My idea behind this collection was as simple as it was ambitious. I wanted to paint a portrait of the world. In all of its diverse complexity and varying cultures across time and continents.
What exactly did that mean? And could I do it? I had no idea, other than to find a starting point and feel my way forward.
I decided to pick a range of contemporary landscapes as a the starting point, places like Rome, Paris, London, Sydney and Melbourne.
In each case, the paintings need to be visually interesting, but must also contribute to the growing sense of a collective portrait.
My painting style is rooted in 20th century modern art. I'm interested in colour and simplifying abstractions of form.
I was drawn to this style of painting by how the masters such as Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Van Gogh, and Gauguin could deliberately weave in ambiguity leaving the details of their works vague and undefined. A lot of their works are simplified and unrealistic to the point of naivety.
Painters like Jackson Pollack, Kandinsky, Miro and Willem de Kooning take abstraction further by almost directly painting their emotions. Much of their work is conceptual and does not obviously represent anything in the real world.
Like many of these painters, I am trying to capture an emotional response to the subjects. While the paintings themselves must be representational, I wanted to explore how they could be built up from parts that are entirely abstract.
After painting the first few works I started to realize a few things. Firstly, that the initial idea of a collection of landscapes was too restrictive.
I decided to also include portraits of key people that have had an enormous impact on culture and society. Picasso and Elvis reshaped our ideas about painting and music. Leaders like JFK and Gandhi changed our understandings of geopolitics at their best and at their worst.
I also realized that the natural world had to be a key and vital part of the worldscape, to really be the collective portrait that I was seeking. From the Great Barrier Reef to the humble seagrass, all of these subjects raised their special challenges.
I see this collection as continuing to grow and evolve. At present, I have 17 works completed, with many more identified and in the thinking and study stages.
My responses to the subjects may be very personal and eclectic. Perhaps a little quirky. As an Australian visiting New York, I was excited to visit Katz's Deli. I'm currently thinking about using a photo I took of their menu as a cultural icon.
New York is of course so much more. For me it's also the jazz clubs, Central Park and its big ticket art galleries like Moma, the Guggenheim and the Met.
Yet it's often the mundane ordinary, such as a railway station, or even street furniture that can characterize a country. Like the US mail boxes and free newspaper bins. How to combine these with the deli menu?
Composing the works is a continuous background process. Great ideas seem to suddenly consolidate at inconvenient times, like when I'm cleaning my teeth or in the shower.
So in summary, I'm building a continuously growing collection of impressions of globally significant cultural icons. Often inspired by architecture and cityscapes, my subjects can also span notable people and the natural world.
This collection is also a portrait of our impact on the built and natural environments. In that sense, it’s a celebration of our technical and social achievements, coupled with my concerns for a sustainable future.
You can view the released part of the collection here. Come back from time to time and see how it's evolving.
Fifteen works from this collection are currently on show at the Convent Galleries in Daylesford until 19 September. Enquiries +61 3 5348 3211.