Settling into Broome lifestyle once again. Salt water cowboy territory is familiar to me as I have been visiting this part of the world since 1981. The warmth is not difficult at this time of the year nor is the influx of tourists as I mostly work away in the studio with the odd adventure out into the social world.
One social event was the excellent Environs Kimberley Fundraising art auction which attracts a lot of art, a lot of buyers and a lot of fun each year. Over the years it has been most successful and certainly helps this fine cause. www.environskimberley.org.au
My recent studio activity involved the completion of many artworks begun on the Indian Ocean. Fuzzy flags, Unclear cargo, Unnational drawings, Chains, knots, ropes and piers, Seasicksea, and Vexed vexilla. (Troubled flags)
Other works fermenting in the brain which were spawned on the ship I try to squeeze out into the physical realm. All that adds up to a fairly productive time here in the green shed studio but the big smoke is calling me.
Perth is 2,239 kilometres south from Broome and this is where I reunited with Carolina. After the very complicated process of leaving Argentina and the equally complicate process of entering Australia, Carolina will be in need of a stiff drink I imagine. Borders become more tricky each year it seems. Not surprising really as the last time I looked there were 7,639,373,111 people living on this funny little blue ball.
Carolina and I shall exhibit together while down south.
Caroline Furque (Argentina) + Stephen Eastaugh (Australia)
The title of this small show joins botanical photographic work of Carolina Furque with the pearl shell work of Stephen Eastaugh. Black and white images of vegetation, taken in far flung places hang beside pearl shells etched with obscure designs sourced from extensive travels.
These two bodies of work are also joined by the fact that Carolina and Stephen are partners who met in France in 2001. The couple have travelled widely together since then and I do mean widely (Argentina, Cambodia, Iceland, Malaysia, Greenland, Morocco, Vietnam, Netherlands, Mexico, Germany, Egypt, Chile, Scotland, Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, Macau, Uruguay, Japan and Australia)
August 10 to September 8th.
Turner Galleries - 470 William street, Northbridge. Perth. W.A. 08 9227 1077
Besides evolutionary/biological and historical connections I have with the sea I do see the sea as a primary element of this planet of ours. Earth’s surface is covered by 71% of water, we are made up of roughly 60% water, and carbon life as we know it requires liquid water to occur. From a human perspective, you can’t get more primary than that. Oceans also connect the separate continents, lands and nations. The rabid capitalistic democratic order that currently frames most human activity on earth today uses the Oceans as a means of transporting stuff from A to B. From grower to buyer or from raw material to finished product. Business as usual on a global level.
Massive cargo ships perform this operation. In fact, about 15,000 ships continually sail around the seas transporting everything from tractors to plastic scissors. I was on one such ship. The CMA CGM ROSSINI a 13 year old ship, 278 metres in length which sails under a French flag and was transporting 4450 cargo containers from Australia to S. E Asia.
It is the job of 1.3 million sailors across the planet to help move all these boxes of stuff about. This industry alongside other transport modes, communication via digital technology and the international financial world are elements that enable globalisation to continue and expand in such a rapid manner. Globalisation refers to the crystallisation or melding of the entire world into a single place. A unification of human activity if you like. Hopefully, good, fair and friendly activity rather than evil, greedy and stupid activity. We can only hope!
The shipping world is hard core in its capitalist methods as it operates under extreme weather conditions in an unstable, fickle world market that is based on an illogical exponential growth model. The unusual FOC or Flags Of Convenience system used by shipping companies to source cheap labor is an example of this. Finding ships made in Romania, owned by American companies, with European officers and Filipino crews which are register in land-locked countries like Bolivia or Mongolia is very odd indeed. I don’t wish to delve into too much geopolitics as I am out of my league being a simple trans-national visual artist who was luckily given the opportunity to observe this incredible industry from cabin 705 on Deck F.
This global maritime transport industry is partly hidden behind seemingly chaotic but highly controlled ports and it is also difficult to observe what happens across the enormous expanses of our dark oceans and blue seas. What I do know is that a great deal happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For instance; each year approx.120,000,000,000,000 cargo containers are moved across international waters where the law is as wobbly as the seas upon which all these cargo ships float.
However complicated the industry is it certainly is fascinating and this trip did enable me to return to the sea to make art as I traveled slowly from one continent to another. I thank the officers and crew of the ROSSINI for letting myself and Malcolm experience such a world.
Big thanks also to the Australia Council for the opportunity to explore and work on that…
“large blue wobbly thing where the mermaids live”.
UNCLEAR CARGO (BOX OF FUSTY LUGGERS) WORK ON PAPER. 2018
The last little party I went to in Argentina was at the home of some excellent friends, Coyote and Lula live in La Consulta and are always great to catch up with. It was a classic Argentine evening. Surrounded by vineyards we sat under the Andes mountains drinking red malbec wine, feasting on an Asado (meat bbq), the guests played guitars and sang in that sad but strong tango style. It was a special night of laughs and fun in many ways but also it was a farewell as I have no idea when I shall return there.
Suddenly I found myself looking at maps like this on the back of economy seats and out of small windows I saw the tops of clouds obscuring the large complicated world below me.
Once over the pacific I spent some days running about Melbourne and I believe I saw people and did stuff there but I am really not that certain. Currently I am in Perth Western Australia. A very pretty and neat city with ample going on, as it now has 2.2 million inhabitants. There seems to be a lot of building going on and I wonder who shall pay for all that but it also has a fantastic climate and much more going for it. The native vegetation I love and the birdlife is wonderful, charming gardens, a strong art world, sporting activity galore as this is the religion of many Australians and at each dusk and dawn I watch smoke from controlled bushfires colour the sky over the Swan river where people catch prawns and crabs and zip about in all types of sea-craft.
In Perth, I managed to do a small artist talk at the Edith Cowan University for a group of art students and visit some galleries but I will not see much more this time as I must put on my maritime attire and consider the Indian Ocean for a bit. “Ship Ahoy” as they say.
Beside the excellent wine and meat to be found and consumed here in Argentina, I have discovered a brilliant Argentine Gin called Apostoles. (https://www.apostolesgin.com) Made with Juniper, Yerba Mate, Pink Grapefruit, Peppermint and my favourite; Eucalyptus! Perfect on ice in a garden watching electrical storms above the Andes or perhaps while on a road trip somewhere or as a toast to say farewell Argentina.
OFF-CENTERED - a wandering sketch
I was born in a marginal place located at the southern bit of the world currently called Australia. Far from the busy northern hemisphere where most of the human population live and where most power bases currently reside. The past years I have spent a long time in Argentina, another large but comparatively quiet fringe-land in the south and I have also spent close to two years living in Antarctica, which is as remote as you can get on this planet. Further-more, I keep moving like some lost soul avoiding capture from mysterious invisible evil authorities. My nomadic behaviour has kept me slightly off the radar and in-transit for over 30 years. I often live with extended geographical space between myself and people I know. This has not turned me into a sad lonely hermit nor anti-social, as I am indeed a social person when I need to be but I have been afar and I have certainly missed a few birthday parties.
It seems I find myself in a place called Peripheral. A place near Border and just down the track from Away.
I make art in Peripheral. It is far from the Center and difficult to get to but the view is lovely and the air is usually nice and clean. There is a certain amount of freedom here as the weight of history seems not too heavy, competition is not too obvious, pressure and greed are kept at a healthy distance, gossip is only faintly heard and the Center often seems like a fuzzy mirage. Interaction is not very strong here and networking is extremely limited. To live and operate here one must be self-sufficient, self-motivated and self-disciplined as well as selfish, self-obsessed and one must also be able to take “selfie” photographs to upload onto the internet so people in distant lands don’t forget who you are.
Peripheral is a place people like to visit in order to recharge their batteries but many don’t wish to live here as it is far away from the so called “action”. Here in Peripheral you must make your own action. From this outlying situation, you can watch from a distance the intense action or hear loud noises from the Center but you cannot influence or play a role, as you are not physically there nor directly engaged with the central commotion. You are on the exterior looking in. Occasionally you wonder how all those complicated Center activities will affect you and in what manner.
It can be argued that everyone is now very well connected in this globalized, hi-tech information age of ours, therefore nowhere is faraway. Yes, it is true that if money is available one can jump on a plane and travel from one side of the planet to the other in less than a day and it is true that many of us have been able to communicate rapidly over massive distances for decades but there are still the inner sanctums and the outer areas. Those hot spots and the icy wastelands.
Sometimes here in Peripheral you wonder where you have disappeared to and you must check your position in a mirror and of course you always locate yourself right smack, bang here in the world. Centralized each moment, wherever you may be until the day you die and then all those elements currently called ‘you’ dissipate outwards to meld with outlying regions. If you are living in Peripheral some bits of you will probably get to the Center eventually and if you are at the epicentre then what was you will spread to the far fringes. Everything likes to move and nothing is really at the Center nor near Peripheral forever.
This is why I like maps as they help us situate ourselves in this flowing magma of existence. I ponder maps of all sorts whether I am in Peripheral on my way to Center or if I am in Center and heading out “bush.” It is ironically stabilizing for me to know I am moving as well as comforting to be aware of which direction I am moving towards. Cartography can ease those off-centred feelings of dizzy disorientation but the real trick for me is to locate that feeling of being remotely centred wherever you find yourself.
There is a great deal for me to do over the next weeks as an Australian Council for the Arts grant now enables me to implement a self-initiated maritime art residency on-board a cargo container vessel in mid. May.
I shall undertake a sea voyage from Western Australia to S.E Asia accompanied by film maker Malcolm McKinnon. You can track us if you go to this link –
Portrait by Geir Jordahl. Bergen. Dec. 2017.
SOON WE ARE LANDSCAPE. Stephen Eastaugh. 2017. (Norway)
Matchstick men – Wolfgang Stiller
Studio portrait by Kate Jordahl. Dale i Sunnifjord. Dec. 2017
I said goodbye to my studio at NKD in Norway, some tall matchstick-men, European friends and a very large dried fish that I befriended in Bergen then I ran away from a white, cold and wet Euro winter. I had intended to visit Ireland but for a number of reasons out of my control I headed back to Argentina. It took 60 hours of travel to get from Dale i Sunnifjord to La Consulta. (BGO Bergen - CPG Copenhagen - LHR London - CDG Paris - GRU Sao Paulo - MDZ Mendoza.) Really, that is not so many hours of travel but long-haul economy air travel with lots of stopovers via many major international hub airports is a bit painful I must say. A slow boat would have been more to my liking.
A few incidents during this 60-hour epic trip. I was stuck in a faulty insane talking elevator, there was a very rough and almost scary landing at San Paulo airport and I spotted plane spotters at Heathrow airport. These characters must be the modern form of birdwatchers who get enjoyment from watching and listing the numerous varieties seen. Armed with binoculars, iPads, and petrol station coffee, plane spotters scan the skies and airports for metallic birds to add to their lists. Does anyone have any idea why they do this?
I have a love/hate relationship with air travel and airports these days. I do not get motion sickness (air, road nor sea) but I do now get a nasty strain of APS or AirPort Sickness which is an ailment caused by non-motion or movement at snail pace. This sickness appears after being trapped in too many long slow lines of passengers each being personally searched, scanned and processed in order to board aircraft. APS is especially damaging if one is impatient, tired, hung-over or running late. It is stress, body clock complications and boredom all accelerated and subsequently causing acute grumpiness, rudeness and occasionally totally berserk behaviour. Symptoms include spraying dozens of brands of duty free perfume samples onto ones exposed skin in order to construct a unique and personal aromatic cloud surrounding the body and staring Zen-like at inanimate objects for far too long. I found myself in a semi-hypnotic state intensely watching a plastic pot plant while sitting in the lounge of terminal 2, gate 41 at San Paulo (GRU) airport. This nylon decoration was a fluorescent green shrub the size and shape of an elephant turd but pretending to be a small bamboo grove I think. It was truly mesmerizing due to my intense bout of APS contracted during the trip. Luckily a kind fellow passenger / sufferer clobbered me across the head with a hello kittytravel pillow which knocked me out of my unhealthy trance. Then all of a sudden, I was in Argentina…
Argentina is a place where the term “out of control” seems rather popular. The country often reminds me of an assortment of TV soap operas where over-acting, a lack of logical thought, bad planning and a preoccupation with appearances are the building blocks of each scene. Often on high volume and often high-level emotions perform some sort of excitable dance with corruption, tears and power plays. In comparison, I must act like a pathetic tame robotic butler. So, I return to the fashionable pandemonium of South America or shall I call it – heated passion? It is both of course so I prepare myself by watched the excellent 2014 movie titled - Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes) which displays some aspects of Argentinean culture, in fact it broadly displays modern humans doing their best at not being their best. Don’t get me wrong I do find many aspects of Argentina to be grand and impressive and I very much hope that it reinvents itself in some other form as soon as possible.
Now it is summer in the southern bit of the world so bye bye beard.
© Stephen Eastaugh, 2018. All Rights Reserved.