Amsterdam was its usual jolly self with average
weather and a few junkies wobbling around frantically. The low Dutch
sky turned me into a herring addict requiring a few fish each day. In
between my oily snacks Carolina and I caught up with many friends but
we sadly missed Dan Tuffys band called BIG LOW performing at the
Paradiso one evening. A few drinks were had in cosy Dutch brown bars
which was super unfortunately it was not easy seeing everyone as we
were running out of social steam and time.
After my herring banquet we flew over to Mexico City
landing just when the Day of the Dead was on the calendar. A wild
colourful celebration that decorates the city with skeletons, skulls
made of sugar, cars adorned with huge red horns and the population
party with death in mind.. as well as life. It made Halloween look a
bit limp or should I say dead.
The Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos
involves family and friends praying for and remembering those who have
died. Now connected to the Christian holy days of All Saints day an All
Souls day but actually much older as its roots can be foundwith the
Aztec goddess called Mictecacihuatl (don’t ask me how to pronounce
that) and in many other indigenous traditions all across the planet in
Unlike some cultures where death is often avoided
with drugs, cosmetic surgery, and various remedies here in Mexico DF
things are different. Things are also very very busy with over 20
million people living (and dying) in this rich and chaotic megacity
which has a pulse all of its own. The city kept us busy but in the end
there was too much to see, taste, hear and feel; just like life really.
Most of December was spent in Argentina with
Carolina potting around the cactus garden. Summertime was blowing in
with grapes growing and the odd mountain storm brewing near by. We both
enjoyed practicing the concept of home; a very pleasant experience
after our recent frantic travels. I watched the fruit grow and we
enjoyed a quiet rustic lifestyle with a few bbqs, three dogs running
about and not a little vino. This calm and relaxing time was not to
last sadly as that Ice has a kind of hex on me.
The festive seasonis now and I spend it preparing
for another southern trip. Looking for warm socks, growing my beard and
attending a few family food frenzies. There was a new years
celebration, as well I believe. Next step is to Hobart to board the
Amderma, alarge Russian ship that will whisk me across the Southern
Ocean to the very small village of Mawson station. Until then.
Aug Sep Oct 2008
On a hot afternoon from the classic Roebuck pub
verandah we watched the Shinju Matsuri floats cruise by with hundreds
of spectators fuelled by beer all in a very festive mood.
As usual Sammy the dragon was the star of the pearl
festival parade, colorful, noisy and well loved by all in Broome
although the farting earth and fire brigade water canon were big hits
as well. Latter that evening I tried a seriously zingy chilli-flavoured
beer brewed by a German beer master in a restaurant overlooking the
dark mangrove mudflats. Other local treats were pearl meat and gutsy
homemade sambal chutney.
My Short Street gallery exhibition came to an end so
my tropical shed studio was once again shut down and things crammed
into boxes and bags. It was bye bye Broome time.
After a wallow in the warm Indian Ocean we flew to
Darwin where we consumed more beer and art, a lot of both in fact were
crammed into a twelve hour pit stop in this top end city. Then it was
on to northern Queensland.
Mackay Artspace held my 15th TRAVAILOGUE exhibition.
Mackay is currently having a mining boom so the town is growing fast by
selling various forms of dirt overseas. I screened the AntarcticArt
documentary and made a short artists talk at the opening function where
100 people enjoyed a sit down dinner as well as an amusing talk by
William Mora who served everyone tasty tales of food, family and art.
Michael Wardell the director of Artspace Mackay along with his family
played fine hosts during our stay. Intriguing jade plants hung outside
our bedroom in the garden-jungle next door and the warm sea wobbled out
the back door of there lovely home. Michael even sang a long Irish
ditty on the cliff-top to entertain us below the full moon one evening.
As we flew out heading south to Sydney we saw 20 massive cargo
freighters hungrily waiting in line by the islands to be filled.
A group show in Sydney at Sheffer Gallery with an
Argentinean flavor opened on the 17th Sept. Tango, illegal saints,
Patagonia, asado BBQs, weathered walls and wine wafted about the very
white and very charming gallery run by Andrew Purvis in Darlington.
Carolina and I attended the opening and afterwards a private dinner
party constructed from excellent Sydney characters, food and laughs.
(Thanx to Lisa Andrews) Preparations for SE Asia kept us moving during
this week so sight-seeing was not on the menu in this pretty city.
Where are we now?
Oh yes its Thailand. My exhibition titled YOU ARE
HERE in Bangkok Lalanta Gallery
relates to public tourist maps found all over the globe designed to
help foreigners locate themselves in new cities. Everyone has seen
those little red dots that tell us what street we are on and how far we
are from our destination. As someone who has been on the road for
almost twenty-five years, such cartographic tools are often needed.
The work in this exhibition covers a bit of
geography, from Australia to Franz Josef Land near the North Pole and
Antarctica to Bangkok. When you constantly move you are basically in
transit, on your way to someplace or another. Your route, not the place
where you stand structures your experience. It is mobility that drives
you onward to the next destination making stability secondary. I need
to remind myself to slow down occasionally and locate myself in
specific places or I may find myself being everywhere and at the same
time nowhere. YOU ARE HERE could be a mantra to help situate me in the
world by simply answering the question “Where are you?” Unfortunately
such a mantra will not answer the bigger question of “why are you
here?” In a way making art eases this tricky existential question.
Ms Bronte Moules from the Australian embassy opened
my show with a short speech and as usual a few old friends appeared at
the opening to peek, party and ponder. The recent street riots have
ceased but the political uncertainty and mistrust of many governmental
figures is still very much here. I wonder if there exists a good
politician able to take charge of Thailand and if such a beast could
actually operate successfully here or anywhere for that matter. Excuse
my darkness but I just read Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road. Those who
have read this great book will understand. Time now to move eastward.
Meta House run by Nico Mesterharm is multi-media
cultural centre sitting close the Phnom Penh palace offerring an
amazing amount of cultural activities from art exhibitions,
multi-national musical performances to a rich ongoing cinema program
and even a rooftop bar. Carolina Furque and myself presented the show
Khmer Obscura at Meta House
on Oct. 7th.
Carolinas photographic works are rather dark,
distorted and ethereal temples. Fuzzy and obscure images that are part
of an ongoing visual essay capturing distorted panoramic cities across
My quirky, odd and dislocated paintings on show grew
from my constant travels including five visits to the Kingdom of
Cambodia since 1999. We recognize that we will never have a very
precise nor clear vision of what happens in the Khmer world. (Perhaps
this is true for many Khmers as well.) Nevertheless we touch upon
Buddhism, bombs, architecture and wine with apparent aphrodisiac
qualities in this show. Carolina and I attempted to confuse, amuse,
obscure and focus our energy on Phnom Penh during our short week long
stay here. On top of the exhibition here we caught up with a gaggle of
characters that had plenty of tales to tell and ample PP gossip.
Back on the road now and thankfully not Mr
McCarthy’s dark road. A flight to Amsterdam awaits us so bye bye
tropics and hello Holland.
Before I left Argentina the infamous Zonder wind
arrived blowing everyone into a touchy mood. Then intense rainbows were
seen with massive rains for a few days and finally a snowstorm that
covered La Consulta with a pretty fluffy white coat. Finally a few busy
days in Buenos Aires with Carolina then over the Pacific I flew once
again to Australia. My exhibition ‘Finding yourself lost in Melbourne’
at William Mora gallery (www.moragalleries.com.au) was opened by Rupert
Myer and attended by a cocktail of characters. The opening night was
fun, busy and gaudy and my hangover the next day was exactly the
opposite. The hometown was chilly but warm with many people I wanted to
catch up with. Never enough time to do so unfortunately.
It seems that next year I shall be spending a large
chunk of time in Antarctica as the Australian Antarctic Division has
granted me a unique Art Fellowship that takes me back to the Ice for
winter. To my knowledge no contemporary artist has set up a studio over
the dark part of the year when Antarctic stations turn into tiny
pockets of life not unlike space stations. This will be a demanding
residency logistically, socially, emotionally and physically but I have
been preparing for this project for some years. Which station I settle
into is yet to be decided but I will be working in a very bizarre
blizzard swept studio under the striking Aurora Australis
electro-magnetic storms far south of Tasmania.
After Melbourne a pit stop in Perth was needed where
I spent 5 hours completing a psychological adaptability examination
attempting to gauge whether I can survive an Antarctic winter without
going gaga. Gaga is the technical term for combing your beard with a
fork and singing Abba songs in a loud bass voice whilst eating Penguin
pie. A full medical was also required to secure my trip back to
Antarctica. Visits to the Art Gallery of West Australia, the
café strip in Fremantle and the great Kings Park reminded me
that Perth is a pretty fine city but I was keen to get into a studio so
I flew north to the Broome Studio where I began painting almost
immediately. In early August Broome's Short Street Gallery showed
a body of my work that covered much geography and my interest in place
If familiarity and time are required to make space a
place as the geographer Yi Fu Tuan states then my rapid movement across
massive chunks of geography lands me permanently in space. Not a bad
location for a landscape abstractionist as each painting operates as a
unique space. Landscape painting is a visual space where the
relationship to actual topography is fluid and cerebral. In this
de-territorialized space I spend a lot of time. These spaces or works
of art shown were all gleaned from experiences on the road or sea with
deliberate chaos and confusion in the work. I mixed shapes seen in
Portuguese ruins situated in Macau with colours from the Mongolian flag
or views of Antarctica with Persian miniatures. Toys, rotten teeth,
rainbows, reindeer antlers and an Egyptian mummy pillow all find
themselves abruptly relocated without reason. Things were uprooted in
order to mix visually with elements replanted from somewhere else. The
only rule was that all must sit happily together in the space of each
painting. Everywhere, somewhere or wherever holiday together in these
tiny detours. Stars and beasts meander through the works creating small
souvenirs from everysomewherever.
It has been said before but making art does resemble
life a little. Things get changed and rearranged, sorted and then
changed again. All the elements are out there, then they move or adapt
to another form. Nothing is ever totally destroyed. Even artwork
trashed, burnt and painted over still floats about as a concept
currently not needed. Liquid turns to solid, ideas turn into paintings.
Movement pretends to sleep. Creating art distills life, packets
experience and attempts to put things in perspective but there are
infinite views and no one spot to stand to get that perfect image. What
views I will devour next Antarctic winter are yet to be seen but before
that trip I should definitely stock up on warmth and tropical fruit.
We went camping up in the nearby mountains called
the pre Cordillera Range; our destination was Portillo Argentino
sitting at 4290 M high. The weather was kind so after Argentinean mate
tea we scurried up there in about 4 hours absorbing the fine landscape.
One feature that interested me were the snow and ice formations called
Penitentes found at high altitudes over 4000 meters. They take the form
of tall thin blades of hardened snow or ice closely spaced with the
blades oriented towards the general direction of the sun. Penitentes
can be as tall as a person making them rather astonishing. After such
sights and some sighs we came down the mountain and back into the
studio I fell to consider, create and conjure up paintings with a mess
of ideas from this trek and many others Penitentes, displaced
mats, curfews, tarns, badventure, deserts, smaze, gamblers and howling
dogs all float about in my mind awaiting realization in some form.
My problem has never been 'what to do?' creating art
annihilated that question long ago. My problem seems to be 'where to
do?' As I write this I plan packing, transport, locating studio spaces
on the road and logistics for exhibitions. In two months I will head to
the Aeropuerto to fly over the Pacific Ocean beginning the next
walkabout. Solo exhibitions planned for this year include:-
LOST IN MELBOURNE.
||25th June - 18th
||Short Street Gallery
Broome Western Aust.
||12th September -
|YOU ARE HERE.
||La Lanta Gallery.
||2nd October - 31st
Below is John Batten’s catalogue introduction from
my last Hong Kong show.
Not As Lost As You Think
The chaos, mess, feelings of being lost,
dislodgement, otherworldliness and one of Stephen’s favourite
phrases the 'weird craziness' of his life and its encounters
belies the fact that there is always an incredibly productive work
schedule and a disciplined formality in Stephen Eastaugh’s artwork. I
wonder, anyway, after years of his personally imposed 'chaos', that it
may be a situation he quite successfully controls.
Stephen's art offers enquiry, ideas and comment as
compelling as anything in a serious magazine and he plays with both
tough subjects and exposes the smaller cracks in humanity's odd
His recent work is all slightly three-dimensional,
predominantly using acrylic paint as background on linen and stitched
thread, polyester, cotton and wool to highlight a central theme. We see
fantasy, landscape, minimalism, painterly impressionism and a quirky
array of surreal and invented shapes and almost-creatures.
These imaginations could be Borges-like, but despite
the inevitability in the coming years of his spending more time in
Argentina, the World of Eastaugh will remain stubbornly and only
I have often been engaged with the idea of extremes
in my artwork. My physical movement over the years seems to bolster
this. In 1983 I hitchhiked across the Sahara desert and after
extracting myself from West Africa I went camping in Iceland. My studio
in Antarctica was geographically balanced by boarding an Icebreaker to
the North Pole. I have wandering through Broome’s burning red pindan
desert-beaches and Ladahki temples on Himalayan peaks, watched tropical
storms in Bangkok and bounced on 15 metre waves south of Patagonia. It
is not very surprising that I have used titles such as:-
Sacred and bored
Someone wanted to marry me
and someone wanted to kill me
Why this melding of opposites, combining
BITTER-SWEET extremes, joining ideas that are miles apart or just
differing? By placing two odd elements together that are opposed or at
least not cohesive as a unit I create a kind of oxymoron. I mark out
extreme conceptual boundaries with contradictory titles and contrasting
PRETTY-MESSY or AWFULLY-NICE images. This creates an absurd and
sometimes SERIOUSLY-HUMOROUS space where the mind can run wild
exploring all the terrain between two distant poles. Between the
domestic and the exotic we can find a lot of CLEARLY-AMBIGUOUS activity
and plenty of landscape. This STRANGELY-FAMILIAR space is where I
ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE park my MOBILE-HOME. It is where I drink a
DRY-MARTINI on my non-stop WORKING-HOLIDAY and I feel as if I am
I look out the window of my studio at the clouds
above the Andes mountain range on a sunny January evening. This range
is the longest on the planet stretching from Patagonia to Panama, over
7,000 km in distance. Not so far away is the snow-capped peak of
Aconquija at 6959 metres high. This would be a pretty fine stroll to do
one week. This is landscape and cloudscape that I should wander deep
into but it also operates as the majestic backdrop for life in La
Consulta. For want of a better description I am a landscape
abstractionist. I have been busy with landscape and geography for 25
years now. My biography is constructed from huge chunks of geography
and the journeys between one place and the next. Travel and geography I
find hard to separate from other elements of my life. Art maps my life.
Mapping is a tool to control the landscape.
Landscape painting is also busy trying to understand and control the
environment but there is more to it. An element of homage or love
creeps into some pictures along with this desire to know the place and
express it and to communicate various flavours of knowing or different
perspectives. Landscape painting oscillates between the desire to
master space and the desire to pay homage to a space. Control and
romance are two extreme forms of relationship that an artist can have
with the environment. Depending on the artist the relationship could
take innumerable views. From respect to academic dissection or
inspiration to just make marks on canvas or paper.
To make sense of or to put order to a thing that is
complex and fluid is a human activity. Everything changes. Landscape
does as well and humans are often busy trying to work it out or at
least to stay comfortable in their surroundings. Stability and
constants are easier to live with than constant change and chaos. Which
worldview do we want, information and control or beauty and romance?
The answer of course is both.
Cloudscapes are a good example, their shapes and
colours inform us about climate but just how wonderful is it to watch a
sunset or massive cumulus nimbus clouds building up for a storm?
Speaking of chaos. New years party consisted of a
crucified pig on an open pit fire and many bottles of red wine. Dancing
was also on the menu and of course the hammock was utilized for
medicinal purposes for some days after the festivities. 2008 arrived
with a rainstorm, some hail and a double rainbow that refreshed the
dusty town of La Consulta. The Chinese Lunar year arrives soon so we
may celebrate the year of the Rat in some rustic Argentinean dumpling