History Painting – Myopia/Hypermetropia, 2001
This large scale painting sums up much of my response to living in outback new South Wales in Broken Hill under the Howard regime. The fallen corrugated iron columns in the foreground represent a society whose values were questionably in ruins. Their hollowness betrayed the lack of substance upon which those mostly imported (European) values were founded. Australian fair play and a fair go (for all) had all but disappeared, now mere platitudes. We were once again at war; we were incarcerating refugees in concentration camps; economic rationalism had marginalised Australian workers and the treatment of the original peoples of Australia was at a very low ebb.
Against the wide open and deep recessive spaces in outback Australia the compact closeness of the columns in the composition conveys my (ironic) sense of claustrophobia. I constantly suffered from cabin fever in Broken Hill. The oversized Union badge, once the proud symbol of Australian workers is now cast onto the desert floor like a discarded frisbee. An oversized and proudly erect white chess pawn adorns one of the columns. It represents the inflated self importance purportedly ascribed to the individual while in reality we are still all pawns. Attached to another column facing the white pawn is a dart board with the red-yellow-black concentric rings associated with Aboriginality; as ever still yet, an easy target. The old fashioned rope tensioned side drum refers to the anachronistic beat set for the nation by John Howard and his cohorts.
In the far distance a rainstorm, but not where it is needed most. The only way out is found in a break in the clouds where a passing jetliner flies off to a distant destination.
Note: I was once voted the seventeenth best painter in Broken Hill …