These images represent moments of reflection and insight within an unknown greater narrative. By painting these otherwise overlooked spaces with such attention to detail my aim is to elicit a feeling of everything, however fleetingly, being meaningful.
For my third solo exhibition with Flinders Street Gallery, I have continued my practice of taking photos at night and painting them photo-realistically in oil on canvas. The subject matter comes from locations near my home on the south coast and shows scenes around the towns of Kiama and Jamberoo. This has lent the images a slightly different tone to the more urban settings I often focused on in the past. There are greater areas of darkness and the natural world is a lot more present in these images. I have always been intrigued by the visual, almost surreal effect on natural elements when they are lit by artificial light at night. For me, this represents the fragile yet compelling imaginary line between the sphere of the human and that of the natural world.
Illuminating public spaces at night is a practicality, but it also deepens the shadows, making the dark all the more impenetrable. In my work this contrast between what is seen and what is thrown into extreme darkness symbolises a failed attempt at control and ownership. It is a reminder that the traditional binary division between nature and culture, the wild and the tamed, the known and the unknown, the rational and the irrational, is a conventional one, though it remains potent in our minds. Artificial light in the night-time landscape is also a reminder that we play a dominant role in the shaping of our environment and that we must live with the changes we render.
On another level, this contrast of light and darkness can be seen as symbolic of our fraught relationship with the known and the unknown within ourselves. My interest is firmly rooted in the subjective experience – how we psychologically locate ourselves in a world of flux where we are both active participant and subject to the many uncertainties of our existence. At times even our own internal world can seem out of our control, the only way to regain the self being through the darkest places within.
We map our personal topographies across the landscape in which we move, giving the world form, purpose and meaning via our own memories and experiences. We make sense of the things that happen to us by building them into a unique personal narrative. Some look to religion, superstition or magical thinking to bolster a sense of agency in the face of so much uncertainty. It is also true that intense flashes of insight, a sense of everything being deeply meaningful, can be the result of intoxication or madness. These images represent moments of reflection and insight within an unknown greater narrative. By painting these otherwise overlooked spaces with such attention to detail my aim is to elicit a feeling of everything, however fleetingly, being meaningful. It is my belief that the physical act of painting and the very stillness of the images in some way manages to achieve this. I wish to explore the potential for the external world to be a mirror to one’s internal world and leave it to the viewer to decide what meaning lies there.