A picnic at 3000 metres under the impressive Punta Negra Mountain was a
good spot to watch clouds and birds and also not bad for a wallow in
the chilly river after a grunt of a hike up to the snow line.
2000 metres below the picnic spot there are some small white owls
living by the house. I hear them hooting and doing owl type business.
Occasionally I see these very pretty birds around the grape vines, as
well as a tiny fireball bird that’s red colouring is seriously
fluorescent. Speaking of red…Malbec red is still my favourite drop of
wine here but recently I tried a fantastic red wine called Tannat which
was produced in Northern Argentina but is much more common in Uruguay.
This time of year the worry for the wine producers of high altitude
regions like La Consulta are the occasional fast and furious hailstorms
that are flung off the nearby mountains. A short 10-minute hail shower
can ruin whole plantations of grapes or other fruits. Nets are used to
protect some plants but the expense is too large to literally cover all
crops. Two other methods are used here to battle these tempests. One is
cloud busting with salt bombs via cannons or planes the other is an
older technique that involves an old man climbing onto his roof and
incanting some ancient spell that magically asks the icy storms to move
away. I presume there is a lot of traditional praying as well to all
sorts of deities.
The festive season is here I believe as there are some trees wrapped in
shiny golden paper and images of baby Jesus litter or adorn many
buildings. Buenos Aires will be the location of my celebrations.
Fireworks are de rigueur in the Argentinean capital to lighten up the
change of year. My plan is to enjoy a bottle of quality red vino and
devour a slab of BBQ-ed cow with Carolina and my Dutch friend Otto,
after a slow dinner I will murder myself ever so slowly with some
Indonesian clove cigarettes. A cunning plan!
The past 2 months have been country living, far away from any urban
chaos. Big skies, hailstorms, tractors cruising by, farm workers
labouring, a pleasant lack of television and radio, fruit trees
producing all sorts of treats and farm dogs barking. The dogs also
operate as mobile homes for ticks and other miniature beasts. Which is
actually what I do with bacterial beasts. I am a massive microbe mover,
a vehicle that glides through the air and across the earth on which
miniscule bugs travel. A little like a cruise ship full of tourist’s,
well not really.
Off I go once again on the MV Orlova an ice strengthened ship that
sails to the Falkland Is/Malvinas, South Georgia Island and then to the
Antarctic Peninsula. I become a little creature on the big ocean, off
to see the big white continent. Upon arrival I notice how minuscule I
am. Watching the big bergs, big hills, big waves and big clouds help’s
to picture the sublime and pleasantly enables me to imagine myself as
less than nothing. This I wish to feel once again.
I landed in Santiago Chile after a flight over the Pacific and a number
of time zones that zonked me out for a few days. Nothing that a few
empanada snacks and vino could not repair! To adjust to South American
mode I also tried a seafood dish in the wonderful central market
designed by Eiffel (yes THAT tower) called Piure which is a gang of
messy red molluscs tasting like iodine, scallops and the mysterious
ocean. After the seafood lunch and finally retrieving my delayed
baggage then there was a seven-hour drive over the Andes, which was
most spectacular. A few days after arrival in Argentina a small group
exhibition was held in Mendoza of artists who had collaborated together
as couples. The small gallery run by the very charming Tano Arcidiacono
usually shows photographic works but this show displayed drawing,
sewing, photography, painting, and sculpture all bonding together under
the title of ALGO CONTIGO.
Settling into Argentinean time has been my first chore here in the
small village of La Consulta in Uco Valley. Today it is hot, dusty and
there is no shortage of BBQ-ed meat to be had. Snow-capped mountains,
vineyards and cactus are outside the window. Pretty views and a quiet
country ambience surround me.
Argentineans could be described as “ meat-packing literati” a term
adapted from a song dealing with the topic of the Malvinas/Falkland
islands war. Not a very amusing part of recent history but I find the
term amusing enough to use here as a way of expressing the Argentinean
passion for both BBQ-ed meat and the written word.
The past few days I removed a very large toad and a small bird from
inside the house. I see these creatures as locals visiting to see the
new stranger in town. Another type of stranger I have encountered here
is Gauchito Gil. Senor Gil is a popularised saint-like figure of a
Gaucho (an Argentinean cowboy) with a Mate teacup who has a liking for
the colour red. This semi religious figure is believed to offer help to
those that place gifts at his numerous roadside shrines. These
constructions grow over time by the continual addition of personal
belongings. A Christian/pagan miss-mash of rustic installation art is
the end result, decorating country roads with bright red coloured hope.
A short residency has been completed at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop
in Melbourne. During the three weeks spent at the workshop a series of
small mixed media works were created with the help of Kate Durham and
others. This busy workshop has been translating images into Tapestries
for 30 years and certainly has a well-established, comfortable and
creative ambience throughout the building. The residency was finally
capped off with a short work in progress exhibition called NON EXISTENT
ISLANDS. The work attempted to navigate through some Antarctic themes,
thoughts on dislocation and sloppy cartography.
Besides this project I have been preparing to leave Australia,
finishing a number of large paintings, and enjoying the extremely warm
Melbourne Spring. In fact so warm that it feels like a summer, all the
signs of a serious drought are here reminding us that Australia is
basically a very large desert island.
A long and tricky year is ahead of me. The year will be meshed together
by airline tickets and a lot of art. A short return to Antarctica, solo
exhibitions in three countries, setting up studios in half a dozen
locations, and perhaps a bit of exploration will all keep me on the go.
To begin the journey I jump on a plane just like over a billion people
do each year. Zooming in and out of a bunch of airports, each time
swimming through the strange process of being processed by people and
machines that collect and read data. Displaying the passport at borders
almost seems old fashioned. Presenting a small formal notebook with a
great amount of ink stamps and my picture in it, which shows to the
world my name, where and when I was born, where I have been and not
much else. A great deal more information is wanted as the concept of
Nationality becomes ever more fuzzy and people as always stay humanly
fuzzy. By that I mean unusual, complicated, hilarious, insane, kind,
desperate, lovesick, criminal, devout, drunk and the rest. I look
forward to long haul travelling again and fears of terror (actual or
imagined) bother me in a very minor way. Travel has and always will be
a risk as is staying still.
I fly to Santiago Chile then drive over the Andes with Carolina. That
means my next studio will be located in a small Asado BBQ room on the
outskirts of La Consulta, which is near Mendoza in the wine production
region of Argentina. I can’t imagine what I will be drinking there as I
watch the grapes growing and hear the mountain winds blowing out the
The Shinju festival of Broome came and went, as usual displaying the
multi cultural makeup of this little tropical village. Pearl meat was
eaten, Japanese drummers were heard, rodeos and horse races held and
bush folk sauntered about. A Chinese dragon whirled around, Aboriginal
art adorned many walls, exotic food was smelt, beer was swilled and I
stupidly tried to spend as much time as possible in the studio with my
I packed up the Broome studio with a strong plan to return and do
another stint in the future. It was a very productive time in the large
and very hot shed where I managed to complete 20 large paintings on
linen as well as two series of small works. A small open studio party
was held on the 8th September, which gave Broome locals an opportunity
to see what I have been up to. It was a hot night with ample beverages.
I always find that the body enjoys the tropics and I know I will miss
this climate and vegetation. The tropics at times seems rather gothic
with clear dark nights making the stars huge and plentiful, noisy big
fruit bats swoop about and squawk like bonsai vampires occasionally
getting barbequed in electrical high wires, grotty guard dogs bark at
anything that moves except their owners, strange activity is heard in
the bush, things that you cannot see can kill you in the sea and the
mangroves are a little spooky to those that have not grown up nearby
them. A huge moon rises over the mudflats where spiky plants pierce the
dank goo. Fires rage on the horizon with smoke turning the sunsets
blood red. Large lizards can be spotted in gardens lurking about and
hunting large insects. Electrical storms fry your emotions and it’s too
hot to think logical at times. The heat was building up as I rolled up
the large works, stored paint jars, boxed a few things and considered
my next few months.
Sydney is next port of call as my thirteenth TRAVAILOGUE exhibition
opened at Damien Minton Gallery on the 19th September running until the
7th October. The same opening evening AntarcticArt was screened on ABC
TV so it was a highly public day compared to all the quiet studio time
in Broome. Now I must begin to head southwards.
Many pleasant evenings were spent at the Gekko Lounge listening to
"Broomese" live music during the Broome Music and Art Festival over the
past few months. This was a great way to break up the studio time as
was having the odd beverage on a verandah, in gardens and at art
openings primarily at the excellent Short St Gallery in Broome's
Chinatown. A short visit to Derby was also a fine break as I managed to
go Terra-sailing over the mudflats as well as playing lawn bowls during
a small insect plague in this town known for its incredible Boab trees.
Back in June I found myself in a map shop for a few days looking after
a massive array of topographical and satellite maps which was
interesting and almost seemed like I was in my studio surrounded by
fantastic two dimensional images of landscapes. I also map landscape
but in a rather different manner to cartography. I have always been
drawn to cartography as it helps us to navigate through the physical
world. Art could be seen as a tool to navigate through the more tricky
terrain of metaphysical space or am I getting off the track here? The
titles of current work will testify to my obvious need to locate myself
someplace in the world.
|STILL - SICKNESS
||BIG DARK SPICE MARKET
||257 CROSSES /
|DOMESTIC PRAYER FLAG
||BLOOD AND PUS COUP
||ST. PILLOW / LAND OF
|NON EXISTENT ISLANDS
/ LOST CARTOGRAPHY
/ SEXY BUSINESS
|IMMERSION SUIT AND
GOLDENLAND WITH SPIES
|SIGNAGE. 90 N
||UNDER A BRIDGE /
HOMAGE TO MUNCH
|IMPEDIMENTA / BAGGAGE
||LONG LIQUID WINTER
I head over to the East coast for a number of reasons this month. A
documentary about my time in the studio at Davis Station, Antarctica
has been completed and is to be aired nationally on ABC TV.
AntarcticArt (Everysomewherever) was filmed by Matthew Rooke over the
austral summer of 2003/04 and has now been edited and polished. A
preview of the film will be held in a Melbourne bar and no doubt other
indoor wintry functions will occur in my hometown as I breeze through
on my way to Sydney.
The actual date for the national screening of AntarcticArt is the 19th
September 22.00 on a Tuesdays night I believe so those interested who
are nearby a TV can see how one artist creates in such an environment.
I must pack the bag; find my socks and fly.
ANTARCTICART - EVERYSOMEWHEREVER
DVD copies of the program are available at $25, postage included
Direct all enquiries to email@example.com
Darwin was warm, and wet and sticky and sometimes hot. The end of the
Wet season usually means some cyclonic activity nearby to keep the city
moist, and also on its toes. I put up my 12th TRAVAILOGUE exhibition at
24HR ART in Parap which was received by the Darwin art crowd on a
Friday evening with build up clouds in the night sky. Beer was consumed
and later in the evening karaoke was performed with the usual fluid
gusto needed. I luckily was not in the mood to embarrass humanity by
singing pop songs to a video screen with my unique voice.
I flew to Broome and now I sink back into a very serious studio mode.
That means 10 hours a day painting and stitching to hopefully complete
the dozen or so large works that were begun last year. I may not report
too often over the coming months as I hope to go a little underground,
minimize my social life and focus on the paintings. During this period
I will also have some planning to do. Meaning a visit to Perth, an old
friends 50th birthday party in Melbourne, a group show in Argentina
with Carolina Furque, a small exhibition in Sydney to arrange in
September, another voyage to Antarctica next January, my third solo
exhibition in Paris next year as well as another Amsterdam show and the
possible relocation of my studio to Argentina at the end of the year.
What to do? What to do?
My diet consists of Asian style soups, iced coffee, some fruit,
cigarettes and litres of water each day. Pickled pearl shell meat was a
treat the other day that was most delicious washed down with a cup of
green tea. Soon I will make my popular green paw paw salad and most
likely drink some beer while watching large lizards wander around the
garden before I dive back into the studio.
I flew a few days early to New Zealand to await an Icebreaker as this
gave me time to poke around Christchurch, visit Picton on the
Marlborough Sound and prepare once again for the Ice. On the waterfront
in Picton sits the very charming Le Café run by Peter from
Switzerland. Peter looked after me for a few days forcing me to consume
green lipped mussels, wild goat stew, very good New Zealand wine and
gorgeous Kiwi scenery as I waited for the Kapitan Khlebnikov to dock in
Littleton. This is the eighth trip where my studio is a small cabin
that bobs, sways and rolls its way over polar seas. I plan to work on
two small series of paintings. One stitched and painted group of
Travailogues, the other will be oilstick studies of landscapes /
icescapes / seascapes. A mini TRAVAILOGUE exhibition will be held at
the end of the voyage.
The Kapitan Khlebnikov is a Finnish built, Russian owned 132 Meter long
icebreaker that can hit a top cruising speed of 15 knots on open water.
The ship carries approximately 100 passengers along with 100 crew/staff
members and has been working in polar waters since its launch in 1982.
Once again I am the artist in residence onboard, this time in cabin 819
and this time heading to the Ross sea region of Antarctica. Besides
painting, I kept me busy with the following.
On Campbell Island which is 660 Kms south of New Zealand I had a small
argument with a large 350 kilo Hooker Sea Lion. The beast decided that
I was not to pass along the track heading up to Mt Lyall. Waving,
shouting and stomping only created more barking and the display of more
teeth. These creatures are known for their aggressive behaviour, which
made the tag ‘lion’ very fitting. Cape Hallett was a grand spot with a
massive population of Adelie penguins hopping about with their fat
fluffy and very hungry chicks. We had sunshine and no wind for the
entire day so the gods were certainly happy with us.
Terra Nova bay is where the stylish Italian station named Mario
Zucchelli sits, here very neat Italian scientists spend the summer
months then leave to run the station remotely from Rome. Located on
Ross Island is the large USA McMurdo station that is really a town of
1200 people and over the hill the very green Kiwi Scott Station sits.
The debate onboard after visiting a number of stations was “ How much
science is really needed?” I believe we need a lot as long as data is
not duplicated and the Antarctic treaty upheld by all those on the Ice.
We explored various explorer huts, Discovery hut on McMurdo Sound,
Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds and the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans all
on Ross Island as well as Borchgrevinks hut at Cape Adare, which is
surrounded by more than 500,000 Adelie penguins. These huts are
historically of great interest as they are the first dwellings made by
humans on this continent. Literally frozen in time for a century.
The KK went as far south as any sea vessel since the Fram in 1911
making it to the latitude of 78.40.871 South, which is in the Bay of
Whales. Impressed? The Icescapes were very impressive but numbers on
GPS navigation instruments are really just numbers. A helicopter
landing on the Ross Ice Shelf one sunny midnight was a bizarre treat as
was icebreaking through stretches of pack ice in Mc Murdo sound. It
truly was a grand trip with a diverse bunch of people, a great deal
happened and often it was incredible, impressive or some other
superlative. I will attempt to enlarge an idea or two gleaned on this
voyage with the desire to create some major works in the Broome studio.
The most impressive sight was the very alive volcano Mt Erberus that
puffed smoke into the clear blue sky as we visited sites around its
home on Ross Is. I also puffed smoke from an Indonesian clove cigarette
out on the stern of the ship one evening. I watched icebergs and
thought about other lands. The perfumed smoke swirled around me as we
crunched through sea ice. Is the Ice really in my blood I wondered? The
smell of the tropical spice was rich and highly alien at this latitude.
Soon I will be back near the equator probably missing the Ice.
One final recollection was a zodiac landing on a tiny dot of a rock
situated at 74.54 S 164.39 E. We were there to see the remnants
of a camp where a few men spent a year in a snow cave eating penguins
to survive and dreaming about eating anything but penguins. They had a
BAD year. Inexpressible Island is the name of this tiny lump of rock
and ice. The islands name could be suitable for the entire Antarctic
continent as it often is extremely troublesome to describe. In terms of
brutal weather it is troublesome for sure but also tricky to describe
in a positive way as every grand view bankrupts language. It is
inexpressible but I will attempt to paint some elements of the far
south by melding views with experience, memories with stories, colours
with textures, the sublime with trinkets. Wish me luck.
2005 has now pasted but the summer festive season mood is still around.
My Broome studio has been shut down temporarily as I travelled back to
the East coast to eat, drink and say hello to 2006 with family and
The route from Broome began in a four wheel drive heading south towing
a boat through an extremely harsh and dry landscape. Watching a number
of willy willys twirl about above the rather beautiful desert terrain
and massive road trains bolt along the road past us was all good. In
the car we kept amused and awake with nonsensical chitchat about small
goods from across the world. Mikey the car owner did over 2000
kilometres of driving through the villages/towns of Sandfire, Port
Headland, Hamersley Ranges, Newman, Meekatharra, Cue, Mount Magnet,
Paynes Find, Wubin and New Norcia finally arriving in the pretty city
of Perth. In the capital city of Western Australia I visited the
impressive Kerry Stokes art collection, various other galleries and I
strolled through the Kings park to appreciate the wonderful Western
Australian flora. The kangaroo paw shrubs stood out with their unusual
forms and velvet texture.
Next was a flight to Sydney to arrange a future exhibition and drink
some Argentinean red wine before I flew to Melbourne just in time for a
very odd Xmas party. This annual function that has been going for 2
decades selects a different theme each year to entertain or confuse the
guests. This year the theme was TOGA- A -GO GO. What ever that
means. It was a grand and messy party as always. New Years eve was
celebrated on Phillip Island near Melbourne with vermouth, beach
swimming, a late dinner and a big selection of old friends. I had to
have a little lie down on the floor at 4.30 am so that means I had
Preparations for another voyage to Antarctica is next on my list of
chores. The Kapitan Khlebnikov heads south from New Zealand on the
twentieth of January and I need to be onboard. This trip to the Ross
Sea will last about one month after which I will be plonked in Tasmania
where I will post my next intransit, so until then…