Artist in the Rough
I live on the North West Shelf in the west of Australia. There is a lot of gas and a lot of iron ore here. There are trains over two kilometers long working 24 hours a day to deposit some of the oldest earth on earth to ships to be taken to lands far away. They bring back what they make, from our earth in other ships.
People scurry to buy the latest offerings in order to look successful this is what it is all about, buying stuff. I’m an artist living in this rugged and industrial land abundant with billion year old rocks with 30,000 year old carvings etched into their surface by our indigenous forebares. This is the history in this land.
The contemporary moment here is invaded by individuals wearing high visibility clothing as a uniform signifying that they belong here, god I even saw a baker wearing high vis the other day as he glazed hot cross buns, why? I have a theory that people here seek out the high vis clothes and wear it so they feel as though they belong. They wear high visibility clothing to be invisible, not stand out amoung their peers.
That’s all well and good unless you are a flamboyant artist who is fond of brightly patterned shirts, made by Ben Sherman, Scotch and Soda and many other expensive high fashion labels. God I needed all those things when I lived in the city. I also don’t drive the customary white pick-up trucks that are abundant here. I drive a convertible and I drive it fast frightening the sleep deprived miners and other industries out here in the Pilbara that get their pound of flesh from their workers. Some people work up to 28 days without a day off. Need I say more about their somnambulistic driving style?
While fitters and turners and all manner of trades people toil in the sometimes 50 degree C heat I spend my days at home painting, sometimes with the air-conditioning on, I really don’t fit here. When my wife and I walk around our town heads turn, my wife is a couple of decades younger than me so you can imagine the workshop scenarios these people are running in their minds? Is that her father? Oh that’s just too weird? What’s a babe like her doing with that old bloke? I enjoy the looks it means my life isn’t boring and routine. Under the bosses thumb not me.
I am mostly known for my cityscapes and strange interiors in my paintings. I put people in my paintings, I usually have strange people, in strange places, in love with highly manufactured strange objects. It’s a metaphor for consumerism. When you look at what is going on in my paintings you see a person holding their object. It’s the latest, they have got into debt for it. But what the hell their peers are going to think they are amazing for having the latest thing. But look closely, the people are in an almost trance as they realise the thing they have was the latest thing. Until now. Because of fashion and designed obscellence they now, no longer have the latest thing. They will need to have the next latest thing to be popular, so the cycle begins and is maintained.
If they stop doing this the 24 hour cycle of digging up our old terrain and shipping it off would stop and that would not be good for all the high visibility invisible people toiling endlessly here. The landscape in the photo above is typical of my surroundings it’s the kind of place that grabs your attention but seems to me such a shame to destroy just so we can have more stuff.
The painting above “Smart Ed’s One Stop Shop Karratha” depicts one of the most popular places in my town, the Caltex Petrol Station and Convenience store. It’s not Rodeo Drive but as important to our locals. In this painting I have my strange person in a strange place holding her strange highly manufactured object. Behind her the the Petrol Station with creative changes. I pay Homage to the great Australian Artist Jeffrey Smart with the colourful sheds in the background. The Red roof of the petrol station is paying homage to Ed Ruscha, so in a town of little inspiration I have made a fabulous work of art saluting my town, pop art, and my own art. It’s worth being cutting edge on this edge of the brutal and beautiful North West Shelf of the Pilbara in Western Australia. Wait until you see my next series of works starring the Pilbara and Beijing all together.