Sculpture by the Sea Bondi 2014

A big and busy year has almost gone past and I apologise for not posting anything interesting for some time. Sculpture by The Sea Bondi has come around again and my lovely big rhino is having a great time on Tamarama Beach. I recommend this fantastic exhibition to anyone who is in the area as it is a wonderful experience to wander amongst artworks and beautiful scenery. For those who have not yet met the rhino, he is hand crocheted out of 15km of plastic raffia and took a little over six months of very intense crocheting. He has an internal armature of aluminium and aluminium mesh and is hardened with a fabric hardener.


Driving home from Dom’s

The river has the moon on it

choppy little arcs of light

linking into a scaled skin

across the surface

strong enough that you could walk out on it

if the faith was upon you

Strong enough to hold below

all the tangled weedy dark

so fishermen must find dark holes of shadow

at the river bank

through which to draw their catch

And all the air above is lit twice

once from the top and once from under

until it is itself a solid thing

of motes and amber caught insects

Oarsmen dip and dip

and then are still

while we fly past

blurring like a comet on the bridge


Did you know you can’t have your appendix taken out on a whim? Unless you are going to work in Antarctica or the moon the only way you can have your appendix removed is if you are doubled over in screaming agony in an emergency department. Even then it is not straight forward.

The thing about doctors is that in order to maintain the status quo they have to know more about you and your symptoms than you do. Mostly this is not a problem, but when you go in and say I have this sharp pain in my lower right abdomen and do they think it might be appendicitis, they will go to great lengths to tell you all the symptoms of appendicitis that are not a pain in the lower right abdomen. And if you say, between gritted teeth, ‘But I do have a pain in my lower right abdomen’ they will smile condescendingly as if to say ‘You’ve been googling again haven’t you?’

There are lots of tests and markers for appendicitis and almost all of them are inconclusive. Pretty much the only definitive marker is if the thing bursts, which is why they keep jabbing at it with their pointy fingers. What they like to do is put two fingers over the appropriate area and push with all their weight for an agonising few seconds and then leap back with a theatrical flourish and ask whether it hurts more when they poke or when they let go. At this point you need to make a decision (while resisting the urge to say let me try it on your eyeballs and see what you think). If you want them to remove your appendix then simply answer yes to the latter. If you wish to defer to their superior knowledge and experience (and truly you don’t know if the pain is to do with ovarian cysts or gall stones or contortions of your liver) then just tell the truth. However, if your pain does not increase when they let go they will not know what to do next.

If you find yourself in hospital with a rapidly diminishing, mysterious (lower right) abdominal pain but with no raised temperature, no heightened infection markers in your blood, no rebound pain when they stop poking you, nothing but blobby gray shapes on your ultrasound and a surgeon who says it is 50/50 and he usually doesn’t operate unless it is 60/40, then you have another decision to make. If you decide that since you are actually feeling fine now and since the hospital you are in is due for decommission in two years time and has threadbare carpet, broken light fittings and a bathroom which is half a kilometer up the shuffling corridor (and by the way, the cannula in your hand gives you the heebie jeebies,) then this is the point at which the surgeon will suddenly change tack and decide he is leaning towards 51/49. This is probably the time to whip out your copy of Catch 22 and bone up on some of the finer points.

Yes, clearly, looking back, you should have agreed to having your appendix out when the surgeon briefly wavered in that direction but it is entirely possible that if you had pushed to go ahead then he would have decided not to. Therefore it is quite likely that you still would have ended up doubled over in Sydney airport two month later with the choice of heading to emergency (in a city where you have no friends or family or change of clothes or copy of Catch 22) or waiting out the pain and then bluffing your way back onto a plane home to Perth. The trouble is that once the pain has subsided enough to fly home your GP won’t refer you to a surgeon to have your appendix removed because you no longer exactly have acute appendicitis.

‘But…’ you might say, ‘Surely it is better to book an appointment and pack your bag yourself and fast for the appropriate time and head to a nice hospital where thirty years of paying but not using private hospital cover might ensure a room with an ensuite shower, would be better than walking about for the next few months with the possibility of lurking peritonitis?’ But all your GP will do is shake her head sadly and suggest that maybe, if you are lucky, the thing will burst over the weekend and remove all doubt.

Mary’s Mount art exhibition speech November 2013

A few months ago I was talking to a woman in a shop and when she discovered I was an artist she said to me

“Oh I don’t have a creative bone in my body”
Now she was just making conversation and hoping I would buy something from her shop but I decided to give her a lecture and now I am going to give it to you.

Being creative is what makes us human. It is something all humans do and it is what makes us different from elephants and octopuses and gum trees and bacteria. It is not possible for you not to be creative unless you are, in fact, a bacteria.

The people who decided to stop chasing mammoths and start farming cattle were being creative. The people who invented numbers and writing were being creative. The people who came up with the wheel, the cart, the car, the Boing 747 were being creative. The people who thought of surgery and lasers and deep sea diving and flying to the moon were being creative.

Making art is learning to be creative for it’s very own sake. It is learning to trust your intuition. It is allowing yourself to stretch and grow and make mistakes and learn from them. Art is what makes us us. So never let anyone tell you that art is not important – it is the most important thing you can do.

Now I am not saying that everyone should aspire to be a professional artist. What I am saying is that you need to learn to be an artist in everything you do. Be an artist in your maths and your science, in your sport and your writing. Teachers should be artists in their teaching, parents should be artists in their parenting. Engineers, scientists, shop assistants, managers, doctors, cleaners, everybody should be an artist in what they do, partly because it will make you better at what you do but mostly because it will make you happy.

So having this exhibition, valuing the art work that you see here today is THE most important thing that this school has done this year. I am very happy to be part of it and invite you to enjoy the results of creativity.

Art is a doing word

Kalamunda High School GATE Exhibition Opening 2013


Most people have the wrong idea about art. If you ask them what art is they would point to all this lovely work around us. But this is not the answer to the question.

All this lovely work is what happens when you DO Art.

To borrow a line from a Massive Attack song, Art should be a verb because Art is a doing word –  a product but a process

This exhibition is a testament to a year spent doing art for which you will find yourselves richer and stronger and braver than you were before. This has been a year in which you have spent at least some time being excited, satisfied, in control, fulfilled and powerful. This is not the case for every teenager and you and your parents must not take it for granted.
Art is a doing word it should lift your heart rate
Art is a doing word it should focus your mind
Art is a doing word it should make you sweat.

And so to the future: whether or not you go on to study art, sell art, have exhibitions, win prizes and gain a reputation – you are an artist if you do art. So to all the artists in this room I say Keep Doing Art, because doing art will make you happy.

I promise.


Shepherd Children

Shepherd children collect the sheoak nuts

that are round and fatly dimpled

they roll and follow each other on the smooth floor

like sheep

like children

Shepherd children herd them with thin sticks

and divide them into paddocks and runs

Shepherd children run the race

and climb the wooden slats

to operate the sorting gate

first one is the shepherd

first one is the sheep

They dance across the wooly backs with the dogs

and ride the sheep like fat ponies to the waiting shears

They clamour to be lifted into the bale before it is pressed

sinking into the lanolin stink

they burrow like grass seeds in the fleece

Shepherd children play knucklebones

bleached and chalky

bones lie waiting in the yard kicking their heels

All the sons of scientists put pins through bugs

All the daughters of doctors want to listen to your heart

But all the shepherd children practice their whistles

honing them high and sharp and say come behind

Fruit Crime

Outside they are hard and protective, opening they are difficult and seedy. The juice runs down, first on our chins and would be on our shirts where later it will turn black in the wash – visual evidence of a fruit crime for which welting punishments are recommended. Except that we have taken off our clothes and hung them on the fence. We are naked, hard and protective on the outside, complicated and seedy, red with membranes within. I don’t know why we bother to break them open except for a lack of entertainment and sweet things. The dog in the caretaker’s yard barks and barks his audible evidence of fruit crime. We leave the pomegranate tree, clean our faces with our tongues, rinse our hands in the basin edged pool of the creek. Regaining the safety of our clothes, we creep back through the fence. Lining up for class we can’t quite erase the sweetly fermenting smell of a fruit crime.


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