Artist Bio

I was diverted from art by the exigencies of life until my late thirties, but fortunately was able to return to art studies and practice and now revel in art-making. I mostly produce oil paintings and ‘block’ prints (which are similar to lino or wood cut prints), sometimes using collage or fabrics. The art works I make attend to the singularities of people and natural forms in ways that often offer somewhat unconventional perspectives and styles. I aim to provide alternative viewpoints without necessarily forgoing all connections to realism or figurative influences.

I tend to produce works that involve a degree of detail, even when there might be some level of abstraction. I do not have one subject or one style. Rather I am interested in experimentation to reveal the particular. I have a parallel life as an academic alongside being an artist, so I like engaging with and paying attention to others, writing about social justice issues and making art.

Meantime I continue to work and publish as a social sciences academic, specialising in gender, sexuality and masculinity studies, as well as a range of other subjects which focus on the politics of intimacy, care and cultural forms like film,

For instance, my most recent two books are on contemporary Hollywood film and internet dating. Art offers another complementary creative direction. I enjoy working with other people—including other artists, and am delighted by working with both words and with visual images.

Why did I become an artist?

I have always been fascinated by visual art. I give credit to my mother and her family for this. My maternal great uncle was the first Inspector of Art in the South Australian Education Department. My grandmother, mother, uncles and aunt produced paintings, design works, sculpture, art photography and films. My mother encouraged her own and my interest by continually buying—despite a limited income in my early childhood—art books, which were a rarity in the country and bush settings in which we lived when I was a child. When we visited Adelaide to see my mother’s family, the Art Gallery was an essential outing. When I won an art prize in primary school, I began to feel that perhaps I could follow in my maternal family’s footsteps.

I started art classes in secondary school with high hopes. Ironically, this choice stalled me for many years. I am pretty sure that I am not alone in such an experience. Many people, it seems to me, are attracted to and excited by making art but sadly a great number are put off by how art is presented to them. Art as a school subject in Year 8 (the first year of High School) was at that time assessed by exam. In the Year 8 exam I froze and was unable to complete the tasks. Still to this day I work quite slowly and do not enjoy producing works at speed. Needless to say, I failed the exam.

The experience was very disturbing as I found school studies relatively easy (barring maths!). I was not accustomed to failing and particularly astonished to fail at such a favourite subject. My dismay produced an art paralysis for a long time. Although I continued to draw and go to art exhibitions, it was not until my own daughter was born that I was seriously able to recapture my interest in art. I provided her with art materials at all and every occasion, including going to cafes! I slowly began to realise that this inclination was not only concerned with enhancing my daughter’s quality of life but had something to do with what I was missing.

As a result, I decided to sign up for my first art class outside of a school setting. I attended the class with great trepidation but fortunately experienced an epiphany—arising from the drawing of a humble matchbox. I realised that art was both a joy and decidedly addictive. Though by this time I had become an academic and hence my waged working world was happily dominated by teaching and research, art came back into focus as also of crucial importance to me.

Studies and exhibitions

The recognition that art-making really mattered to me led me to attend a range of art schools and classes. These include, Bapëa Art School with Peter Bok, The Art Academy with Robin Eley, Port Community Arts Centre with Gerhard Ritter, Splashout Art Studios with Krysia Ciesiolkiewicz, Union Street Studios with Renate Nisi and Duthy Street Art with Megan Roodenrys. These very different art contexts and teachers each contributed to my orientation as an artist. For instance, from my point of view, Peter encouraged personal expression, Robin concentration on meticulous detail, Gerhard a focus on technique, Krysia an awareness of stylistic formats, Renate a passionate engagement with colour and subject matter and Megan a careful attention to materials and composition.

Along this lengthy art journey, I have contributed to and/or developed a number of exhibitions—some of them were group exhibitions and still others joint or solo exhibitions. I have for example generated joint exhibitions with Bindi Amor, titled Capture (2015) and Prickly (2017), both held at Bapea Art School and Studios, and, with Bindi Amor and Con Polychronis, initiated an exhibition titled Unnatural Botanicals (2020) held at The Red Door. In 2022 I presented a large solo exhibition of 28 works titled Unsettling Realism at The Main Gallery. In the same year I contributed a number of works to an exhibition titled Face to Face: Embracing Portraiture located in the Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide. In 2023 I have two exhibitions planned. The first of these will be a solo exhibition called Queer Lives: Icons, Comrades and Intimates to be held at The Main Gallery and the second (Vivid/Arbor/Country) will be a joint exhibition.

My approach

The approach I take in certain ways reflects a childhood in remote Australia, as well as a concern with the very specific qualities of individual human beings and their connections with each other. I also focus on interactions between the human and the natural world, as well as the inexhaustible variability of trees and other plants. Another regular thread involves a concern with social inequalities and with emotional intensity. I find oil painting and block printing the most entrancing media for these preoccupations as they give room for attention to detail, emotional depth and vibrant colour.

To give some of the flavour of what I find absorbing and captivating, perhaps it is most useful to give a little more information about features of some of the exhibitions I have already mentioned. The exhibition, Capture, focused upon trying to grasp the ephemeral, the ineffable. My oil paintings for Capture were portraits which expressed my preoccupation with how we understand and relate each other. I wanted in that exhibition to capture the momentary experience of seeing a look or a stance which characterizes how you understand a person, or which seems to tell you something particular about that person.

The exhibition, Prickly, showed the ways I had become increasingly interested in how block prints enable sometimes haunting, pared-down approaches to people, animals, plants and things. I drew upon experiences from Alice Springs to Karlstad, Sweden, from the harshest deserts to urban front gardens. The exhibition focussed on that which is less comfortable but still arresting and even sometimes beautiful and included everything from cacti and succulents to thorny insects and lizards, along with blackberries, roses, and unshaven men.

Unnatural Botanicals focussed on images of the three graces in the form of three men and their interaction with disquieting flora. I made use here of fauve-inflected oil paintings and block prints to reconsider representations of our relationship with the natural world. The works focussed on men and mangroves, with the intention of revealing their distinctive and curious qualities.

Unsettling Realism offered an approach that favours expressive perception and creates new hybrids which do not conceive realism and abstraction as irreconcilable. The aim was to offer two series of works which both began with a conventional form of realist subject matter (still life in the ‘Waratah’ series or portraiture in ‘The Lawns’) and then, over several works, present an increasing level of abstraction of that subject matter in a variety of ways. My interest was in attending to what is usually understood as a duality—that is realism versus abstraction. I also paid attention to the supposed duality of art and design. I wanted instead to show a spectrum of possibilities which unsettle notions of realism and of what is deemed art. In the process these works reconfigure images both of the human and the natural.

The works in my next exhibition project, Queer Lives: Icons, Comrades and Intimates, will present different forms of portraiture in which famous and everyday citizens rub shoulders. I am passionate about challenging stereotypic images of LGBTIQ people and aim to provide a more diverse array of images. I have seen how those I care about have faced and continue to face rejection, discrimination and sometimes violence, as well as often battling internalisation of these issues. It is important for LGBTIQ people, in all their variety, to be visually present in our society as part of overcoming ongoing forms of social marginalisation.

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