is not a waste, I am not squandering my potential, i am not neglecting other duties I may have to society or my fellow humans. (You see the devils that can haunt an artist?!?! Self worth and the worth of your practice. What to spend a life doing...) So my pondering lead me to a sense that it is possible to be an artist in whatever form and you would not be selfish or self indulgent in pursuing your practice, you have no idea who you might touch and what benefit that might have.

Gil Scott Heron did all this in his creative life, he used words, poetry, lyrics, music to work against injustice. Whatever failings or struggles he may have had he at least did this, with intelligence, authenticity and poetry.

like this:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's been going on?

It has been quite some time since I posted here. What. Has. Been. Happening?!?!?!

Well... I have been lost in a land of in-between-jobs-studying-homework-ness.

I have spent the last year reminding myself of all the things I've learnt before. But not for no reason. Its funny, I was reading back over my rant from June last year and I have done a lot of the stuff I said I hated doing. I've gone back to school, and not even fun school... really un-fun school. I have done a Cert IV in Training and Assessment. Here in Australia you need one to teach adults in TAFEs. It has swallowed about a year of my life, whole, no pausing for air. I am almost finished, just a few little loose homework ends and I will have a piece of paper that says I can teach. Woohoo, I think. Not sure I want to teach in TAFE now... I've started my own independent classes and you don't need bits of paper for that.

I will admit that I was seriously considering deleting this blog, as I haven't added to it in such a long time. But I spent a little time looking back and I realised that I still like it. It helped me reconnect with a lot of the work and shows I have had in the past few years and which ultimately I have had mixed feelings about. I haven't painted, I will admit it, in about a year. And re-reading the blogs was a great way to reconnect with the work I was doing and now as I finally start to edge carefully back into that creative head-space it is a beautiful thing to come back to the old work and see it fresh.

As painful as the course I've been doing has been it has provided a time gap to help me see things fresh again. A good thing. And I have a new piece of paper.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sydney Biennale

Sydney town eh? Mostly I have disliked my trips to Sydney. Something horrible seems to happen every time I go. Nothing outrageously bad, just something slimy and gross and kind of upsetting, but leaving no visible marks. Its hard to explain. And while these things are happening Sydney kind of looms above and around, like a dark, creepy phantom endorsing these bad experiences. Is it that I am absorbing the resonances of a place soaked with misery past? Is it just that I am trained into the predicable safe straight lines of Melbourne and find the convoluted ways and byways mysterious? I don’t know.

So I headed to Sydney trying really hard to keep my mind open. I was determined to force it open with a crow bar and then keep it propped ajar with aforementioned crow bar if need be.

Turns out the need didn’t be.

I found myself in a summer paradise, after weeks of cold and grey in Melbourne, Sydney was blissfully frolicking around in a green, lush, perpetual spring of twenty degrees. I had never realised before why my father, who is from Sydney, was always pining for it during the Melbourne winters. Now I know. T-shirts, trees that didn’t realise they needed to drop their leaves yet, bare feet on Bondi Beach, and sun, sun, sun. The twisty, kooky streets and buildings seemed funny and adorably quaint. Strange nooks and hilariously incongruous attachments, the jumbled mix of old and new all seemed like something from an animation by someone trying really hard to make a place that couldn’t really exist in real life.

And the art?!? The thing that i risked my life and sanity by traveling Tiger airways to see?

It was ok. You know, same old same old. Wearing the obligatory contemporary art uniform. Instantly recognisable... ‘I am art!’ it says, before qualifying it with, ‘I am contemporary Art’. Ok, thanks. I heard you.

The Biennale is an awesome thing. Some of the best and most contemporary art in the world travels all the way to Sydney Town. How can that not be Rock and Roll. But somehow is wasn’t. Maybe I was just tired. I seemed to do an awful lot of walking, up and down hills, stairs, more stairs and then a hill. Maybe I needed to concentrate on using the crow bar for the part of my mind that processes art, not the bit that judges cities. Maybe I was so blissed out on sunshine that I forgot to be wowed by art. I admit that for a sun deprived, solar powered chick the art would have to be extra-ordinary. There were some really good peieces that made me smile an sigh, and say 'Hell Yeah!', but there was only one that made me swoon and want to spend an entire day immursed in its glory.

The MCA had some winners; Pearlescent pins made into bonnets, lavishly indulgent ceramics of rudie nudie bits that were so over the top braroque-esque that you had to laugh, peasants discussing old masters, dead and dying languages. I liked all of these. They were good. They all made me want to laugh, or touch them or I was jealous that I didn’t think of it. I like art that makes me jealous. It is one of the ways I know it is good. I also like ones that make me think... shoot me off into a little frenzy of connecting dots and drawing parallels. Cockatoo Island of course had some great ones; the flying sparking cars, the bigger than human sized purple deer with a sharks jaw gaping ravenously out of its stomache... We went there on our last day in Sydney, and after four or five days of sun it had clouded over and gotten cold. Remember it is the middle of winter? oh, yeah! And remember yu are about to go home? yup, thanks.

So after starting to accept that not much there was really going to blow me away... It happened. Maybe i just need cold miserable weather to truely appreciate art, but i think i would have loved it anyway. It was.... duh da da duuuuh: ‘The Feast of Trimachio, Part 2’ by AES+F... Sigh.... Gush. Love.

I think it was the music as much as anything. Mozart and Beethoven stand up and take a bow. But it was the music and the visuals... Did I already say sigh, gush, love? It certainly was a feast. Beautiful people, beautiful computer animated scenery, and the birds. They had obviously filmed the people on a blue screen and then superimposed them on the landscape and on each other. And the same people did the same things over and over, but to someone else, in a different setting. It was poetic, profound, indulgent, and generous. It made me think and it made me want to sing and dance, a friend of mine did dance! It was a resort, a paradise for the exhorbitantly wealthy, these people arrived with their white day suits and white luggage and then spread out over the island. It had a feeling of a strange kind of eden, inhabited by gods. Not the one big stern fella, but the old Nordic or Greek gods who loved and had sex and fought and lived. But are not human. More perfect and more faulty. Eternal. It was intense and distilled and erotic, it was menacing and pointed and political, but above all it was lushious. The people moved in ritual formations, repeating and repeating again, seeming to touch each other but really not at all, slight blurrings at the edges told us they did not really touch. Once a servant, next time master, one time leaning in, another time reclining away. Repeating seemingly endlessly, race, class, gender, age all used and subverted. Moments of army like unity as they run in their glitchy ways on treadmills. Other moments of splendid individuality, or duos and trios of predestined interaction. Progressively getting darker and more creepy. Until we watch the end of their world. Aliens, out of control weather, people fleeing accross now hostile landscapes. One little boy who at the start had slowly lowered himself down onto a day bed, this time lowers himself down with an arrow in his chest, red seeping accross his white shirt. And all the time this music is lifting you up and filling you up.

I watched and felt swept away, rejuvinated, touched. Yes, I like to be touched. I walked out and did not want to see any more art. Good thing I saw that one on the last day!

Conlusion: I highly recommend travelling to Sydney for a weekend in the middle of winter. The Biennale is a great excuse to do it. Go to the beach, check out the art and enjoy yourself. And maybe on the last day when the sky is overcaste and you are starting to remember that it is winter after all, you will get swept away and find that one piece that makes you not want to look at any more art for a while.

Photos by Erin Voth