I was born and grew up in Adelaide, South Australia.
My Mother introduced me to art before I was of school age and my
tendency to close drawing was associated with quiet isolation
throughout my childhood.
A family desendancy from the first German settlers in South Australia made the appreciation of landscape artists such as Hans Heysen normal fare for my Mother's generation. I was taken to visit Hans Heysen's house in 1968 after his death, and, as children do, was absorbed by the nature of his gum trees, their bark and their weight. My Mother had painted in Geoff Wilson's classes in the late forties and they remained friends throughout her life; and so it was later his clean draughtsmanship that began to teach me via the art of drawing how to see. I did not become a landscape painter. I retained instead a lifelong appreciation of gums and the beauty of their timber.
I began work in the Department of Transport's civil aviation drawing office in Lonsdale street in Melbourne as a drafting assistant in 1979, only drawing after hours late into the night in a rented room and flat behind Miss Elizabeth Pownall's nineteenth century farmstead overlooking the Lilydale valley. I could not afford to go to Art School then. However, ten years later on, as it was possible, I did go to the Canberra School of Art in the Printmaking Department of Gillian Mann and Jorg Schmeisser.
An Art school is invaluable for giving one's work a
social and political context whether you make the decision to follow
their currently suggested lines or to follow your own. The work I produced continued to be figurative in
nature but also extended to
include intaglio and livres
d’artiste. The most
significant change was to begin to concentrate on the highly
painstaking medium of wood engraving.
I had asked Gillian Mann to teach me this technique and she willingly
asked another artist, Louise Saw, to teach me the ropes. Australia has
quite a fine tradition in wood engraving and I wished to belong to it..
I cannot say that any one artist or another influenced my dedication to
this choice but wood engraving finally offered me the possibility of
working with the wood of eucalyptus trees whose unpredictable and
sensitive grain I have preferred to that of any other species.
Wood engraving is considered a minor art and its prints are very small in physical size. I have used the traditional English buxus sempervirens, or boxwood as it is commonly called, which is in itself as fine and as hard as a gem. The largest of my works though, is centred on prints taken from eucalyptus wood. These cross grain sections offer a bigger working surface than boxwood and their grain growth rings come out in all sorts of gradations in the final prints. The cross sections range from several inches to six inches or more in height. The timber I use is mainly red gum (eucalyptus camaldulensis) and yellow box (eucalyptus melliodora). The wood cracks and fissures as it dries out and it is then hand planed and dressed leaving these natural cracks and grain variations to become part of the later work. Due to their uneven surface these blocks cannot be printed by a press and are printed by hand. The prints from these blocks are not made in uniform edtitions. They are made as a series of variations and the number of these variations is limited to the life span of the surface like that of the drypoint. The prints vary over the course of their printing time as the wood surface changes together with the ways in which I apply the ink. Each of these variations is a unique work.
Writing about the meaning of the images on the blocks
is difficult. There is no specific philosphy or theory to apply. There
is the life of the mind and who can judge another's mind? The subjects
range from the very simple to the long abstract nights taking years of
work. A moth is a simple subject but a moth shown up against a window
pane of glass is something more. Then the artist's books require an
understanding of the writer's work before the artist's. The meaning of
a work is as much left back with the artist as it has a chance of
coming out to the understanding of the viewer. Once I create a work it
must go out to fend for itself; the personal
aspect in the larger more complicated works behind the glass, like the
moth, will only
succumb in the telling.
The curriculum vitae
lists the formal exhibition history in a series of
individual and group exhibitions and mentions some of the collections
where the work may be found.