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Three Flowers Seen
Among Blues & Greens
With A Leaping Orange Shemozzle
48" x 42",
acrylic on stretched canvas,1996.


For me, this painting represents an exploration into the question of "what if colour has a life of its own?"- a question I first saw put by the French painter, Sonia Delaunay. "A Leaping Shemozzle" was the name of a dance troupe which visited Wellington New Zealand during its 1996 Arts Festival. People often ask me what a shemozzle is- I don't have a clue. However, I have noticed that "not having a clue" can be a very powerful beginning.
 


"Out beyond
ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing
there is a field -
I'll meet you there!"
When the soul lies down in that grass
The world is too full to talk about."
(Rumi.)
48" x 40",
acrylic on stretched canvas,2001.
(signed on the back.)

This painting for me is very simple- I was painting my interpretation of the above quotation from Rumi, the 14th Century Persian Sufi poet. For me, "painting is another language, like music, beyond words," where "the world is too full to talk about."
 


My Ken Saro-Wiwa Painting
48" x 42",
acrylic on stretched canvas, 1995.

This painting is my response to the execution of 19 Nigerians in November 1995. Their deaths were "authorized" by the Nigerian dictator, President Sani Abacha, who has since died.
The painting didn't start about this subject at all. It came about when a New Zealand painter, Mary Archibald suggested I begin a painting with my name in the middle and go from there. For me crossing out my name reminds me of graffiti teenagers used to write in bus shelters. They'd cross out someone's name and add someone else's- usually to wind them up! The words "Since using your shampoo my hair has come to life- Medusa "I borrowed from a Collins desk diary daily quote.
I'm giving the fingers to Sani Abacha and Shell for their part in those executions. "Go Ogoni go" refers to the tribe to which Ken Saro-Wiwa belonged.
I imagined the tall figure in the bottom right as a contemporary Medusa having a shower, holding out a shampoo bottle washing her hair and snakes coming out all over the place.
For me this painting asks a number of questions, two of which are: how would you like to be executed for your beliefs? And what if the earth is loaned to us in trust by our children? I also agree with the British poet Roger McGough's sentiment that the way we mis-treat the earth anyone would think we owned it!
( For further details on Ken Saro-Wiwa & his cause you could read "Business as Unusual," by Anita Roddick, pp. 158-168.)
 


Sunset Under Alabaster Dolls
48" x 32",
acrylic on wood,1994.

The genesis of this painting came from a sentence Diane Ackerman wrote in her book "A Natural History of the Senses". She was looking at a sunset out of the picture window in her home overlooking Forest Park, St Louis, Missouri. That sentence still lights me up completely. It reads as follows:
"Each night the sunset surged with purple pampas-grass plumes, and shot fuchsia rockets into the pink sky, then deepened through folded layers of peacock-green to all the blues of India and a black across which clouds sometimes churned like alabaster dolls" (p.255.) I simply painted an interpretation I made up about that sentence. I also painted it upside down so I would have to suspend any judgments I might have while painting it - to allow the painting to take up a life of its own.

 


There's been an alarming increase in the things
I know nothing about II!
108" x 72"
acrylic on unstretched canvas,1997.


This painting suggests that to conceive critical questions which will use my life and to design my existence from those questions is a gorgeous way to live. I also notice that I'm much more interested in the questions than my answers. Generally my commitments arise out of being used by the questions, rather than solutions or answers to those questions. Because there's one of me and 7.4 billion of you, the questions are likely to be timeless while any answers I generate will be provisional and personal at best. That's one of the things I love about living- we're in the middle of our human story so far- so we can all lighten up!- there will be people after us to carry our torch just as there were people before us.
 


"Love's a Big Fat River in Flood."(Sting.)
120" x 72",
acrylic on unstretched canvas,1996.

I borrowed the title from the chorus of a song by Sting, "Love is Stronger Than Justice".
I imagined the river belting down the middle of the painting from right to left, collecting the yellow sediment you see painted in the bottom left-hand corner.
The bottom right I imagined as a coral tree surrounded by all sorts of polluted rubbish somewhere off the coast of Australia; this contrasts with the relatively unspoiled orange coral tree in the top left.(I imagined a South Pacific island, such as Aitutaki.) For me the sea-horse in the top right is swimming against the tide, representing courage, imagination and life.
I also had two other things in mind. Firstly the British poet Roger McGough pointing out "that the way we mis-treat the Earth anyone would think we owned it."- What if it's more accurate to describe the Earth as loaned to us in trust for future generations?
Secondly, I've noticed that so-called poor countries sometimes look after their environment much more carefully than countries with far greater financial wealth- like Australia, for example.
 


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