The Artist

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
Albert Einstein


Melbourne docklands precinct, 28th September, 2002

Art Bio

I was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1963 and live there in an inner city suburb with my artist partner Demetrios. Our beloved pets "Hubster" (the super budgie) and "Mooloo" (the wonder cat) have both now departed. Very sad and no new pets could take their places. So for it is now just us with no feathers or fur to vacuum up before guests come over.

The work depicted on this website includes samples from my oeuvre dating back to 1988 when I seriously began to entertain an artistic path. See my Artist's Statement below.

Melbourne as a place to work and live is generally very kind. It is pretty with some interesting muscular industrial areas. Gardens and tree-lined streets designed during early town planning lighten and enliven the hard edges of the city. We do take greenery, parks and foliage very much for granted. Remember to look up as well as around you when you walk the city to take in the architectural detail. The winters are mild; no snow except in the hills, the odd frost will be all you'll suffer. Currently, 2011, we are coming out of a long 15 year drought. I last edited this page in October 2002 when we were in the first few harsh years of it. We've since gone from parched to fire storms to persistent floods here in Victoria and across Australia. Cyclical visitation of the "la Niña" and "el Niño" weather patterns broken up with periods of stability and calm - so nothing new.

The refurbished National Gallery of Victoria is worth a look. Trams make it easy to get around the inner city and there is reasonably good public transport via trains and buses for everywhere else. You will hear us complain as it is not currently at its best. The bay is always nearby; make sure to take in the west coast of Victoria particularly. In Melbourne we drink coffee and just about anywhere it is excellent. Spoils us for elsewhere. (Updated February 2011)

Artist's Statement

The current arts industry sector made up of critics, practitioners, theorists and commentators do not and perhaps will never take seriously art of the Imagination, Surreal and Fantastic. Not in my lifetime anyway.

The genre is one populated by technically talented, intelligent commentators who use a visual medium with skill to present their ideas. Perhaps this scares off the modern art theorist with their Duchampian fixations? It seems artists who have a clear understanding of what they want to say, and with the technical skill to do so are scarier than those with little idea or those who follow acceptable art theory methods to form inspiration for and create their work. Without doubt the genre is a mixed one; elements can be critiqued for being kitsch, anachronistic or aligned with fantasy illustration. The best of this genre though are not to be so easily dismissed yet they are simply ignored. It is remarkable that art theorists, commentators, reviewers consistently avert their gaze and write nothing about the works produced by this movement.

The content and purpose of art as a form of human endeavour is that it is instructive, beautiful, challenging but above all that as a form of expression it exemplifies the human desire to understand and pronounce its very existence. The idea that art has no connection with human ideas diminishes the role art has to play in society. We water down meaning until we are left with homogeny and mediocrity. The reality is that a whole new type of gallery visitation has been cultivated, based upon fad and fashion, forms of expression which have little relationship to what art is all about but have taken it over. The real artists struggle to produce and their art will disappear.

Inspirations & Technique

I work in oils on canvas and I am largely self-taught with a little formal technical training. Along the way I have greatly benefited from the generous advice and experience of artist friends and been inspired by many influences. Those influences are varied and are ones I am drawn to for skill, imagination and the execution of their ideas or a concept. To list a few in no particular order or preference; Remedios Varo, Carravagio, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Jacques Louis David, Eugene Delacroix, Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingre, Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Magritte, Yves Tanguy. The list could go on. I am continually inspired by past and contemporary artists of the imagination and past and contemporary free thinkers - as I refer to them (some of which I include on my links page)

I paint ideas; ideas that are political and philosophical and, unpopularly, critical about religion and cultural systems. If the viewer is challenged, all the better. Aesthetics are a consideration in terms of balance of composition, colour and tonal gradation, light and dark. Ideally I have had the skill to "pull off" the idea in oils but I realise it may not always be the case.

Generally the ideas behind my work are an intellectual expression of how I view the world. I cannot simply paint what is there and attain satisfaction from the effort. It is the idea upon which conveys the meaning and purpose for my work, not forgetting that the success or failure of a painting can depend on its technical execution.

I combine a kind of fresco technique with tonal realism. I use my own photography; of models, objects or scenes in order to accurately reference all the elements of an idea that are represented within the composition. A kind of reference collage or a finely detailed drawing often precedes the painting. Sometimes I will have the idea first then search for the elements to reinforce what the imagination has produced. Often elements I have collected will themselves suggest an idea.

USA TRIP 2002 - pictures and diary

The following letter written to The Editor, The Age newspaper (Melbourne's broadsheet) was published in the letters section on Sat 14th Dec 2002. The art work in question was in my opinion intellectually lazy and pointless.

"State of the Art?"
"This years Turner Prize's winning entry "The Thinker" by Keith Tyson, will come as no surprise to many struggling fine artists. Quality of idea, including its conception and delivery are out of favor in contemporary art circles throughout the world. When you have no idea or talent you plumb the depths of your minimal experience and "borrow" the excellence of others.

What is disheartening, disgusting and soul destroying is that the purported art "intelligentsia", the collecting institutions, the commercial art sector and the art market lap it up and perpetuate the myth that this is the art of our times. All contribute to the ongoing aggrandisement of what is little more than design orientated window dressing and commit to obscurity those truly deserving of acknowledgment. The art lover, the collector and the public via their art institutions have a diminished and diminishing experience as a consequence. The critic too has their role in perpetuating this state of affairs with slavish attention paid to only those exhibitions where their own reputation, or that of the publications they write for will be served.

Thus art, artists and the art lover suffers from an impenetrable clique of self-serving mediocrity."

and this one published... in July 2000 - when just too much sport simply wasn't enough for the media and public in the post Olympic glow...

"The elite sports women and men in this country enjoy high status. Their efforts to attain excellence are equated with all that is good and praiseworthy. By its very nature, sports is elitist. However, these same striving and goal orientated attitudes are discouraged and disparaged in the arts and academia. Sadly, our community and even our leaders differentiate between innate elitism in sporting excellence & excellence in academia. Why is it that the pursuit of excellence is lauded and supported in sports, but viewed with suspicion when it emerges from within the intellectual and arts sectors? Surely the contradiction is obvious?

For a person to be labeled an "Elite" practitioner of the sport in which they excel is high praise indeed. Their "elitism" is seen as a contribution to the world bank of human endeavor. Jane Flemming is an elite athlete, who as a recent somewhat curiously chosen spokesperson for the arts community, stated that the challenge for artists was to make themselves (and presumably their art) more accessible and therefore more relevant to the community, less "elitist". Yet were her philosophy to be applied to sports, then the Olympics, as a case in point, would never have selection trials; they are elitist.

So, lower the hurdles, reduce the track and swimming times and force the athletes to comply so that we are all able to compete at an 'elite' level so as not to feel alienated or excluded. The implication is that for our artists and intellectuals those "hurdles", "bars" and "times" must be lowered, they must "dumb down" so the rest of us do not feel threatened. Most of us at some stage in our lives have been faced with the realisation that we do not measure up in some way. Perhaps in the area of physical pursuits it is easier to measure excellence and therefore easier to concede we cannot compete.

Measuring the scales of excellence for the arts and academia is a little trickier, who comes First, Second and Third? I would argue that the whole community benefits from this type of 'race', relevance is not an issue. Exclusion is only in the mind, participation is always available. Academia and the arts communities could use a shake or two certainly, not to reduce that potent drive for excellence but to promote it with the open passion and honesty exemplified by the sports community."