Al Mutanabbi St

In 2010 I began making an artist’s book for An Inventory Of Al-Mutanabbi Street.

I don’t think we need books that are about war and peace in a general way, we need books that say to people Come And See what happened here…How do you create a book that is a lament and a celebration of the idea of books, at the same time? How do you take what is essentially a personal and interior art and use it to make a social statement in very public venues?

Beau Beausoleil, 2011

Progress was slow because I wanted to make a pop-up book. A joyous explosion of paper flowers. A new beginning. Many, many exercises in paper engineering later – I realised I had it all wrong.

Art-making is personal. It is as much about the state of mind of the artist as the physical thing being made. I began this project seeing the potential for a fresh beginning, like flowers blooming after a drought. Then, autoimmune, my body began to attack itself. I looked the same on the outside but my mind became a dark place. In 2011 I stopped, thought again and started over.

My Altered book for Al Mutanabbi St is about the emptiness of destruction and the inner void of depression. It is about not judging a book by its cover.

Altered book for Al Mutanabbi St
23cm x 15cm x 4.5cm
Book, bookboard and cloth with acrylic paint

Altered book for Al Mutanabbi St
Altered book for Al Mutanabbi St
Altered book for Al Mutanabbi St
Altered book for Al Mutanabbi St


Makeshift photo backdrop

A thought offered, in all humility, from one who knows not much (if anything) most days. And some days even less…

Found myself in the studio looking for an urgent means to block out the background for a photo of a sculpture. (Yeah – it’s a mess in there – not a blank wall to be had anywhere.) The usual thing the pros have is a tall frame and fabric. Such things can be had on E-Bay but they’re pricey even there. Couldn’t find anything even remotely like that here that might be pressed into service – besides all the bed sheets on hand have patterns on them. Ninja Turtles anyone? I didn’t think so…

Then the desperate eye rested on a stack of canvases. Yes! Add a handful of clamps… Pictures say the rest. Note that the structure is clamped to the table top as well as the canvases to each other. And if they get a bit grubby with storage and use? Well, I reckon they might just take a coat of paint.

Photo backdrop

Photo backdrop


Form I (2007) Wood and stainless steel, 600mm x 900mm – 600mm

Mindarie win…

Phi II closeup
<pIt’s all over and I’m happy to report that Phi II was awarded a Highly Commended at the Mindarie Boardwalk Sculpture Festival a couple of hours ago. It was a tough contest against a field of awesome professional and emerging artists. I was happy just to be asked to put together a proposal – getting a nod is a huge bonus.

A bit stoked…

Now all I have to do is go hire the rickety trailer again and drive all the way back to bring him home – very slowly over the rough roads – the reverse of Friday’s nail biting escapade. I just hope I can yet again find three strong men and a trolley. And pray that I don’t jack-knife the trailer this time. Oops.


Mindarie Sculpture Festival

Phi II

Phi II on the way

After months and months in the planning and making Phi II was this morning delivered to Mindarie Marina for the Mindarie Boardwalk Sculpture Festival & Awards 2008.

No chips, no dingles, no damage. Amazing. It’s not that fragile, of course, being concrete and stainless steel but after a snail pace drive (at less than 60kms per hour) all the way from Chittering to Mindarie… cos I was worried that the rough roads and the ancient hired trailer MIGHT do damage. That’s over two hours folks. Not a nick to be seen. Oh ye of little faith.

Phi II at Mindarie

Phi II at Mindarie

Phi II holds blood (scratches making the frame for the moulds), sweat and tears in addition to the more visible materials. Oh, and it froze my fingers working oxide into the wet concrete sometime after midnight on a series of really cold nights… I couldn’t start until I got home each night and it took that long to get the concrete to just the perfect state to work. Yes, with my fingers. OK. I’m fussy.

So what’s the story with it. As Phi II – it’s obviously a next step on from Phi (which brought home the City of Melville prize last year). Hang on, why repeat myself, here’s the official version:

Phi II belongs to a series exploring the golden ratio in three dimensional geometric forms. Sometimes called the divine proportion, and denoted by the Greek letter phi, this ratio is a natural phenomenon which has fascinated scientists, mathematicians and artists since it’s discovery over 2400 years ago.

The outer shape of this work is an icosahedron which is a regular polyhedron with twenty faces each an equilateral triangle. On Phi II these faces are implied by the lacing of stainless steel rope. The golden proportion is found in the more solid rectangles on the inside, crossing at right angles through the centre.

Tension, rhythm and balance are sought between the airiness of the implied space and the rough surface of the concrete and the repetition of line and plane. Phi II is not all serious, watched carefully there’s a fascinating play of shadow traced by the pattern of light.

My interest always in finding something more than the obvious while exploring something that might have been made with a purpose in a time and place unknown. This gives us the most teasing question, simply “What is it?”. That can only be answered by our imagination.

“Without mathematics there is no art.”
Luca Pacioli (1445–1514 or 1517)
Italian mathematician, Franciscan friar and mathematics tutor to Leonardo da Vinci

If you want to go see, you’re going to have to be super quick – the exhibition is this weekend only – with winners announced at 5pm on Sunday May 4.


Kinetic sculpture

Kinetic sculpture is like mobiles and stuff, right? Art that moves with motors or steam or clockwork. Or rot – I made a still life animation based on rotting fruit – it certainly moved by itself. Among the famous would be Marcel Duchamp with his Bicycle Wheel in 1913 – probably the first. Then race forward to the 50s (which became something of a golden age) with Alexander Calder and Jean Tinguely. All pretty good. For their time. Nowadays we have Theo Jansen. Take a look…


This – ta dah – is Phi. Or rather a few parts of it… in the studio prior to the final coats of finish that gave it’s metallic sheen. I can’t show you much of a pic because it has yet to be displayed – as I would like it – in a place with good lighting. Soon…

Sculpture Phi 1


The media is plaster and the illusion of rusty cast iron the result of lots of layers of oil paint. Needless to say Phi was many months in the making. I was mighty chuffed at the opening night of the exhibition when I watched a visitor taking a glance around and then give it a little tap – obviously trying to find out what it was made of. I couln’t resist introducing myself and offering an explanation. It turned out that he was an exhibitor too – a metal piece – a real one – and he a qualified boiler maker. 🙂

The shape if it were fully assembled would be a rhombic triacontahedron. The rhombus is in the 5:8 or Golden Proportion – hence the name Phi.

Sculpture Phi 1 detail


Each of the rhombus was cast from a wooden mould which was laminated and carved – the tricky part being the 144° angles on the underside which when assembled form the triacontahedron. Accuracy was essential here – out by just a couple of degrees and Phi wouldn’t have worked.

Sculpture Phi 1 detail

Making plaster sculpture - cast piece


So why isn’t Phi fully assembled? The honest answer being that it simply became too heavy for me to lift and turn over after the first 16 pieces. I took a long coffee break and a good look before calling for assistance. I didn’t call. I decided that I liked Phi better in pieces. Five in all. The one large one and then four other smaller groups. I could leave the viewer to decide whether this was a ruin or something had hatched or a kit in making…

Making plaster sculpture


The comment from the judges recognised that:

This work presents us with an industrial, weighty tessellated broken shell, providing a sense of consipicuous absence in the space it once contained. The allusions of its manufacture are hard to place – at once gothic and alien, organic or artificial, an article of aggression or protection? A resonant work, well done.

I really can’t wish for more than that. It’s a huge encouragement to continue making work that I really love. And it seems to find viewers who either love it too or think it odd. My work is like that – it seems to evoke a response – rarely a middle ground blah. In a perfect world Phi would find a home other than mine at the end of this exhibition – but that I expect is asking too much. Weighing in at around 40kg in total and I think (I didn’t measure him yet) around half a metre across he doesn’t exactly fit on the average mantlepiece…


Award Win

I’m surprised and delighted to announce that a recent work of mine has won the City of Melville Art Award for Sculpture. Last night was a hazy whirl of wine and music. I remember shaking hands with the Mayor and lots of hugs from friends. There was a string quartet playing but as much as I love music I can’t tell you what they were playing… the prize is welcome (or will be… the cheque will be in the mail…).

I’m being dragged in three directions this morning between phone calls and stuff I have to do – so I can only promise that I’ll be back to post some images of “Phi” and explain the work as soon as I can.