After fourteen days at sea I finally arrived at the ice edge of Antarctica. Davis Base is in East Antarctica, 68 degrees south or directly below India on your world map. The voyage across the Southern Ocean was mostly smooth with the odd seven metre wave. Plenty of icebergs, seals and penguins to watch as we slowly sailed into a polar summer with a serious lack of night-time. The sun will not really set for six weeks and every day the temperature floats just below zero.
My studio is located in the upper heli-hut donga which is a red cargo container sitting upon another by the helicopter pads on the outskirts of the station. A verandah and three windows offer views of the ice berg littered Prydz Bay and the Vestfold Hills.
In the studio I will focus on marrying landscape with my particular flavour of abstraction. Ice, rock, lake and mountain -scapes will be in bedded with experiential data, text and Antarctic motifs. I will be busy with a series of work I call Unmapping. Unlike cartography which is concerned with location, law, topography and information, I concern myself with dislocation, experimentation, imagined space and mystery, all somehow tainted by Antarctica. Over the years art and maps have enabled me to explore the fuzzy borders of geography and mind. I have found myself many times in foreign lands hopelessly trying to refold enormous maps back to their original pocket size. Here in the studio I will for three months paint and contemplate how to refold or express the tricky mysteries of Antarctica via my art. I shall eventually get to someplace or other with this lost cartography or Unmapping of mine. It is good to know that even when lost I am somewhere. While I am living at this unusual science driven village I will also endeavour to find out if this remote region of the planet is really profound or is it just cold and boring? Where is the sublime bit? Why is this an addictive continent to many people? Is danger really that sexy? And how tasty is Antarctic pesto made from hydroponically grown basil?
Finally I begin to head South. Expeditioners for the summer and also winterers for 2003 involved with the Australian Antarctic Division programs gathered at Bronte Park in central Tasmania for an intensive week of field training. Information and skills ranging from glacier travel techniques, environmental impact and the meals times on the base were presented, practiced and absorbed by all. The numerous introduction courses and general chats with experienced Antarcticans made the rapidly approaching trip south much more real. Bronte Park was also an ideal environment for cameraman Matthew Rooke and I to meet the other expeditioners who we will live with for the next 3/4 months.
Still there is a great deal to arrange and do including the fine tuning of art equipment I shall take with me. This art equipment has been kindly supplied by Art Spectrum in Melbourne whose support has been fantastic as are their products. It is a little difficult to predict my mode of working and the quantity of art gear I will need whilst situated at Davis base but I shall sort this out and if need be I will adapt and improvise down south.
The remainder of my time in Hobart will be spent preparing this gear and my head for my second Antarctic journey. My hope is to set up a studio in one of the unused dry labs on board the Aurora Australis where I can with luck commence my painting and drawing.
My next intransit text could be sent from such a lab somewhere in the massive Southern ocean.
Melbourne is in its predictably changeable spring weather mode, football fever has ended for this year and droughts are on the horizon. It is a busy city but there seems to be always time for a drink at a pub or café. The opening of my Intransit show at William Mora's Gallery was a bit of a reunion as there were many people there I had not seen for over ten months. This is primarily a work on paper show displaying drawings done in Antarctica, Asia and Australia.
My preparations for the second expedition to Antarctica are still underway which includes Medical and psychological tests, collection of appropriate art equipment, a polar training course, sponsorship and media negotiations, sorting out a cameraperson and planning some of the work I hope to create down on the Ice this austral summer.
A cameraperson will join me in November heading 5000klm south of Tasmania to Davis Base. On the voyage and in Antarctica we will be making a documentary film with the help of producer Tony Wyzenbeek in Melbourne.
Last week I was busy with the Melbourne Art Fair as my art dealers from Melbourne, Amsterdam and Hong Kong were all involved. This was a great opportunity to talk shop and also see a massive amount of contemporary art from the stockrooms of eighty galleries.
Next jump for me is to relocate to Hobart where the final Antarctic preparation will occur.
I look out the window today and see Broome but I still have strong memories of being in Mongolia. Memories like lunch on a hill watching a rainbow over Ulaanbaatar, dissecting cooked pine cones for their delicious kernels, sipping rather odd fermented horse milk and meeting dozens of artists all busy in the studio complex run by the Mongolian Artist Union. Some form of cultural exchange between Mongolian and Australian artists will hopefully occur in the future with a bit of luck and planning.
I managed to complete thirty small Travailogue works while basically enjoying the capital city and its warm summer days. It would be excellent to return to Mongolia and see the countryside, more time is always needed. Heading south was next on the agenda. Back to Beijing to pack my studio into some boxes and my personal belongings into the rucksack. Onto Bangkok for a pit stop and then to Sydney to catch a few exhibitions and friends, finally here in the tropical town of Broome for my BASE exhibition and quite possibly a long ocean wallow at the beautiful Cable beach.
After over two months in the Beijing studio working on my new Domestic/Exotic paintings, a large Travailogue series and hundreds of drawings it seemed like time for a little journey north. I am here in UlaanBaatar the capital of Mongolia. Mostly busy with new drawings and attempting to get my bearings in this unusual city. Part central Asian, part Russian communist, part cowboy, and part buddhist. I must look further to sort it all out a bit.
Soon I return to Australia for two solo exhibitions. The first in Broome, north western Australia at Short Street Gallery. This show entitled BASE will run from 22nd August to 5th September. Melbourne is the next stop as my INTRANSIT show opens 19th September at William Mora Gallery. This will primarily be a work on paper exhibition of drawings done on the road (or sea) over the past few years.
In late November I will once again return to the Antarctic with the Australian Antarctic Division as an artist in residence at Davis Base this time, staying a few months at least. Another visit to this frigidexotica will be somewhat of a change from the past six months of living in hot and excitable Asian mega cities. Here is not so populated of course. I doubt if my nomadic ways have any similarities with the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolians but I shall investigate whilst I am in the neighborhood.
I am currently wallowing in the warm smog of Beijing. A city I visited eighteen months ago during winter that has now drastically transformed itself. Climatically of course as Summer is not too far away but also the look and intrastructure of the city has rapidly changed. Beijing I liked before and now even more so. The hotel I stay in is roughtly three kilometres east of Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City, close to Ritan park but sadly no intriguing old Beijing style hutong laneways to stroll through. From this temporary studio fifteen floors high I overlook numerous embassies all waving their colorful national flags. This pleasantly confuses my geography some mornings when I awake. It is here I begin a new body of work entitled Travailogue which begins to dissect my wanderlust, tumbleweed fever or travel sickness whatever you may like to call it. Recent experiences in Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines I now review, cull, meld and experiment with. Other journeys will be thrown into the mix as well as the good and bad of living here in Beijing for a few months. Lots of art to do and many ducks to eat whilst here....
The mish mash of the Philippines I found both pleasing and confusing. As a country highly influenced by Spain and seriously peppered with Americana it somehow sits comfortably in S. E. Asia. After trying to rapidly orientate myself in Manila John Batten and I hung the Antarctic exhibition at the Australian Centre which is located in the Australian Embassy. Forty-seven paintings and One hundred and eighteen drawings all rather icy works strangely looked out onto a hot and smoggy city full of the most gaudy taxi/bus vehicles one will ever see.
The formal opening went well, TV, cable and press interviews were done, John flew back to his Hong Kong gallery and I jumped on a bus to Baguio. During the five days I spent in this interesting mountain city I began a new series of works, visited the Green House Effect gallery and met a number of the artists connected to the Baguio Arts Guild. Santiago Bose was my host who exuded hospitality and warmth. The people and places I briefly got to know in the Philippines all made me strongly consider returning sometime in the future. Next text could be from Beijing....
I have returned to Bangkok after an intense studio period in Myanmar. Yangon the capital is a large and attractively shabby city that made strolling about its wide streets and meeting the many polite and graceful people most enjoyable. Burman, Mon, Khmer, Shan, Thai, Chinese , Indian and others all somehow construct this land called Myanmar(Burma). The numerous black or brownouts in town seemed to shrink Yangon considerable also making portable generators noisy and necessary for those able to afford them. There is a busy little art community there surviving under the awful weight of poverty, strict censorship, lack of materials, teachers and support. I found it a land of enormous beauty and potential unfortuntely run by a highly disliked military regime. I would have liked to see more of Myanmar but the studio was operational and too enticing to escape from. Work made there dealt with stopovers, dislocation, foreigness and travelsickness in all its forms. All very homely topics for me. Strangely my brain is still wandering about the Antarctic ice floes but my body is enjoying the extremely hot tropical dry season. I guess that makes me some sort of geographical deviant or perhaps just another globally lost fool. For those in the Philippines my Antarctica exhibition at the Australian Centre, Manila opens 6.30 pm Tuesday 23rd april and runs until the 7th June. Part of this show will then relocate to the Green House Effect gallery in Baguio (the summer capital of Philippines.) opening 14th june. See you there.
My Bangkok exhibition at the Rotunda Gallery opened with a fitting speech by Miles Kupa the Australian Ambassador for Thailand. Sixty Antarctic works were displayed in this small but very attractive Gallery. The show generated alot of press including a short TV interview I did for the popular Thai-Oz talk show which is broadcast throughout S. E Asia. What enlivened the opening for me personally was the appearance of old friends arriving from Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing!
Bangkok will be a pit-stop for me for the first half of 2002 as trips are planned to all four directions of the compass. I have returned to my previous Bangkok studio over the Chao Phraya river in Thon Buri. Dislocated drawings and preparations for various solo exhibitions have kept me busy as well as being included in a group show of primarily Thai artists at the new Chai Sri gallery here in Bangkok. As usual the excellent Thai food is keeping me happy. Green paw paw salad, fresh tamarind pods, spicy offal soups and guave juice all served with that not so delicious side dish of mega-city smog.
About to exit Australia after a cool summer in Victoria and a stinking hot festive season watching bushfires run amock in N.S.W. I intend to spend three weeks in Bangkok while my AntaRcTic exhibition is running then relocate to Yangon, Myanmar to set up a temporary studio. The planned April exhibition in Manila will precede a show in Baguio which is about 200 kms north of Manila in the hill region of Luzon Island. I am told Baguio has a large population of artists and a pleasant climate so I look forward to visiting. If all goes as planned I shall spend six months in S.E.Asia basically in studio mode but punctuated by three or four small exhibitions of Antarctic works and perhaps new works done on the road.