In One Year

Life in Taiwan is often changing and endlessly curious, but one thing it seems unable to provide is the impetus for regular blog updates. I know it's a combination of Taipei's endless distraction, the temptations of new friends, the ecstasy of old ones. I just can't seem to become too serious about regular updates. And that's OK, the purpose of this blog in my life has changed. It may change back again in the future, or it may move closer to a typical artist's website (though that's unlikely). One thing I do miss is the pleasure that comes from developing thought through writing. So in rekindling semi-regular updates, well, I'm hoping it will help me ground my mind in what could be the basis for bigger and better work, exhibitions, and all that good stuff. The momentum upon leaving Canberra fueled my enthusiasm to continue on with the work I had been planning. But as I say, life here is often changing. The first major change came when I had to leave my first apartment. Not something I planned or hoped for but thankfully for the best. Now I'm in my new place, with a perfectly functional studio space, I wouldn't change how things went down. What's more, I've found the process of settling and just getting some goddamn work done much more difficult than I expected. I've been working, but my things are periodic and lack some quality of honesty or truth that I find hard to define here.

Will They Let Me In?

Will They Let Me In?



My classes up till now have been very tangentially related (to put it kindly) to my planned graduating body. But perhaps that's just an excuse for my lack of motivation. No, really, as I said before, Taipei is a land of distractions, but I wouldn't have it any other way. There is always somewhere wild to visit, and always something I want to read or watch or talk about.

When I was in art school I thought a lot about a time in which I wouldn't need to distinguish art from the other rituals of my life. I still long for a future when life and art can merge, when every action is art, and every art-piece becomes the way in which I move through the world. In some ways, I view the past year as that. What is walking through the mountains, reading essays and manga, eating sweet cold ice treats, learning Chinese, if not art? My movements when making, my thoughts and rituals when walking or cooking or lovin', mirror one another. And this year they have been looking more similar to me than ever before. And I need it. Every day as I work through life in Taiwan, I can feel a coalescence inside me, and it's leading to the next stage of my time here. It's the beginning of my second school year, and I'm about to start making full time again.  And it's going to be so good. I can feel the power behind a year of slow build up pushing against the inside of my body, and if I can be sure to release that energy with kindness, control and sincerity, I think I can do something really good.

Taiwan is an island that doesn't feel like an island. When I was still settling I felt a sense of unease that was hard to place. Taipei is big, the population is large, and living in this city I forgot about the ocean. I took a hike up one of Taipei's nearby mountains and to the south could see cold silky cloud stretching over the vast and tightly fecund mountain range that is central Taiwan. I'm barred from that landscape though, it's a visual density that tempts and repels at the same time. How exciting it would be to wander there! But how physically challenging, how heavy that wet air! Behind me was the east coast, and in the far opposite distance was the west coast. And here I was, I could see both sides of the island at once. It reminded me how truly close we are to the sea.


Over the last few months I've been thinking about something from a book Shellaine gave me. The book is called Wanderlust, a History of Walking. It says "Walking returns the body to its original limits again, to something supple, sensitive and vulnerable, but walking itself extends into the world as do those tools that that augment the body. The path is an extension of walking, the places set aside for walking are monuments to that pursuit, and walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in it. Thus the walking body can be traced in the places it has made; paths, parks and sidewalks are traces of of the acting out of imagination and desire; walking sticks, shoes, maps, canteens and backpacks are further material results of that desire. Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world."

I guess I feel the same way about painting.  My current  project is centred on a walk across Taiwan. The walk will begin on the west coast of Taiwan and end on the east. In a sense, a journey from the two points I saw from the mountaintop. I want to know why the ocean remains relatively forgotten here. Comparable island nations have a long and well-established relationship with the sea that Taiwan doesn't share. I think the answer is cultural and historical. Elements of Chinese philosophy, Qing era marginalization, 20th century martial law and industry, and even the current constitutional framework have all contributed to a muting of the oceanic culture, though as an outsider I find myself often guessing as to why. Walking from one ocean to the other will act as a reminder of the relative smallness of this country. A literal indication that the ocean is right here, so close but so hidden. "Walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in it." I keep hearing this line and thinking there must be no better way to answer these questions than through walking. The trip will also provide the space to actually see and document some examples, new and old, of Taiwanese oceanic culture that I'm only peripherally aware of.

On this walk I'll be making and installing small ceramic objects and larger scale installs. The walk will bring me to locations for installing previously made pieces, and be the starting point of an accompanying painting and photo series. I'll be making updates on this blog.


I can see the signs of the new season. You hear talk of the great European and American nature poets and the effect of the seasons on their lives. Not just their lives, but everyone's. In some parts of the world the coming of winter means a whole lot more than just chucking on a jumper. The loss of the sun and the loss of that green seems at odds with what it is to be human. And when it's over the spring brings with it such elation - I can only pretend to understand as I listen to their season songs. 

The dramatic change of colour and atmosphere is something I've never truly experienced, but I still feel sudden joy when I notice Canberra shifting. Though here the signs of change are far more subdued and I can't precisely say what they are. Of course we see slick new buds swelling on the naked suburban tees, but there's something more, too. A cleanness in the air? A cold clear bite on a quick breeze? Some small new fragrance? 

 Spring Tree Puss Spring Puss Slick

Canberra 2014


This year I only got to see the lead up to spring, and on the first day of September I got on a plane and flew to Taiwan. I'm here to study my Masters. It's exciting being back at uni, after four years pretending I was still a student I can now actually call myself one! I'll be working on a project examining the role of art as a tool for cultural repatriation in Taiwanese society. I'll be using this blog for general updates on my work. 

I'm encumbered with many half baked ideas. Luckily my little flat has room for a small studio, which I've been attempting to set up this week. It means so much to have a studio. Really it's a place to facilitate the mind, a space in which thoughts become actions of the hands and body. Without such a place I feel less. 

So - first thing's first. Set up a studio and establish myself in it. There's no rush to make work at a time like this, I can relax and take things as they come. Walking is of greater importance than ever if I'm to get to know my new home. I feel like I have time, and I want to use it to breath this place in. I want the city to follow me into the studio. I want the work brought out into the streets and mountains. I don't know what the results will be yet - but I have the time to find out. 

Ghost Forests

After a year of painting and utterly wonderful distraction, Ghost Forests was completed and opened last week. I've spent the last few months hermited away and happily so, looking up from time to time to notice the beautiful sky. Ghost Forests grew out the conversations Eugenie and I had as we walked and drove and explored the hidden places of Canberra. It was Eugenie's dad who first showed us the redwood grove. I asked her to write an essay to accompany the paintings because her involvement has been fundamental in the creation of this body of work.Catalog

In 1918, Walter Burley Griffin planted 122,000 giant redwoods in the grassland plains near Pialligo. Griffin was dreaming of the High Sierras. He wanted to give his new city a towering wilderness, a majestic forest reminiscent of America’s Pacific Northwest. Over the course of a few summers, Griffin and his horticulturalists watched as field after field of seedlings turned orange, shrivelled, and died. The advice they’d ignored was right. Canberra’s climate was both too dry and too hot to sustain a population of sequoia. Of the original fledgling forest, in five years over 98% had perished. Only three thousand trees survived.

These survivors are still around. Almost a century later, Jon and I loaded up his car with a paints and a picnic and drove out, past Brand Depot and Duntroon, along the hot flat stretch of highway by the airport. The redwoods appear as a clump of spires on the horizon. Pulling up in the car-park feels surreal. Sequoia have bright, warm needles, distinct from the deeper shade of Canberra's plantation pines. There’s a little trail that winds off into the distance, marked by baby blazes on two foot poles. By the path at the entrance is a stand of rocks. They’re embossed with bronze plaques: Gary Trayton Bryant, 21.3.34 – 1.9.91. In Memory of Ruth, 13.6.67 – 4.8.94. Both are stamped with the ACT ParkCare logo. Under the first name it reads, Sadly missed by Joanna and all who loved him. Beneath that there is the epithet, He loved these redwoods. As you walk further into the grove, the air stills. Heart-beats slow. The trees are so tall. Sequoia can live for thousands of years. In parts of the glade they grow so closely that the light dims. Potential age hangs in the silence. The world expands, as you move through the breathing of a vast, surrounding forest. Until the sky booms and a Qantas jet rips through the treeline - and you emerge, as Jon and I did, to face brown fields and crackling mountains. The occluded bush, always waiting. Always on the other side.

Canberra is full of strange places like this. It is a city of multiple realities. “The Bush Capital” is metropolitan and wilderness. It is millions of years old and now celebrating a centenary. It is eucalyptus grassland spotted with thickets of birch, poplar and pine, pockets of European and American sensibilities. The ashes of the burned down pine plantation feed the National Arboretum. The closer you get to Parliament House, the greener the suburbs become. Scattered across the grey Canberran bush are streaks of bright foliage, spirits of foreign experience transplanted into Australian soil. This manipulation of the landscape raises immediate questions. What is the tension between the imagined and actual realities of a place? How does a mysticised perception of nature colour the reality of urban life? Why do Australians feel disconnected from the bush? Why do we implant other realities into a landscape that already has its own history, its own stories, its own beauty? How do we supplant Aboriginal histories only to evoke cultures and memories we have never been a part of? Australia has always existed within these contentions. As walkers pass through Canberra's tiny forests, multiple resonances jut against one another for integrity, space and prominence.

In Ghost Forests Jon addresses these questions. The need to approach these spaces on their own terms guided Jon's choice of two new mediums for the show: ceramics, and painting on found wood. Wood is a unique surface. Jon says that the grain functions like a natural underpainting. It's necessary to work with this form, even when imposing an image. Painting on wood also continues Jon's on-going interest in dissolving the distinction between the work, the studio, the environment and the act of making images. A couple of years ago Jon went out and painted directly on trees. Bringing wood into the studio reverses this trajectory. Still, the hours of walking, searching, sanding and glazing that go into preparing each wooden surface are obvious in every piece. All of these moments are equal parts of the work, as is the changed understanding viewers will bring out of the gallery and into the places Jon depicts.

The show's collection of ceramics also makes use of found objects. For Jon, wooden material corresponds to a process of personal exploration. These ceramic pieces are designed to evoke the tea-sets of colonial Australiana, place-based souvenirs which manufacture a distorted, sentimental attachment to the landscape, modelled on the English countryside. Jon's work does the opposite. In making images on cups and saucers his aim is to cut through habitual complacency and bring an expanded awareness into the patterns of every day life. While ceramics may make the point most explicitly, all of the paintings in Ghost Forests share this intention. By entering Canberra's glades and plantations Jon has attempted to open himself completely to the huge reality of what they are. The introduced forests of Canberra are the product of an invader culture, a symbol of the agenda to supplant and obliterate the rightful Aboriginal owners of this land. At the same time, they are living beings. They have their own existences. They can be loved. Canberra doesn't have an easy history, or a magnificent beauty. Attempts to give it these things have failed. What remains is uncertain and demanding. But between the redwoods and the bush there is a difficult richness. Open, and it will fill you.

Eugenie Edquist, Canberra 2014


He Loved This Place



These Two Extraordinary Women

Ghost Forests is showing at ANCA Gallery until the 27th of April. 1 Rosevear Place, Dickson ACT 2602.


Indoor Mists

This work is a result of one month spent working in Beijing as part of the Red Gate Residency program. It must be said that, as a city to create in, Beijing can take a lot from you but it can also give so much back. It's difficult to explain how it feels when dissolution is met by true and subtle beauty, I've known this many times.  Here I've experienced heartache and joy, isolation and prosperity, and an overwhelming understanding that I am doing the right thing. As I worked and as I walked, I always came back to this feeling. "I am meant to be here," I thought "This is hard, this is exhausting, and I am building my soul." This work inhabits space in a way I find very pleasing. It's unobtrusive and quiet, as mist should be. As an obstacle it takes some getting used to, in the first week or so I caught wool and fluff on my hair and cloths. But you incorporate this new thing into your daily habits and soon I was moving around as naturally as if the room were empty. When I took it down on my last day in Beijing, I felt dizzy and lightheaded. Disoriented, as if my body had been spun around several times and then told to walk a straight line. It was so much a part of my space, of this place that had been my brief home.

I feel a strong urge to return to Beijing. I need to grow in many ways before I go back. I need to learn Chinese. I need to continue building my soul. And when I see Beijing again, how will she greet me? How will I greet her? I really want to know.

Indoor Mists 1

Sit down

Indoor Mists 2

Indoor Mists 3

Looking in

How to begin an indoor mist

Cathy was right - this place is so different from Hong Kong. On my first day I realized I was scared of leaving my apartment. I'm not used to that feeling. I think I'm scared because there's so much I am unable to define, so much I can't categorize.

studio window

Summer Palace

It is a truly unique city. I could love it here, if I could speak and if I could work I could be happy. On my second day things changed and I began to remember how travel alone. So I rode my bike to the station and caught a train to the Summer Palace and it was beautiful and sacred and tacky and vile all at once. What a difference it makes to catch a train, the city opens up and you  begin to find your rhythm. The beginnings of a rhythm only for you, between yourself and the city.

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

This is like nowhere I've ever been, people seldom smile and I suck at Chinese. I live in a dusty village with tiny shops, convenience stores and wet markets, I ride my bike around and I love being scared on the road, learning to adapt. I love the Chinese music carried on a breeze from tinny shop-side speakers and I love the shop that plays Backstreet Boys back-to-back.

Fei Jia Cun

I have never been in a new place without a fellow explorer. That scares me more than I thought it would. I miss my companion so much.

But I will find my bearings. I will make the work. I know I can do it - now all that's left to do is do it.

Morning Mist 2

Honey It's Been a While!

As a bird leaves its perch to drop down to a landing bellow, there is a split second in which it allows itself to fall. A small hop into space, wings by its side, fat body drops. I know this because I like to watch the magpies make their way from the telegraph lines onto the lawn, and this is how it's done. They like our garden probably because of the veggie patch which my housemate tends to. They fan their wings and effortlessly land in the grass for a good old scavenge. Flying for a bird, I imagine, might be a little like walking for us – an entirely natural process. When a magpie drops like that from a height, it knows what it is doing with certainty beyond knowing. But it's so comical to watch. And so beautiful. Right now in the garden it is warm, I am reading my sweet, sugary letters, and fat little bodies are dropping and plopping. Things are fitting and I am finding the nooks and crannies of my house again. I am so glad for my jobs – I am so glad for my garage studio – so glad to know a real love(s).

Ghost Forests and Indoor Mists

At the moment I am working on two projects:

The first is about the introduced forests of Canberra – an examination of the types of plantations here, an acknowledgement of their 'foreignness'. Scattered across the grey Canberra bush are streaks of dark green groves, spirits of foreign experience transplanted into Australian soil. They are spaces of imagination. The walker is briefly immersed in the presence of a surrounding forest, only to emerge again into the reality of the Canberran bush. For a long time I have been aware of how these spaces are an integral part to my own personal sense of home. I love the Old English Gardens, I love the Redwood Grove, I love the pines that were burned in 2003. And yet these places I see as so inherently Canberran have supplanted the forests, stories, histories that came before. There is a tension, a sometimes violent resonance, between the forest and bush. Why do we supplant aboriginal histories only to evoke cultures and memories we have never been a part of? On a personal level, I hope this work can resolve some of these questions.

forests path forest path

The second is an installation project I'll be working on as part of a residency in Beijing. This piece is a response to Mist as it is used in Chinese Nature Painting. It is about the insertion of intangible natural forms, built with tangible materials, brought into the constructed environment of the city and gallery. A fog that has rolled in from the mountains into the gallery space. I like the idea of Mist in Nature Painting as a tool to illustrate a spiritual understanding of the natural world as both seen and unseen. And it is particularly interesting to see growing popularity of Nature Painting in China at a time when more people than ever have left the these spaces for the polluted metropolis. Smog has replaced mist in Beijing. But if you were to pretend that smog was mist couldn't you have the same spiritual experiences? And wouldn't those experiences be just as valid?

french knit

I'll be going to Beijing in December and I'll post updates here. Ghost Forests won't be on until April next year but I like starting early.

Meat Cleaver Mountain


I am looking at the mountain away over the balcony. It doesn't look like a meat cleaver. It acts like one - split and wedged into the slopes and villages. Today it is a mass of prisms gathering clumsily. Though not nearly as amateurish as my splintered mess. Yesterday it was lines which fell and alighted on my railing. Shifting shape and tone.

And every time I look up it is a new ground. The longer I spend here - sitting, sitting, sitting - the more it changes before my lowered head. I spend too much time crunched and crinkled. My neck and my brow growing creased. Look up. Look up! It's changed. The soil is gold! Did you see that? Wait, no, it's grey, those trees are grey and the folds go deep and dark. The mountain is never the same as the day moves.

Though, of course, it is. It will be the same forever. I am the one who is leaving. And I'm not taking a single thing with me. I wouldn't dare. It will stay the same and changing under a silted sky. I'll go back to my acid blue and never fully understand.

Balcony studio

A Place to Rest, A Place to Run

Why This Blog? A place to illustrate early thoughts, and a place to rest.

When I started Surface Objects I had no real intention for what it would be. As it went on, its function changed again and again. At the best of times Surface Objects was my second visual diary. A place to air ideas - out in the open -  without the demand of presenting finished work. I really believe  you can do that with a blog, as opposed to a professional website. It's what the medium is built for! (sometimes).  That's what I want Surface Objects to be again. So I am relaunching it as a blog that will be a place for thoughts to rest, where I can take a step back to view things in a new light.



I have moved some of the older posts from here to an archive. I was contemplating removing them entirely, but looking back over the old, single sentenced, oddly phrased verse I decided against a mass deletion. Like finding an old diary, reading through the posts was surprising and insightful. And odd... and occasionally deeply embarrassing. But I have kept them, they are archived away now because they were made with a different purpose, but if nothing else I need to be honest with myself.  Go read them, GO! Some posts are pretty good.

Forest Out the Back

Surface Objects is going to be one of two blogs I intend to use over the next little while. The second will be about a grotto I will be living in. I'll link to it once it has been set up. This space will have a wider scope, the second will be for a specific topic. But more on that in a little while.

It is good to be back. I have missed you precious.

Nooks and Crannies - 2012

It's been a while since an update, and it's bad when a blog stagnates. I have been busy for a couple of weeks on a show I've decided to call Nooks and Crannies, which I have been able to do as part of the Canberra Contemporary Art Space residency program. (Which incidentally has been truly wonderful and enjoyable.)  The show opens on the 16th of February.

I'd like to think all the work, this learning, I've been doing this year is taking its next step. The show will be a part of the work, too, and as this is my first solo show, I'm actually quite curious as to how the work will change and what it might mean come the time when it all goes up on the walls.

I've also been working towards Blaze 6, the annual show which is the culmination of the entire CCAS residency program. I'll leave that for another update, just be sure to get there because it is always a fab show.

Speaking of CCAS, the 2012 residents are about to begin. I'll be keeping an eye out. My residency is coming to an end and I have had to move out of my studio, which I've really become attached to. I try not to be sentimental about these things, but that is ultimately futile. The studio, like nature and landscape, helps form my thoughts and ideas. It is a facet of my extended mind. It's been a melancholic afternoon.

I have some planed updates including new years resolutions (it's already February for goodness sake) and some more Blaze details but I'm still working on things leading up to the opening so I might be quiet for a time. 2012 feels like it will be a surprising and unusual year. In all the right ways.


We are living in the forest. The weather here is bad; but surly, cold clouds seem to make things special.The next change in the forest will bring an exiting type of permanence.

I have been making things that don't quiet fit together. These sculptures are sitting on my desk, their segments jutting out at uncomfortable angles when they should be smooth, seamless surfaces. Art always seems to be an effort of control. Not control of materials, which are perfect, but control of my own body. One day I hope to fully understand my hands, my movements.

I am fitting many things together. I am trying to form objects to suit all nooks and crannies. Some of these objects don't quite fit, but they are still beautiful, sublime. At times like this all I can do is know these objects, these feelings. Have them fill me, and engorged in beauty and love I am ultimately happy.


It has been a time since my last post, I have been feeling confused, things seem to slip my mind;But I really do feel this is necessary for clarity of thought and insight. Thoughts get muddled and bustled and re-ordered into new and fully realized ideas, something Ruth told me once.


I spent the weekend painting on the skirting board at my studio, it is a nice space, not cozy like a cave but still safe; it is difficult to breath there. I have made a list of all the work I should have done by the end of summer. Its encouraging to read through.

matching colours

Walking, going to work, meeting friends - it feels like I am falling in love every day. How lucky it is to make art and to love. These actions should reflect one another. I wonder how closely art making can be integrated with all other actions of my life. Sometimes I see it happening in other peoples lives, like a girl I know who's art collection is comprised of gifts given by lovers and friends.

I am finishing some work for Crush, a group show from here and there. I'll include some images the next post.


I don't want to segregate art making form the rest of my life; I don't want art to be confined to one room any more. I want to approach my life as I approach art. I want to approach art as I approach my life. Art is a result of movement, I like to think about my movements as I work. It is a part of the work, it is called the work. But movements that occur outside the studio are important, too.

Movements I enjoy -

- walking up a hil

- delicate, clumsy footfalls when descending down a loose path

- cutting small letters from a block of das

- gluing vegetable alphabet letters to paper

- drawing lines with felt tipped textas

- chopping veggies into cubes

I am planing to make a cube of multiple segments that will slot together. I made the mold for it today out of MDF. When it is done it will fit between two hands.

mature, happy, sweet and vain

I have been thinking about love and being in love. I feel strongly I am in love right now, though it is just a feeling and I can't pin it to anyone. This is okay, I think we should always be in love; with someone or no-one, only in love. It is a sad and merry feeling. "A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved going in the opposite direction in this too-big world."

I'll be back in Canberra soon. It is time to start working again. I'm going to set up a temporary studio in my living room and paint from there. It may be catastrophic.