Masters Works

Masters Works. (Roads to Eternity)

This is the dissertation which I wrote to support the body of works I produced for the Masters.

Eternality and infinity are the subjects I explored here.

Most of these works are for sale.

Feel free to contact me on (02) 6614 5801 or email me (see contact page) for any questions you may have.

Limited edition prints are available on request.

Masters Works. Master of Arts: Leonard Aitken.

The body of works produced for this course will be mostly a series of paintings which depict various aspects of, ideas relating to and feelings associated with the concept of eternity.

The Brief.

What influences and approaches have helped develop this body of works? Critically reflect on how you have responded to these influences and approaches both visually and conceptually. What artists and movements have influenced both this body of works and your work in general? Where do you situate your work in both a national and international historical and contemporary context?

Masters Works. Modendaity.

Modendaity

My three additional assessment criteria are:

A thorough utilizing of Surrealist techniques in generating ideas and possibly the creation of one or more new techniques.

The creation of a cohesive body of works which will be displayed in a public gallery.

Works that will generate feelings, thoughts and ideas that relate to the concept of ‘eternity.’

Roads to Eternity.

The body of works I mean to create for this course will consist mostly of a series of paintings depicting various aspects of, ideas relating to and feelings associated with, the concept of eternity.
This paper will outline the ideas, knowledge and theories which have influenced my conceptual, visual and creative approach to this body of works. It will also list the various artists and movements (both national and international) which have helped to shape both past works and this current body of works in an attempt to critically reflect on my work in a national and international context.

My three additional assessment criteria are:

  1. A thorough utilizing of Surrealist techniques in generating ideas and possibly the creation of one or more new techniques.
  2. The creation of a cohesive body of works which will be displayed in a public gallery.
  3. Works that will generate feelings, thoughts and ideas that relate to the concept of ‘eternity.’

How did the universe come into existence? The Bible says that creation began with the creation of light. “Then God said “Let there be light.” And light appeared. And God was pleased with it and divided the light from the darkness.” (1) Does this mean that light is the foundation of all that exists in the universe or was it simply the first thing God created? Both God (2) and the Saviour (3) are seen as shining lights. Truth, wisdom, goodness, revelation and all manner of heavenly qualities (4) are seen or described as light.

It is here where I shall begin. My recent works have covered many subjects and styles, (botanical, landscape, still life, spiritual, conceptual and surreal). However, one factor has played a crucial role in the creation of most of them, and that is the use of and depiction of light. Figure 1 is titled Burnished Light and uses backlighting to dramatic effect, also using it to accentuate the details in leaves and create a sense of depth in the painting. Figure 2 is titled Bellingen Gold. The whole landscape is bathed in a golden light bringing beauty and peace to this place. Figure 3 is titled Little Cosmos where light and smaller lights sparkle and break up into colours filling this ‘little universe’ with joy.

“Light is luminous and transitory, magical and elusive. It is difficult to separate it from mood and feeling. As light illuminates our experience of the world, it is an expression of who we are at any given moment.” (5) If this is the nature of light on Earth, then I anticipate it to be of a similar character (but infinitely more complex and beautiful) in Heaven, or eternity. According to the Bible light is a huge component of Heaven. “And the city has no need of sun or moon to light it, for the glory of God and The Lamb illuminate it. (6) In this body of works I will attempt to represent (as best I can) the light present in the Heaven (or eternity) described above.

My work does not seek to understand the nature of eternity, merely to explore it. Are there material substances which make up eternity? What is the relationship between time and eternity? How does this relationship affect mankind? Is eternity a purely spiritual realm? These questions, and others, will be explored.

I am a Christian and believe that I will spend eternity under the rule of the God of Heaven. “ And he (an angel) pointed out to me (John) a river of pure Water of Life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and The Lamb, coursing down the centre of the main street. On each side of the river grew trees of life…” (7) I believe that this rule will be just and perfect, and that pain, fear, war, hate, injustice, and every other negative thing which can be conceived will no longer exist. The eternal Heaven of my belief will be characterised by light, love, ever increasing knowledge and understanding, purity, and perfection of every kind.

Rev. Chauncey Giles wrote in The Nature of Spirit 9PP. 52- 53.)
“…if our glowing hopes, our lofty aspirations, our consciousness of capacities for knowledge and happiness which have just begun to expand, are all cut off by death, and buried in the grave, then indeed man is the greatest enigma in the universe…But if death is only the completion of the first little round of life, the first short flight; if it marks the end only of his seed time; of his budding hopes, his lofty aspiration, and dawning consciousness of desires which no earthly good can fill, are but the swelling germs of faculties that are to blossom and bear immortal fruit; if he leaves in the grave only the swaddling clothes of his spiritual infancy, and rises as from a deep sleep, in perfect human form, with all his memory, his consciousness of individual being, to enter upon an endless career, in which hope is changed to fruition and aspiration into attainment, then death is the grand step in life.”(8)

How could Heaven be boring or monotonous? If the God that created the universe and all its

wonder, diversity and vastness – the same God that knows each of our individual natures better than we can ever know ourselves – will be designing Heaven for all of us; what will eternity be like? With God everything is possible.

Heaven is not yet meant to be understood. Eternity is an enigma – a mystery to be wondered at. It is not something that can be analysed because it is out of reach. It is too great.
However, there is no harm in imagining what eternity may be like, and if a greater understanding of God (and therefore each other) can be achieved through pondering the possibilities of eternity, then this can only be a good thing. If we try to reach eternity in some small way, while existing on this small planet then it may bring us closer to it.

With this aim in mind my paintings explore many different approaches to understanding eternity – (mathematical, spiritual, scientific {physics}, philosophical and the purely aesthetic). Much of the work produced is largely intuitive. This work relates to the spiritual and purely aesthetic. Most of the other work combines philosophical, mathematical, spiritual and scientific ideas with comical or satirical references. Some works are purely spiritual – purely heavenly – a result of my deep seated spiritual belief. (Figure 4) They are based on a Christian understanding of what eternity may offer. However, they are still conjecture, because of eternity’s unnattainability.

My works are divided into 2 main visual forms. Both have been influenced by surrealism’s two main stylistic movements – the emblematics (Andre Masson (1896 – 1987), Juan Miro(1893 – 1983), Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) and Roberto Matta Echaurren (1911 – 2002)) and the naturalists of the imaginary (Rene Magritte (1898 – 1967), Salvador Dali (1904 – 1989), Max Ernst (1891 – 1976)).(9)

My nebula-like cloudscapes (figure 5,6 and 7) belong more closely to the first group. A broad design (drawn, created in Photoshop or imporvised from the outset) is then worked on in layers. The main medium is oil on canvas, but other mediums (ink, pastel) add to the depth of the works. Once the main design is decided on, the rest of the work involves a building up of these layers (many semi-transparent). They are mostly improvised. Breton wrote in his first surrealist manifesto “…What we have to do is to discover, for by the act of discovery we make life possible, in the sense that we reconcile it with its mother, “Eternity.” (10) The improvisation in my work is akin to Masson’s ‘automatic drawing’ or Miro’s childlike use of simple shapes and symbols. However, my technique is such that a visually flat surface is not sufficient to satisfy me. Improvisation is my route to ‘discovery’ .Eternity surely will have more depth than anything that we have ever known.

“God is entirely without motion…Therefore , he is not measured by time…nor can any succession be found in his being….(Rather, he has) his being all at once – in which the formula of eternity consists …And divine authority bears witness to this truth, for Psalm 101.13 says, ‘Thou, Lord, endurest throughout eternity.” (11) God is not a statue. He exists at all times, at all places at once. As stated above, this is the formula for Heaven and eternity.

Following from this, I feel a need to create works which resonate with “layers of reality”. Therefore my improvised paintings are not purely abstract (like Masson’s or many of Miro’s), but contain elements of “suggested realism and depth” emerging from cloudlike motifs. The often flat surface of an abstract painting becomes imbued with physical depth (both created by layers of paint, and creating material and spiritual layers within the painting). If our time on Earth has an influence on our place in eternity then I believe that eternity will contain elements which appear like the material we experience in life. (12) That is why forms (rather than just shapes and lines) emerge from the 7 paint.

An idea I wish to explore in these works involves the creation of shifting or moving space. If time in the universe in which we live, travels in a continuous line, then I want to depict ‘eternal time’ where all things exist at once in the one space. In order to do this I need to depict the space in my works as moving and multi-layered, laden with a multitude of forms and meanings. The artist which has come closest to realising this representation of space is Matta. Matta created with startling mastery the paintings he called ‘inscapes’ or ‘psychological morphologies. (13) His “inscapes” (Figure 8) were a new kind of inner landscape derived from his own psyche. The evocative, seemingly ever-changing forms are visual analogies for the primoridal struggle for equilibrium in a cosmos dominated by opposing forces. (14)

In my own works I am attempting to incorporate this “plural, flowing, space.” (15) However, my reasons for utilising it are different to Matta’s. Figure 9, Prophecies is a construct of glasslike facets which hide or create old or new facets of the world in which they exist. These geometrical forms contrast with other forms (including the prophets) which sway or bend in an invisible wind.

From a philosophical viewpoint there are two theories of time in eternity. The A theory of time claims time is defined by the properties of pastness, presentness, and futurity; while the B theory claims that time is defined by the relations of earlier than, simultaneous with, and later than. (16) Within the A theory, time is considered dynamic, and within the B theory it is considered static. (17)

If there is no time in eternity then we might perceive eternity as being completely static. Clearly this

is not the case as no movement means no life. There must be movement in Heaven or in whatever form eternity may be realised. However, if there is no time in eternity then how does any activity take place? If Aquinas’ quote above is correct then God is more entirely real than we are. He is completely existent at all times. We, as finite creatures have a past (no longer existent) and a future (not yet existent). We only exist in a miniscule moment of progressive time. Yet, is there a desire for eternity? Ecc 3: 10,11 says ‘I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end”. (18) God is both outside and above our timeline. He can see, hear and experience all of our lives in their entirety. So in eternity there will be no absence of activity. It may be that a ‘super-existence’ lived within eternity will involve many kinds of ‘super-activity’ where multiple things happen simultaneously.

However, the duration of these activities will not be measured in time, for eternity is not only endlessly longer than time – it is beyond and above it.

My ‘omnispacial’ paintings will attempt to represent this. They are a meagre attempt to represent something which I am not really ready to represent (nor will ever be in this life). However, I am still compelled by an inner need to do so.

The second category of paintings I am currently working on, is closer to the imagary of the second category of surrealists described above (the naturalists of the imaginary – Magritte, Dali, Ernst). It is probably Ernst who has had the greatest influence on the visual aspects of my work in this genre. His collages begin with a base or background which exist as a support. Then illustrations from other productions are added to modify this background. (19) The results are disturbing, alarming visions

of a netherworld of Ernst’s own creation. In the collage Above the World Midnight Passes (Figure 10) the base image is a plain of clouds seen from above. A figure traverses these clouds. It is a combination of a strange two-eyed crocheted ornament for the head, a ball of string for the body and a pair of shapely female legs for the legs. This bizarre creature, is not entirely without beauty and becomes Ernst’s personification of “Midnight.” Like many of Ernst’s collages this work allows the possibility of an external space – not the space of the scene hidden by the frame, but one unrepresented in the scene, towards which Midnight walks (20).

‘It is impossible for me’, said Breton, ‘to consider a picture as anything but a window, in which my first interest is to know what it looks out on.’ (21) In Ernst’s collage, Midnight is a part of the world we see through this window. However, she is also heading straight towards us. This persuades the viewer to project Midnight into their own world. In some of my works I utilise the motif of a window or door to suggest the presence of other multiple dimensions. (Figure 11)

My ‘naturalist’ paintings (Modendaity, Modendaities, etc) (Figure 12) take on the quality of ‘painted collages’. The disparate elements combine to provoke a poetic response from the viewer. The titles are not particularly poetic. Instead they are more symbolic. The modendaity series is aimed at exploring how modern people mix the ideas of different religions with their own ideas to create a personal belief that suits them. Dogma has been annihilated. People now feel free to create their own personal truth about the great questions of life.

Some of these more realist works have a straightforward purpose. They comment on various aspects of belief and religion and how they relate to eternity. The False Prophet (Figure 13) is a portrait of any false prophet. He believes he is a king, but is he really only a pawn? His world is a distorted
version of the truth, surrounded by all the religious trappings which will help draw in believers. However, what are the lights which surround him? Do they emanate from him – a symbol of his power; or do they control him?

Elsewhere Ernst’s frottages have inspired many of my drawings. (Figure 14) “Disintegration, or dissolution, is the very essence of frottage.” (22) Frottage conjures the irrational, using rubbings taken from the textures and patterns which exist on the surfaces of everyday objects.

I was struck by the obsession that showed to my excited gaze the floor-boards upon which a thousand scrubbings had deepened the grooves. I decided then to investigate the symbolism of this obsession and in order to aid my meditative and hallucinatory faculties, I made from the boards a series of drawings by placing on them, at random, sheets of paper which I undertook to rub with black lead. In gazing attentively at the drawings thus obtained, the dark passages and those of a gently lighted penumbra, I was surprised by the sudden identification of my visionary capacities and by the hallucinatory succession of contradictory images superimposed, one upon the other, with the persistence and rapidity characteristic of amorous memories. (23)

The identity of the object dissolves and metamorphoses. A rubbing of a floor board becomes a floating city, a distorted face, an alien creature. The accustomed mask of the object is replaced by a different vision – perhaps the true identity of the object.

My frottages combine another technique which I have invented where I scratch the paper surface with a sharp object (a knife, a dry pen, a pin) and then rub over the lines created by the
scratching.(Figures 15 and 16) The scratching is automatic, a spontaneous scribbling similar to Masson’s automatic drawing. The combination of the frottage and this other technique creates visual layers which overlap and dissect each other. ‘Disintegration and dissolution’ are largely the result, although they are then ‘remodelled’ by determining an artificial light source, and then using this light source to add shadows and highlights. This final part of the process allows the artist to create the image which ‘appears’ to him. These drawings take on the appearance of ‘improvised junkyards’. They are more like my ‘nebulous’ paintings than the ‘naturalist’ works.

The two ‘separate’ series of works I am working on both reflect, describe and explore aspects of eternity. However, I am working slowly towards fusing these two different styles into one.

One media combination I have been using to help speed up this process involves the combining of pastel and ink on paper. (Figure 17) These works still have an amorphous quality, but infuse more representational imagery into this misty uncertain world. The softness of the pastel when visually compared with the bright hard-edged qualities of the ink create an exaggerated depth in the works which aids in the suggestion of multiple layers. They are mostly bright, airy pieces as my hopes for eternity are immensely positive. The pastel in these images sets up the base. I have more control with this medium than the ink. The inks are splashed onto the paper, or painted randomly. Shapes and forms emerge and that is when the editing begins shaping the work into a finished state, using both more pastel and ink.

Overall, most of the images produced have a strong spiritual feel. However, what is this ‘feel’? Am I evoking feelings with these paintings? Undoubtedly they generate feelings within the viewer, but do they express feelings which relate to eternity. The next stage of this body of works will be to

attempt to evoke the specific feelings which I believe will be present in eternity (love, peace, joy, contentment). This may not be begun till after this course is finished.

Where does my work sit in the international art world? From my point of view, it begins with those artists who I have admired most. I have always enjoyed the frivolity and technical mastery of Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732 – 1806). His largely improvised intrigues are confections designed for the Parisian courts.(24) The Swing (1767) (Figure 18) displays clearly, his technical genius, infusing a lush landscape with a light-hearted romantic story involving a maiden enjoying herself while her lover conceals himself at the bottom left. To the right the unawareness of the servant adds to the frivolity of the event. However, with Fragonard, the dynamic movements of the figures, the delicate beauty of the landscapes – the lightness of it all – illustrate a utopian world tinged with the decadence of his time. It is his technical mastery, and the optimism his works evoke which I enjoy most.

Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840) the German romantic landscape artist produced works with a simplified composition which glorified the grandness of the landscape and creation. In Friedrich’s The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) (Figure 19) vast empty spaces, mists concealing the horizen and great mountains represent the grandeur of creation. Occasionally, in his works silhouetted, or small insignificant figures are added to exaggerate the divine nature of the landscape. In this particular work the figure is large, but is still dwarfed by his surroundings. God lives in these landscapes.
One of my works which uses landscape and aerial perspective as a device to represent eternity is figure 20. Here the landscape is simplified down to a flat plain. The land is so misty that it could be a different coloured continuation of the sky. The figures are just silhouettes. They melt into the

landscape as they leave the viewer’s presence, heading towards an unknown destination.

Other painters which have influenced my work include Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851), whose masterful rapid brushwork and swirling and often blurred imagery (especially in his later work) display the incredible power in nature and man’s inability to overcome it. I also admire Guiseppe Archimbaldo (1527 – 1593) and his pseudo-surreal heads made out of food, and the ‘super realist’, but often weakly composed works of the pre-raphaelites.

Clearly surrealism is the twentieth century movement which has intrigued me most and while I have spoken about the visual influences of Ernst above, it is Rene Magritte along with Matta who has influenced my conceptual framework for this collection of paintings most.

“Seeing, says Magritte, is what matters. Seeing must suffice. But what kind of seeing must it be? Of what quality? A form of understanding is possible beyond the confines of any verbal explanation, which, if it is of any use at all, must be authenticated by a way of seeing. Unfortunately, for a large proportion of the public, seeing is not sufficient. People often see things hastily and think about them carelessly; they have been educated in disciplines and traditions in which words represent ideas and have a dominant function. This function has left the realm of revelation beyond words neglected and unexplored.” (25)

Magritte’s visions of multiple realities are very simple, unlike my own works which often depict multiple layers visually rather than suggesting them through incongruence. “He did not seek to be

obscure. Rather, he sought to shock and surprise – to liberate our conventional vision from its obscurity.” (26) How did Magritte do this? Magritte’s paintings present simple images where mirrors, windows or paintings become doorways to multiple dimensions, as in The Human Condition (1933) (figure 21) where a multitude of visual questions are presented but not answered. In this painting what is inside and outside are no longer clear. Magritte also painted works where the normal perception of space and size were turned upside down. In Personal Values (1952) (figure 22) the expected size relationships of a group of everyday day objects are distorted. Added to this, the room they inhabit seems to be floating high in the sky. In both these paintings a hidden reality is either suggested or exposed for the viewers contemplation. For me, this hidden reality which lurks everywhere in our day to day lives may be where eternity lies. My paintings seek to lure the viewer into and beyond them. The picture within the picture plane is not the complete work. Eternity cannot be depicted within the finite confines of a painting. My works attempt to both seduce the viewer into seeing multiple realities within the amorphous or realist forms shown in the painting and to awaken their imagination and so coerce them to look beyond the physical limits of the work. (Figures 5, 11, 17)

Where does my art fit into the international contemporary art scene? Lyotard’s publication The postmodern Condition (1984) presents the postmodern condition as a ‘crisis in the status of knowledge in Western societies. This finds expression “as incredulity towards metanarratives”.(27) The contemporary art world is a post-modern collection of every type of artistic style imaginable. No longer are there organised groups (or ‘isms’) as there was in the modernist era. There has been a “collapse or widespread rejection of all overarching and totalizing frameworks (metanarratives), which seek to tell universalist stories about the world in which we live.” (28) The question is no longer ‘Is it art?’, but rather, ‘what occurs when I see this as art?’ This question gives birth to a prior

question about what it means to see something as art. This creates a circular argument. (29.)While some contemporary artists still claim that their work is ‘cubist’, ‘realist’, ‘impressionist,’ more often these established styles are used as a basis for each individual artist’s personal style. My own works are based on some of the concepts of the surrealists, but I am certainly not, a ‘purist’ in the the surrealist sense. The original french group of surrealists, led by Andre Breton, worshipped anarchy, social upheaval and shock. Breton said that “ …it (Surrealism) is un unrelenting revolt against a civilisation that reduces all human aspirations to market values, religious impostures, universal boredom and misery. (30)
For the surrealists the sub-conscious was the spring board for irrational images that tested society’s understanding of reality, adherence to accepted moral standards, and its patience in general.

I am not an anarchist. I use surrealism and its techniques as a springboard to producing works which are often very far from the dark, shocking imagery that some modern day surrealists believe surrealism should be. I believe in peaceful solutions to creating change. My images of eternity are certainly influenced by my sub-conscious. They are images of the unknowable, as I perceive them, express them, ‘believe them to be’. I highlight this last phrase because I believe that some portion of these images come from a revelatory source. The origin of this source is not my own mind (conscious or sub-conscious), but rather, from a combination of my spirit communicating with God’s Holy Spirit within me (as a Christian). What the ratio of cognitive processes/spiritual revelation is, is a mystery even to myself.

This moves me to compare myself and my work with the work of other Christian artists. It is difficult to find a well known contemporary artist whose work has been described as ‘Christian’. Probably the only noted one is the highly commercial painter of soft, homely landscapes Thomas Kinkade. This artist is presented to any internet surfer who stumbles onto one of the many sites where his work is displayed as ‘The Painter of Light’. His paintings are certainly filled with a soft, almost loving light. However, they have been viewed by much of the ‘art establishment’ (especially in America) as naïve and excessively commercial. I place ‘art establishment’ in commas because only less reputable reviewers are likely to touch on an artist who is so excessively commercial.(31) These reviews can be difficult to take completely seriously. Garden of Grace (no date) (figure 23) is a typical example of Kinkade’s work.

I see myself as a Christian who is also an artist. My art reflects my beliefs naturally, without conscious effort. While the influence of God, the visual influences of light and the belief in the pre-eminent power of love, all contribute to my work, there are many influences from the world and from my own personality which play a role in the character of my work. Like all people I have a dark side to my nature and this sometimes manifests itself in works in the form of darker imagery or sarcasm. Modendaity (2011) (figure 24) and Modendaities (figure 12) are examples of this sarcasm.

To place my work in an Australian context I will start with some early realists who influenced my work. Conrad Martens (1801 – 1878) was a watercolourist who painted picturesque images of Sydney Harbour and other parts of Australia. These works were often dramatic, using high contrast and areas of mist to accentuate the drama of a sunrise or sunset. Other realists who have inspired my work include William Charles Pigeunit (1836 – 1914) and Eugene von Guerard (1811 – 1901). Pigeunit’s depictions of mountain ridges and valleys, like Friedrich’s work, display the divine power of the natural landscape. An example, On the Nepean, N.S.W. (1881) (figure 25) shows a solid understanding of the use of light to add mood to the painting (although the light is a little

‘European’). The boat is dwarfed by the cliffs on either side and the figures in the boat are almost invisible. Von Guerard’s work, Northeast view from the Northern Top of Mount Kosciusko (1863) (figure 26) is painted in a highly detailed way similar to the work of the pre-Raphaelites. Once again, the figure in the foreground is made to look insignificant against the backdrop of so much natural grandeur.

My current series of works is also influenced by one particular Australian surrealist. James Gleeson’s (1915 – 2008) melting, amorphous landscapes (of his late period), use rock, flesh and other ‘partly-evolved’ natural forms to suggest other worlds where time and space play a different role than in the world in which we live. “We can invent nothing that is entirely new. All that we can do is to bring together pre-existing realities in such new relationships as might surprise us into feeling that we have caught a momentary glimpse of something that had previously been hidden from us. Nothing is as strange or as various as Nature herself. She is the primal Surrealist.” (32) This quote of Gleeson’s brings to mind the old saying by King Solomon “there is nothing new under the sun.” (33) We cannot create something out of nothing as God did in the beginning. However, if we want to get clever, in eterniity there will be no need for the sun as God himself will light Heaven and with God’s presence in the city of light new things may indeed occur, or be discovered. “…and He sat upon the throne and said, “Behold I make all things new.”(34) Whether I can represent some of these ‘new things’ at some point in the future is not up to me. It can only come through revelation from God.

Clearly, Gleeson’s imagery is quite dark. (Figure 29) My work in comparison is much more colourful and light – my viewpoint is more positive. (Figure 27, 28) The surrealist’s wanted to liberate the mind from social constrictions by delving into the sub-conscious. They were seeking
positive outcomes. “Surrealism is an attempt , not to abandon reason, but to make reason reasonable – to rejuvenate the concept of reason. It is the fantastic used as a method of elucidation. It aims at a re-orientation of values through a broadening of the concept of reality.”(35) However, I feel that much of the imagery, while it may ‘exorcise the painter of their demons’ does not advertise a range of positive ideas and feelings. My work seeks to convey as positive a feeling or message as I can muster from such an untamable source as my own sub-conscious. Figure 30, the Fabulous Doctrine is velvety, light and intangible. There is a pillar of solidity holding the piece together, but its gentle lushness speaks of a loving extravagance.

Returning to Gleeson’s quote, (note 32) nature has always figured prominently in my work. Botanicals, landscapes and seascapes have been the subject of many paintings. Clouds, rock and water particularly fascinate me. They dominate my more ‘nebulous’ works in this current series. I have always loved reflections, refractions and transparencies. These features in the natural world, suggest another world beyond our own. They separate one image from another or a part of an image from its surroundings. In the case of reflections, they mirror, but distort that part of the natural world they exhibit. Refractions and transparencies reveal a part of the world that appears separate from our standpoint. Some of my works use these devices to suggest extra dimensions, ambiguous depths and alternative space. (Figures 7, 9, 29)

On a practical level, I am a modern artist with modern sensibilities. I wish to make a living out of my art. The establishment of a web site (which has an international address) has furnished me with several sales, but certainly not enough to live off (which is my ultimate aim). I would prefer to spend all of my days creating, rather than working a nine to five job to make ends meet.

On a purely visual level my improvised, nebula-like paintings are much airier than James Gleeson’s fleshy/rocky landscapes; more vibrant (especially in colour) than Matta’s ‘inscapes’; and more compositionally complex than the cosmic landscapes of Yves Tanguy (1900 – 1955). Forms jump out toward the viewer and then sink back into the background as the image shifts from one perspective to another. This ambiguous space is not created by a conscious, considered technique like the mathematically derived ambiguous spaces of M.C. Escher’s (1898 – 1972) works. “Escher’s impossible worlds are discoveries, their plausibility stands or falls by the discovery of a plan of construction, and this Escher has usually derived from mathematics.”(36) Rather, my works are a product of painterly improvisation. To some viewers this ambiguous space may flattern the painting; to others it may cause parts of the image to move or shift in relation to other parts of the painting. For the latter viewer, depth in the work may appear to fold, shimmer or vibrate creating new perspectives and hopefully unexpected visions – almost akin to hallucinations. However, I still believe that exploring the concept of eternity using mathematical ideas is possible.

Recursion involves nesting and variations on nesting. (37) Paintings inside paintings, movies inside movies, frames inside frames (figure 31) suggest an image of eternity. A closed loop returns to its beginning like a circle – one of the most common symbols of eternity. In the writings of both William Blake(1757 – 1827) and W. B.Yeats (1865 – 1939) the worlds of time and eternity are represented by symbolic circles and cycles. (38) A few of my works have utilized the circle as a means to represent and celebrate aspects of eternity. (Figures 32 and 33.)

The works in this series of paintings come under the exhibition title of ‘Roads to Eternity’, and are meant to represent my interpretation of eternity, or the approach to eternity, created in a mostly intuitive way. They are painted in oils, on canvas and built up using layers of thin stains of mostly
pure colour. Most of the colour mixing is done on the canvas. I use a fairly textureless plastic surface for my paintings as this type of canvas is more suited to this technique. (A more textured linen canvas would be more suited to painting in impasto, or thicker layers of paint.) My colours are largely bright and saturated adding to the vibrancy of the works. The thin layers of paint allow external light to be absorbed by the works when it hits them, thus giving them an inner light. The repeated motifs of silhouetted figures and footprints point to a journey taking place. Some of these journeys are towards eternity, others are within it.

Light (as stated earlier) is one of the key elements of these works. There are often multiple lights within the paintings (figures 5 and 33) and their placements are important in establishing areas where the forms can shift and move within the physical space of the painting.

Light still plays an important role in my more ‘realist’ works. These works are ‘pre-considered’ to a large extent (using drawings, collage or photoshop), but also partly improvised. Some have specific themes and employ the use of symbols, while others are more poetic, where the image defies known reality and seeks to replace it with its own. The titles of these less specific works are more poetic, seeking not to explain the image to the viewer in any way, but to generate a response from them (of their choosing). (Most of the pastel and ink works fit into this less specific category.)

The details (the features of the landscape and sky, the details in cities and buildings, the details of ornaments and other objects) of these paintings are mostly improvised. This fact points to the likelihood that the two major categories of painting which I am currently working on, are seeking to fuse with one another. My plan for this fusing would involve many more visual layers in the paintings (mostly semi-transparent) and I anticipate that these works will need to be larger to

accommodate these extra layers and the resulting extra complexities.

A second way that I am experimenting with multiple layers is by stretching clear plastic over empty stretchers in order to paint works which utilise more than one physical layer. The back stretcher could be a normal opaque canvas, but any stretchers positioned in front of it need to be stretched with clear plastic to allow for a semi-transparent painting to influence, but not override the backmost painting. The frontmost part of these multi-panelled works would have to be the most transparent. The resulting images will hopefully shimmer and change as the viewer moves past the painting.

Why such complicated images?

My understanding of eternity is that it is separate from time and space (where we live), but has access to all time and space from beginning to end. “Eternity is the undivided presence of life in its totality.” (39) Whatever lies in time lives in the present, proceeding from past to future. There is no material thing which can know its own existence from the beginning of time to the end. God and his eternal realm must exist outside of time, for “He knows all things that have been, that are and that will be.” (40) To illustrate this loosely, time could be represented by a road seen from above. Those on the road live in the present. The past is gone for them and the future is unclear. However, God (viewing the whole road from above) can see all that has happened, is happening and will happen, at once. Nothing is hidden from Him.

If this is the view of time from eternity then it is a very simplistic view. In reality, the view of time from eternity would be multi-layered where all instances of time would be viewed, not only
simultaneously, but from multiple angles and in multiple ways. Simultaneously, God’s ‘viewpoint’ would not change (for He is timeless and unchanging) (41) and this sets up all sorts of problems which are simply impossible to resolve. For example the final image (figure 34) poses the question – “Will there be finite processes within the ‘confines’ of eternity.

My multi-layered paintings seek to represent a universe where a single moment is more complex than any ‘time based’ image could ever hope to be. This is a massive task and will continue long after I have finished this university course. However, I also wish to incorporate more tangible elements in the works so they relate to our everyday lives. The purpose behind this is to involve the viewer more – to give them something to relate to – ‘to pull them into eternity’.

This body of works seeks to represent aspects of eternity in paint, that will provoke a viewer to search for further understanding of what eternity may hold for them. The works do not intend to answer any of the ‘big’ questions about eternity, but merely to offer possibilities. Clearly, a spiritual approach to this topic has dominated this body of works. However, I intend to continue searching for new ideas on this topic and will probably delve into the mathematical perspective more in the near future. My work as a whole is largely, but not wholly surrealist. It is a combination of surrealist visual techniques, combined with a Christain sensibility and a vast need to experiment, experiment, experiment. My work is subsequently a post modern mix of ideas and techniques with only a technical adherence to surrealism. Within an Australian and international context, my work could easily be seen as ‘Christian’ or surrealist.

References

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33. The Living Bible (God’s Word of Life). (Wheaton, Illinois: Thames and Hudson, 1971.) Ecclesiastes: 1:9.
34. The Living Bible (God’s Word of Life). (Wheaton, Illinois: Thames and Hudson, 1971.) Revelation: 21:5.
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