Vision in Red, acrylic on linen. NFS. I wrote some words about the story of this piece because a lovely friend recently suggested that I should share the thinking behind my art. It feels really vulnerable to share this stuff online, I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to position myself as an expert or anything like that, I’m just a weird little artist and I’m trying to get better at sharing the things that I think about and truly care about. Ok, here are my words:
When I was 6 years old, I told my parents that I was an atheist because “if God exists, they wouldn’t let kids at school get beat up by their parents”. I still am an atheist in the sense of not believing in a monotheistic God, in the sense that I still have major problems with organised religion, in the sense of believing that after I die, it is highly like that this “me” will cease to exist but I no longer hold such unshakeable conviction around my beliefs. Over the years, I have focused on the process of decolonising my mind and this has necessitated unpacking learned Western cultural supremacy in regards to the misunderstandings of the spiritual, philosophical and animist understandings of the world that were and are held by so many people.
I believe that a lot of the Western obsession with “rationalism” which so dominated my way of thinking, did come out of a necessary backlash against the power held by the church (and I love science and people who cultivate their critical thinking skills), however it also resulted in a materialistic perspective that has further reduced the world to “stuff” which could be mined, extracted, exploited. The view of nature as “stuff” made everything in the world dead and empty mass. This is how colonialism worked also, not only was land “stuff” to be taken and stripped of resources but here in Australia, first nations people were deemed to be part of the flora and fauna, therefore not needing any legal or moral rights of protection. White Australia’s treatment of the land and it’s people has been monstrous.
I have come to believe that our disconnection from the animate nature of the universe, the poetic, embodied and interconnected truth of reality… I believe this is a big reason that we are now existing in a time of climate crisis and ecological collapse. The myth of human supremacy, the myth of white supremacy, a separation of ourselves from the cycles of nature… it is destroying us. We are in everything, everything is in us.
So as a personal practice, I am trying to use my art as a means of exploring my spiritual beliefs and feelings, I am trying to use my art to express something that I had incredibly strongly as a child – an ability to enter imaginal realms while I daydreamed in nature. Visions that felt, sometimes, realer than real and which I still visit when I sleep at night. In the book “Stolen Focus” the writer talks about daydreaming as a neglected form of focusing and in the podcast “The Emerald” the writer speaks of imagination as a powerful and revolutionary force.
The mess the world is in currently is in part due to a hauntology of the colonial dreams of conquest, of domination, of supremacy. I believe that one of the vital roles of artists is to dream for something better, to dream so powerfully and strongly that the dreams become collective dreams that birth a better tomorrow. And so I am working on developing my power to dream, to envision and to express those visions in the hopes that someday, I might have an imagination that is powerful enough to do my small bit to help dream up something better for us all and by “us” I don’t just mean humans.
I did this painting yesterday while recovering from Covid. I wanted to shut off my rational mind and simply paint something imagined in order to strengthen my ability to imagine strong enough to see and to express. I closed my eyes and saw a figure in a forest of lush green, they were blurry but as I started painting, they came into view. Their face was a mask, their horns were sharp and spiked and they shimmered a red like blood on bird feathers. I don’t know who they are but I saw feathers sprouting from their arms and shoulders and hot, red, radiant light penetrating them and splitting them open. This is one of my favourite paintings that I’ve ever done, it shimmers for me, I feel as if I’ve accomplished something that I’ve always wanted to capture, something very much alive.