Explore this theme

1. Introduction

2. Luminous Night

3. Hungry Spirits

4. Husk

Search this site
2.14 - Painting 2011
2.03 - Deliverance

Awake - Luminous Night

This series of pictures explores the way the subconscious emerges from a hollow space within the head and peers into a world only it can visualise. All of the works in this series utilise the image of an owl to express the form of this subconscious presence.

I was entranced by the way an owl’s eyes develop a heightened sensitivity once darkness falls. I equated nocturnal vision with the dark radiance that occurs once our human eyes are closed. Behind shut lids, there is an ongoing act of looking into imaginary depths, from which colours and shapes constantly emerge. I had produced this phenomenon as a child by rubbing my tired eyes until floating circles seemed to hover within my vision. I had imagined these were the eyes of another being, staring back at me from another place. I have described this observation in a previous work, 'Ghost Hand Writing'.




Friends and I were walking through bush land towards a music festival in the dark. Wary and unsure of my surroundings, I switched on a torch. ‘Don’t spoil the night-vision!’ cried my friend. When eyes are allowed to adjust to darkness they ‘see’ darkness itself and all our senses enliven in order to penetrate the gloom.

Likewise, when we sleep, our secret senses become awakened by the light of a midnight sun, squinting overhead. There are eyes that snap open behind closed lids, to witness the afterlife of image and a night that is illuminated from within. This is the light depicted within many works produced around this time; it penetrates the surface of things, so that underlying structures are revealed and nature is turned inside out.



The owls are spectral masks, projections of the alerted subconscious that resides in hollow places and emerges under the cover of darkness. I imagined the owl forms as direct emanations of the heads from which they are conjured, as if they were externalised imprints of the interior of the face.

The tree forms and branch structures are like bony streams of thought, flowing from the head to the moon. These become the channels through which the subconscious travels.

I pictured the owls emerging from their hollows as if they had a natural tendency to rise up from below, like strange bubbles or bouquets of thought. Sometimes their appearance is clown-like and bizarre, a dazzled expression that reflects the astonishment of awakening.


It was this stunned state that was most important for me to convey—a sense that a secret being within us all comes awake in the dark and stares with ecstatic disbelief at the world outside the head.


In 'The Eye Is an Egg That Hatches at Night', a new beginning is offered up by the egg that is extracted from a nest hidden within the interior of a ghostly tree. The egg form might easily fit the hollow eye of the skeletal thief who hides behind it all. This image combines imagery explored within the series Hungry Spirits.

The head of the figure looking out could be a close view of one of the foragers who wander the landscapes depicted in that section. Paintings of this nature have a thoroughly worked surface while retaining a sparse appearance. I developed this by building up and rubbing back to reveal underlying layers of information.

Later images in this series were also incorporated in the theme that was to follow, Fertile Ground. It was at this stage that I began to incorporate large scale woodcuts into the surface of paintings.



Explore this theme

1. Introduction

2. Luminous Night (You Are Here)

3. Hungry Spirits

4. Husk