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A wobbly kind of perfect

My approach is equal parts intuitive freestyle and hyper-critical analysis. I love the combination of loose marks with moments of finesse and how they talk to each other. It’s never easy to get to the final composition though. The first idea always feels too obvious or rigid so I’ll keep digging until I find something more unusual. Sometimes I get lucky and things magically fall into place. But 9/10 times it’s a lot of building then destroying and crafting then uncrafting, until it feels a wobbly kind of perfect.

“Does it need more energy? Does it need more layers? Does it have presence? Should it feel more humble? Is it raw enough? Is it crafted enough? Maybe I should loosen it up? Does it have spirit? Is it boring? Have I taken enough risks? Does it looks too realistic? Is it borderline cartoon? Is it weird enough? Can it be weirder? Wait, what does it mean? Ok, am I finished now? What could make it better? Shit have I overworked it? Does it still excite me? Do I love it?”

The end result might look like a kid has slapped it together but every inch has been considered. My paintings have always been my babies.

 

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Bulbs

“I’ve always had an urge to make things. To bring the things that appear inside my head out into the real world. I see them as orbs of light that reside in my stomach, in my chest, in my shoulders and in my arms; glowing seeds of thoughts, visions or ideas. They have their own energy, they have their own heartbeat and if I try hard enough, I can find ways to drag them out of my body and help them materialise in the physical world.

Sometimes they burn bright and they’re itching to burst out. However for the past few months they feel murky and dim, almost empty, barely there. There’s a blockage and I don’t know how to fix it."

– Thursday 27 September 2012, Sydney

 
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Prologue

To start I want to set one thing straight: I didn’t grow up ‘spiritual’. 

My parents were refugees from the Vietnam war. They bribed policemen to board repurposed fishing boats in the middle of the night, sailed for a week trying to avoid pirates (more sinister than you might think) and arrived at camps on remote Indonesian islands only to build huts, fish with spears and wait to find out where (if) they’d be relocated. Nine months later my parents arrived on Australian shores in 1980 and actually met each other at an English class here. They had their hands full learning new skills to get jobs and earn money so I have no idea why they thought popping out 3 kids was a good idea. Also back then my grandpa helped establish one of the early buddhist temples in Sydney but my parents chose not to practice so my brother, sister and I were raised atheist by default. 

I was one of few non-christians that attended a private catholic high school out in the suburbs (I begged my mum to apply because my best friends from primary were going there). Despite feeling guilty about the school fees it was a relatively compassionate environment to navigate teenage life, but I didn’t engage with the Church outside of school hours so was more an observer than worshipper. Oh and I remember being pretty sceptical about astrology; I’d reread the Sunday newspaper horoscopes a week later just to prove they were wrong.

The way I felt connected to something bigger was through drawing. As a kid I would fill notebooks with made-up cartoon characters and think, “Where do these guys even come from?” I wondered if anyone else asked the same question, like musicians when they write a song or rappers when they spit off the dome. So I parked it and settled on the conclusion that this type of magic must come from somewhere otherworldly.

 
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Hello 2018

Moving back to Sydney after living in London has been a much-needed breath of fresh air, literally. I remember dropping off my worldly belongings to a charity store in Hackney and stepping on the plane with just one bag, a depressingly light wallet but memory cards full of travel snaps. 

2017 was about replanting roots, rebuilding the basics and laying down some new foundations. And the past 12 months have been kind to me: I’ve met new friends, reconnected with old favourites, freelanced at some great branding agencies, started my own, moved off my mum’s couch into a sunny townhouse and found a deeper appreciation for this city and the people that make it home. Now the dust has settled, it feels like the right time to start painting again.

Back in 2012, I had a sweet studio setup in Surry Hills but after 3 painful months, I realised I was aimlessly pushing colours around. I was restless and unsettled so started writing to record my frustrations and I kept coming back to the same questions: ‘What’s my message, what am I trying to say?’ I didn’t have the answers, so I booked a one way ticket to find them.

During my travels I met people from different backgrounds who would share their ideas and worldviews. We’d talk about things I’d seldom encounter back home; conversations about astrology, witchcraft and veganism, chakras and crop circles and fluoride. ‘South Of The River’ was about my first year in London and ‘Cosmic Pilgrim’ was about the following years exploring Europe. But as I unpack my brushes and paints this time, the story I have to share is a spiritual one. 

I always thought my goal was to travel and find something out there. I guess after 4 years abroad, what I was really looking for was an inward journey. Funny thing is I didn’t have to move anywhere to take the first step. 

So here goes: New year, new stories and new paintings on the way.

 
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