2.14 - Painting 2011
2.03 - Deliverance

Fertile Ground - From the Underturned Stone

I have made many variations on this theme over an extended period of time. The first three images below were produced during 2005-06 as a culmination of previous works. They measure approximately 2x1.5m.

The toad has slumbered within the hollow tomb of the head, locked beneath a stone that has blocked the entrance. The stone is like a brain, a material presence that entraps the spirit within.

The toad that has emerged from this strange burrow is not much more than a stone itself, a previously dormant thought, awakened. It is a rudimentary life form, a mass of barely formed consciousness, that has come to its senses. It transcends, triumphant and alert, borne up by a halo like a fertile pond.

The toad, having 'rolled away the stone', is both Christ-like and absurd, dazzled by its own newfound awareness. Its sense of wonderment is in being a part of a world that can express wonder at all.

Like many of my other works, the series deals with the physical containment of thought within the head and its subsequent release. I am intrigued by the paradoxical nature of the brain as a biological mass of extraordinary complexity, enclosing thoughts that seem to detach from the body entirely. The toad is an object that has attained release through becoming aware of what it is, much like the brain itself.

The most difficult experience of my working routine in the studio is tiring of my ongoing self-reflection. Yet at times the only way to recover some newfound outlook is to continue looking within myself! Eventually I realise that this level of self-consciousness defeats its own purpose—like burrowing down to reach the sky. Happily, the toad in my pictures seems too illogical to look within.

Like other works of this period, the images were developed by building up many thin layers of painted marks between multiple applications of coloured woodblock prints. The hollow head forms underlying the surface imagery were carved from sheets of plywood. The physical labour involved in cutting out these forms seemed appropriate considering the hollow burrows they represent.

As in the Rising Stone works, the direct transference of the printed surface from wood created a reference to a separate physical state within the picture. The head forms had a rugged, chalky appearance as opposed to the more fluid, slick appearance of paint. At the time, the fact that various mediums evoked specific ideas was important to me.

The following pictures are also large, around 1.5m in height. The first two are on paper, the third on canvas. The works on paper portray the toad in a state of becoming, detaching from its origins, surrounded by fluctuating forms of thought. The third image heightens the absurdity of its triumph and makes literal the nature of its kingdom.



Similarly, these three smaller oil paintings explore the constructed environment around the toad and the obstacles it must overcome. The first and second images are approximately 80x50cm and the third is about 120x80cm.


Many smaller drawings were produced explaining the restless character of the toad and its uprising. It wasn't until I took a walk in the Tanami Desert, Central Australia, in 2009 that I became aware of the actual habits of hibernating frogs and saw evidence of their subterranean burrows.




Explore this theme

1. Introduction

2. Rising Stone

3. From the Underturned Stone (You Are Here)

4. Mind's Eye

5. Undergrowth