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INTRANSIT 2017
                                   

   




 

OCTOBER


Hong Kong did its manic thing as I wandered streets and subway stations for a few days reminiscing and smelling the sights. The un-magical sound of jack hammers and traffic did my head in somewhat while the aromas of roast duck, star anise and assorted scents bombarded my nostrils.  I watched rabid neon capitalism feeding off the hyperactive work force and big fun in all forms was all there and all for sale. It’s a city I do like but it certainly requires all sorts of energy to survive there.  Food and fun was done with Mr John Batten one evening behind a red door and down some steps at a place called Ping Pong which was a local venue for such a game in the past. Sadly, I flew out before I saw some other characters but time seems to be trickier than ever these days.






And then I was in Europe for my 7th Amsterdam exhibition with Suzanne Biederberg gallery. The Australian ambassador, Dr Brett Mason kindly opened my show and I had the pleasure of catching up with many friends from the Netherlands, Russia, USA, Belgium, Australia, Germany and Sweden. My sister Claire was actually in the same continent at the same time so I even had some family support at the VESSELS exhibition. Many laughs and many drinks took away the night.




The next day was a little tricky navigating life but I managed. In the evening, I found myself slopping around the apartment I was staying in wearing thick Antarctic socks, a silk Khmer sarong, a T-shirt from Bangkok and a synthetic fibre pile vest from Antarctica. Fashionable people may start to feel ill now just thinking about my outfit. It was +20 C inside the apartment but I had thoughts of +40 C weather still in my mind from Malaysia as were the memories of many -20 C days from Antarctica. My wardrobe mirrors the places I have been but I did not wish to present to the public such an unruly smorgasbord of fashion items. I will never make it to the catwalk.

 


Strolls around Vondel park in Amsterdam and a tour of funky Rotterdam wrapped up my time in the Dutch world, then it was time to move north. Before I did so I spotted a travel book titled Atlas Obscura that includes the Davis station sculpture garden I set up in Antarctica some years ago.

 




I took the long way north. At London Heathrow airport, I listened to the soft music flowing about the terminal. It reminded me of the Brian Eno album Music for Airports. Designed to be listenable or not. Ambient, subtle, mellow tunes to smooth or ease the stress of modern travel. It worked for me but then I had to leave the airport as I waited for my next flight eleven hours in the future.  I found a lodge next to the airport but the sounds there were very different. Large jets flew over my bed making VERY anti-ambient music and across the street a classic English pub served traditional British food like Samosa, Vindaloo curry and pints of larger. Not much sleep was had.



 

I am now working in one of the best studios I have had… and I have had a few!  I stay in a very comfortable contemporary Scandinavian house that is one minute walk away from the studio and outside these buildings I am surrounded by a delicious, clean, sharp and heavily moist air. This is the excellent Nordisk kunstnarsenter Dalsåsen or NKD http://www.nkdale.no  that sits high above the town of Dale i Sunnifjord just north of Bergen in Norway. Lucky me! I have two months here to consider, ponder, experiment, plan and probably make more of that stuff called art.

 



Did I tell you what I did on my birthday back in late July?

I woke up early in a hotel room, fell out of bed and did 100 sit ups as well as some tai chi exercises then I drank a strong coffee in a can and ate a cold Chinese pork dumpling with a purple dragon fruit. I caught a taxi to a bus station in Melaka, then caught a bus to KL. Next a train to Sugah Buloh, then a taxi to Kuang then Uber to KL. I then drank one Japanese beer while smoking a cigarette alone in a rustic Asian café. I later skyped Carolina, ate soup, drank soya milk then walked to the train station where I jumped on a bus to the international airport in KL. At the airport, I dragged my bags along a horizontalizer to gate 22 then I sat down and waited for flight 214 to Melbourne.


It is now October…. And many weeks in Australia have flown by. I flew out of Melbourne and north to Brunei for an uneventful two-hour stopover in Bandar Seri Begawan then over the South China Sea to Thailand. Mr Dan Tuffy and I both found ourselves doing a pit stop in Bangkok as we were both travelling from Australia to Europe. There we found the entire nation still mourning the death of their beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej who passed away in October 2016. Black clothing has been the fashion throughout the entire country for one year.

The wild wet season kept us sweating and moist as we wandered about the megacity and sipped the odd beer. We also managed to dine at my favourite Thai restaurant in the world called Sabai Jai Gai. One very wet afternoon we visited my friend Charlee Sodpraset who runs a fabulous artist residency in Thon Buri called The Artists Place. There we nibbled on pineapple chunks with salted eggs and my two friends managed to play a few songs together from Dan’s new album. I filmed them jamming and considered dancing like a bearded go-go dancer as they played a song from Dan’s new album titled - The Biggest Bastard Who Ever Rode the West.


Dan headed back to his home in the Netherlands and I stayed longer in Bangkok. It was great to have a laugh with Dan on the road but usually I travel alone and I end up either not talking at all for long periods of time or talking to myself or sometimes conversing with a shop assistant, a bartender, hotel staff or occasionally to objects that are nearby. Responses differ widely from the excellent retort of a
professional bartender who has heard it all before and can communicate very well to the sad annoying buzzing noise of an ancient toaster or perhaps a fancy coffee machine, neither being very good listeners or offering good advice. The social intercourse between myself and many inanimate objects is a bit one way in verbal traffic I must admit. Although there is the disturbing informative robotic chatter from modern elevators who are light years away from artificial intelligence but they can somehow protect me from loneliness so I best thank them for their limited verbal service. I also take note when I hear any cuckoo clock commotion as this chant always reminds me of how very strange the world around me is and also how very strange the world inside me is…Cockoo, cockoo, cockoo...





Out the window on way to Hong Kong I watched massive cargo container freighters way below me and I planned my trip next year on one of these vessels. Perhaps the ship I voyage on is actually in the image above...







SEPTEMBER


 

 




I am in my hometown of Melbourne in an old horse-stable/granny flat that is a bit chilly in the winter months but an excellent pad for all the preparations I need to attend to. The past weeks I have been wearing my ultra-social hat as there are many folks I must catch up with and reconnect with. I swap gossip, observations, hopes and ideas all in a flurry usually involving some social drinks.
Then I was in Sydney at the Contemporary Art Fair where I displayed some pearl shell work with Tim Klingender Fine Art. A massive art smorgasbord which made me mega-over indulge in art over a dizzy four-day period. I need a little rest now.


 

 

 


At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, I saw work from the artist Ian Fairweather who is highly regarded in the Australian art world and certainly an artist that I have always admired. He was fond of Indonesian Gamelan music just as I am. I was aware of some of his travels; especially the insane homemade raft journey he made from Darwin to Indonesia but I recently read that in 1928 that he made a trip in China to a particular place called Taishan. This is a sacred Taoist mountain in Shandong province with a monastery at the peak. Fairweather climbed the 7,200 stone steps and stayed the night as a storm hit the area. Surprisingly seventy-four years later in 2002 I did exactly the same thing. Climbing those same steps and staying one night but unlike Mr Fairweather I slept in a bivouac and not with the monks. I am sure our views were similar. Now over 6 million people make this mountain pilgrimage each year! In Chinese the word pilgrimage actually means – paying ones respect to a mountain- (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: cháoshèng)
Speaking of height… As a young person I had no problem with heights for I could sit on a high cliff edge overlooking a massive void with absolutely no fear at all but now I am wary of such situations. Death seems closer and of course it does approach us whatever one does. Strangely I get a similar feeling of discomfort when I see animals in cages or fish confined in tanks, even if the aquarium is adorned with
colourful trinkets and sparkling fresh water. The feeling has something to do with pity but also a personal horror of being trapped. Imprisoned with limited space to move about is akin to hell for a nomadic character like myself. Acrophobia (fear of heights) or Basophobia (fear of falling) could be seen as the fear of too much space while observing caged creatures gives me a kind of Claustrophobia (fear of
small spaces) or Carcerophobia (fear of jail) a fear of too little space. Too much or too little? Which is worse? We all need just the right amount. Just like Goldilocks. Let’s hope for something in the middle. Not too big and not too small.
I survived social Sydney and returned south where I was up on the wall at NKN gallery in Melbourne (www.nkngallery.com) for my third show with this gallery.
UNDERSEA SIGNS
“Several series within this exhibition have been made using pearl shells as a base, so that a poetic connection to the ocean is made. Inevitably, the dreamlike romance, history and mythology of the sea is
evoked for the viewer, even before she or he begins to decipher the imagery etched upon the beautiful natural forms. The scraped and blackened lines may suggest ethnographic pictograms, or historic
scrimshaw work, but we are entirely in Eastaugh’s universe, with its own order.” Steve Cox

 

 

 

 I have been awarded a grant from the Australian Arts Council that will permit me to go to sea once again to paddle about areas of the Mare Liberum. This maritime project titled - UNANCHORED WORLD will place myself and film maker Malcolm McKinnon on a large cargo container vessel heading to SE Asia. We will depart Australia sometime in 2018 over the Indian Ocean as part of a wet residency as opposed to a dry or land art residency. Before we embark on this voyage I shall head to Amsterdam for my next solo show. I should stay still for one minute and play some relaxing gamelan music but that seems to be almost impossible for me.

 

 








JULY






 

There is a bar in Kualar Lumpur located 34 stories up on the top of a building. Drinks can be had on the helipad with views of the city and all its funky architectural madness. A fine place for a lychee martini and a farewell to KL. I now work away in a temporary studio in a large but dated hotel in Melaka. A room on the 19th floor with a great view overlooking the town, the Melaka straits and if I look real hard Sumatra. Cargo vessels cruise past as it’s a very busy maritime trade route. I am a little anti-social the past weeks as solitude is sometimes a good friend of mine. Solitude is far from loneliness. An artist tucked away in an isolated cocoon called a studio gets to know solitude pretty well.






I draw and work on paper as I watch interesting clouds called Asperitas undulatas above me. Art is a form of glue that holds us together in some way. Humans are tribal and highly social creatures which means that even as I sit here mulling over ideas and crafty techniques all alone I am automatically and intrinsically connected to others. No person is an island.

The topics that run through my work could be seen as autobiographical and all about me, me, me but I am very much part of other people’s worlds.  Wife, family, homelands, peers and friends are all groups I cannot disconnect from and I do not wish to. I certainly often use distance to try and get a better view of situations and travel aids this desire rather well but my concerns, interests and desires are not dissimilar to most people on the planet. Meaning - food, water, shelter, health, love, security, fun and a few other basics. Everyone is not always in tune but we are always related by these basic human needs.




I now tap away on an apple and nibble on a banana, soon I will peel a dragon fruit and then back to creating this salad of words that will spread over the digital vines of the internet. I sow these words with a desire to make a tasty word meal for anyone feeling like a snack and wondering where on earth I am.

Recently I was served a drink in a restaurant in a mega mall in KL that was half coffee and half tea. Yes! in the same cup. Do I look and act so cosmopolitan in style that the waiter thought I would like this blend? Did I actually order that mix? Did the dishwasher get lazy?  My confused taste buds were shocked at first but then I gave up and drank it as I realized I needed liquid after walking for hours in very high humidity. I reminded myself that I have been known to consume other very mongrel or cross-cultural treats like - Lychee martinis, tandoori pizza, salted chocolate, durian coffee and watermelon curry so why not a little cup of Cofftea? In fact; what is not mixed these days in our global, mobile world where cultures continually collide and interact? Here in Melaka there are bits and pieces of many cultures that have been, gone, returned and blended over many centuries; Malay, Portuguese, Dutch, British, Chinese, Nonya, Indian, Japanese, Indonesian, Arab, Vietnamese, and the new massive flow of tourists that come from all over the planet. I enjoy the simmering smorgasbord of cultures especially when there is no bloodshed involved. I believe I watch a possible ok future when I stroll through these constantly changing cosmopolitan zones.





The modern state of Malaysia is a masala of cultures. A land busy trying to unite many elements under one flag. An increasingly old style of Islam, an unhealthy dose of corruption and the enormous pressures of the modern global world make the chore very difficult. To meld the bling of rabid consumer beliefs with an ancient monotheism will not be easy I feel. There is also environmental impact to consider. Nevertheless, the population races forward in all directions and along the way damage will be done. I just read that in the year 2016 there were 6706 road deaths, making Malaysia the 17th most dangerous place in the world to use a road. I hope that those who drive the country are not as insanely reckless as those travelling about in the traffic.




This morning I looked in the mirror and saw a sort of fluffy monkey or was it a veteran backpacker eating a banana with a very shaggy beard wearing a stained journalist vest with far too many pockets and zips. The beard I wear is far from the current hipster fashion as it is all white and reminds me more of my Polar experiences than a love for recent urban cultural trends.  Am I permitted to be a backpacker at my age? Time to discard the ruck sack? Do I need to upgrade my facial fashion, my luggage collection and my rubber shoes that look like Dutch clogs but were designed in New Zealand and made in Vietnam? I better do some fine tuning on my well-worn style but first I must move to another continent.




JUNE


 

A troop of long tailed macaque live nearby and they are rather naughty as sometimes they sneak into the houses and studios here to run amok. All they search for is some food as their jungle shrinks daily due to the increase in humans running about and making even more mess than our simian cousins. Other interesting creatures I have contact with are the current artists all working hard in the excellent studios scattered about the Rimbun Dahan complex.


Jel Suarez,  Zulkifli Lee, Haffendi Anuar and myself.



It is the month of Ramadan here in Malaysia so many of the population forego eating, drinking, smoking and possibly other things as well during the daylight hours for the entire month. Their self discipline I admire but I am baffled by the reasoning or more specifically the innumerable rites of religion. Tradition dies hard I can only mutter. Consequently things slow down somewhat this month but some activity is transferred to night-time. I continue my normal routine as I am primarily a day painter. In the studio a great deal of hand stitching has devoured my time so it is all rather slow going but I believe that I am going, I am just not sure where to. I have heard this saying many times and perhaps it is true. “We will know where we are going when we get there.”  Lets hope so.


I am often asked by people I meet on the road which is my favorite place or which is the best place or the best city or the top county that I have been to. I usually respond with a fuzzy answer along the lines of – “It is difficult to say as it is impossible to compare a frozen remote Antarctic hut to a fancy high rise hotel in a humid hyperactive mega-city.”

One obnoxious answer I could offer to this tricky question is – “the number one, best place that I have ever been to is Earth.” The reality is that my most favorite place by far is the place that I have not been to. That mysterious location that I have yet to visit or that city in my dreams where I will never ever get to.

I am also occasionally asked who the artists are that have influenced my work. All artists are influenced by an ongoing array of stimulus that includes other artists and anything that catches their attention from the zillions of inputs received via the senses. Here is a short list of artists and one academic I have encountered over the years that have made some impact in the ways I consider art and the ways I make art. This list is off the top of my head which is also the fuzzy location where all these characters have met, melded and somehow conversed enabling me to conduct my personal compositions.

Paul Klee (lines and grids)

Phillip Guston (painterly stories)

Rover Thomas (modern ochre)

Katsushika Hokusai (more than 100 views)

Kitty Kantilla (marks and scars)

Persian miniature artists. (exotic colour galore)

Gareth Sansom (rowdy smorgasbord)

Frida Kahlo (self examination)

Ian Fairweather (artful wanderlust)

Tongan Tapa artists (pattern vs chaos)

Bea Maddock (texture is physical history)

Yi Fu Tuan (making space a place)

Svay Ken (this is what happened)

Ansel Adams (sublime in black and white)

Dieter Roth (disordered order)

 


We will know when we get there / Landscape lah. 2017 (Malaysia)        


 


MAY


 

Located on Koh Samui Island Thailand are two buildings next to one another. One is a strange shiny gem-like building made by a jeweler that celebrates creativity and inside the building craftwork is sold.  Next door is a rather ugly large office building used as the base the Samui Shooting Range where in Thai, Russian, Chinese and English you can pay to shoot pistols, riffles, semi automatic and other weapons at bits of paper in the shape of humans. Weapon based entertainment businesses may be just fronts for illegal activities like money laundering I do not know or perhaps they are just for fools who see ultra violence as fun. There are also new age massage/yoga spiritual centres for well-being spreading over the island like some disease as well as a plethora of drug fucked drunk idiots riding around in circles on noisy jet skis just off the coast of pretty coconut landscaped white beaches. The Thai Buddhist world encompasses all!  Meditative mantras, gongs and bells are all reloaded, revved up and aimed to please the enormous array of human desires.  Embellishment of the human figure with precious metals as well as the rearrangement of the human figure by emptying bullets into it for our pleasure. The customer is always right? Whatever makes tourists happy is ok. Which leads to the question. What does makes us happy?






I have no answer to that question but I know that my time in Thailand ended and it was very pleasing to see an old friend there. Now my body should be acclimatized to the moist sticky air of the tropics. I begin to settle into a new studio in Malaysia. I must readjust ever so slightly physically, emotionally, financially, intellectually and socially. Tweaking my normal routines and habits in an attempt to fit into a new location. What does not seem to change for me is this strange desire to make art wherever I am.

Before I arrived in this studio I had to travel by car, ferry, mini van, plane then finally a taxi. The airport experience was the usual as it involved being shuttled, corralled, processed, finger printed, stamped, scanned, read, profiled and lured to shop for luxurious bits of stuff. I often feel like a bovine type of creature at airports. A sort of zombie cow consumer. A bit dumbed down with a confused body clock. I feel equal parts fear and excitement.  All go go go.. I say goodbye to one place then I consider if I have my passport? Then after the in-transit period it will be time to say hello to new folk.

At airports the senses get mashed and transmuted into multi national logos. Hurry up and wait, hurry up and get into another line, hurry up and purchase something you don’t want, hurry up and get going. I can get anxious as I am in a target zone, a hot Wi-Fi spot, a high security area and it is a border so there are rules galore. Best to duck into a neon bright global shopping mall to look at shiny watches that cost the same price as an entire Albanian village including the people living there. I rush to catch a horizontalator to gate 48. Don't be late!  I eventually board, buckle in and finally take off. Then I am flying. Not a normal thing to do for most of human history. In fact very weird indeed. I am over the clouds.

The excellent and well established RIMBUN DAHAN (rimbundahan.org) on the outskirts of Kualar Lumpur will be my base for a few months. Verdant tropical gardens have lured me back to S.E Asia or is it the putrid loveliness of a tropical fruit which is soon to be in season and reeks havoc with many nostrils across the region. I speak of the spiky Durio Zibethinu. A fruit that is illegal in many public places due to its ultra rich perfumed/stink but it has also been described as - " rich custard highly flavoured with almonds" and "the king of fruits!" So is it rancid or royal? Probably both. A bit like human desires.



APRIL


The little red Ovenbird (furnarius rufus) is the national bird of Argentina and it makes an unusual clay home not unlike a rustic pizza oven that is surely a five star nest in the feathered world. While watching Rufous Hornero make architectural repairs I wondered about the concept of home and my flimsy attitudes towards a stable base, homeland and domestic bliss. I do understand these concepts but again and again I return to airports in order to wander far and wide. Silly me.


“I did Sydney” as many tourists say about a short visit to a location. Meaning I fell off a long haul flight, saw family, friends, colleagues, art and strangers, drank a lychee cocktail and ate great food, wandered about, met more people and then rushed back to the airport to fly to Singapore. I am sure I did other things as well but it is all just a blur now.  

In Singapore I presented a travelogue talk at the LASALLE art school which covered topics like wanderlust, getting successfully lost, constructing art residencies in unlikely places and whether pink and blue pyjamas are the ideal traveling outfit or maybe a classic 1960’s safari suit is more durable? I really must get myself a new stylish wardrobe to replace my weathered antique fashion ensemble.




Singapore is an odd city as many will agree but in some ways it represents one possible neat future. It is cosmopolitan, modern, wealthy, clean, safe, and very very busy. High-rise, hi-tech, hi-energy also high in temperature for the entire year. Compared to Argentina on the world time zone scale, Singapore is eleven hours in the future but from what I saw around me I was at least 11 years in the future from Argentina. One morning while slurping dumpling soup I saw a man zoom by on the pavement riding a electric solo-wheel vehicle, wearing very hip shiny synthetic clothes and plugged deep into the internet. Looking half-man and half-robot. In fact the entire city runs like a well oiled machine and that includes the citizens who are mostly pleased to be part of this social experiment on a tiny Island state just 140 kilometers from the equator. The Chinese/Indian/Malay/Euro masala seemingly does not actually mix that much in terms of social activity but generally this city state of six million folk all work hard together and play by the rules as they all consume stuff galore. Shopping malls litter the state and shopping is in fact a sport, a religion and a hobby.  Is it all too ordered, a bit too non-organic and just a bubble of fortune that will soon pop?                               
I was told that the population have all sold their souls in order to live in a place that is safe, clean, planned and rich. Growing from a small tropical fishing village 200 years ago into a first world, air-conditioned, global financial, commercial and transportation hub is rather impressive but I feel that I would be physically roasted like a barbequed duck under the humidity and possibly I would also creatively melt if I stayed too long but maybe by melting I would reform ideas, blend and flow into some other innovative vein
.




In Singapore I stayed with friends who live in a skyscraper with a grand view of hundreds of other skyscrapers from the balcony and a never still cloud-scape watering the Island. Below the cumulus nimbus at the base of the building sat the basic Moonstone Coffee House which was a culinary and social microcosm where Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Euro/Oceanic characters all mingled by the multi flavoured cooking pots simmering on well used stoves. Everyone sat down to eat, chat, drink, relax and perhaps they considered how extremely controlled their lives were but also how very lucky they were living in the belly of the Lion city.

 


 


I made a short pit-stop at Kuala Lumpur which initially seemed like a much larger and much less organized version of Singapore but I am sure I will learn a great deal more about Malaysia when I return. Now I melt on a Thai island. It is Songkrang or the Thai New years festival.  A very hot and humid time of the year, in fact so hot and humid that the locals all throw buckets of cold water at each other in order to cool down and cleanse themselves from the build up of dirt, sweat and evil deeds collected over the past year. It's actually the year 2560 in the Thai world so I feel once again very much in the future even though there is a large water buffalo living next door in a wallow hole.







FEBRUARY


We have all arrived into the year of the Rooster and must now cluck, scratch and occasionally with gusto cock-a-doodle-do our way through 2017. After a very average beginning to the new year which involved our house being broken into and ransacked, a wild guinea pig invasion of our garden, a small earthquake, assorted stress from the excitable emotional roller coaster of the Latino world I often inhabit and watching via media the ever increasing fear, greed and stupidity hemorrhaging from the battered body of geopolitics. I am now ready for positive news.  What this year brings I have no idea but a Chinese horoscope told me that on 26th October 2017 I shall receive a windfall and I should place a green trinket near the eastern side of my home or was that a red vase on the western side?  I best sort that out as luck seems required on a number of levels.

I do know that my artwork and travel plans for this year are as complex as ever and if everything I hope to do is actually achieved that will please me enormously.

One project confirmed for November and December will see me planted at the Nordisk Kunstnarsenter Dale (www.nkdale.no) A residency on the east coast of Norway. Rather remote but I seem to be happy and can easily operate from peripheral zones most of the time. I imagine the views obtained from such a faraway place will be wide, clean, cold, quiet and totally jam packed full of zero distractions. Sounds like an ideal studio.


As mentioned above the dangers of being in Argentina are numerous - including over-consumption of meat and red wine, wild Zonda winds, cactus spikes and other unmentionable, unfathomable, unusual phenomenon.  Therefore it is time to move. The route mapped out for the next few months includes Sydney, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Thailand and Melbourne.


Such a schedule makes me a little dizzy but if I stay still in one location for longer that a few months I feel another form of dizziness. More like a still-sickness where itchy feet and wanderlust begin to grate upon both my body and my mind. This ache for distant locations is the opposite of homesickness and the Germans have a precise word to cover this feeling – Fernweh.                               
                                   I best pack my bags.