2.14 - Painting 2011
2.03 - Deliverance

Song of Substance - The Effigy of Image

This work was made in two variations: first in 1991, and again in its refined form in 1994.

Both versions of The Effigy of Image are large, multiple-part woodcuts. The earlier version (below) incorporated paint and collage.


The works document the dissection of a bird in stages as a way of expressing the desire to enter the body of a thought, as if the act of cutting was an act of digging into the air.

The starting point for the work was the re-discovery of a short story I had produced as a child in primary school. The story was about a scientist who needs to learn to fly. He dissects a bird in order to determine what secret mechanism enables it to take to the air. As he digs deeper into the body of the bird, his quest seems increasingly futile. He finds nothing but biology, so abandons the body of the bird to look elsewhere.

The story was left unfinished, which inspired me upon rediscovering it. The image of the hopeful scientist immersing himself in substantiality struck a chord with me.

The physical act of grounding his consciousness into the earth seemed to imply a release of his longing into the air. I had observed the same process taking place within musical performances: the musician distracts his/her body through an interaction with material so that the soul may take flight.

I had seen reproductions of ancient earth drawings, such as those that exist at Nazca in the Peruvian desert. The physical labour of lifting stones and dragging them across the ground under the sun was an act that integrated the body with the earth.

Yet in order to visualise the enormous imagery that was underfoot, it was necessary to cast the mind’s eye into the sky, so that consciousness was separated from the fundamental matter that is the body. A heightened awareness of this act is a type of flight.

Similarly, the process of cutting the image of the dead bird into industrial sheets of plywood was deliberately labour-intensive and frustrating. Work was produced on the floor next to the body of the bird, which was dissected in stages and recorded directly onto the wood with chisels. The images were assembled from smaller parts and printed in reverse so that the eventual image could only be imagined while in development.

The work is an attempt to ‘take flight’ through material. To enter a body of matter is like ‘earthing a thought’, grounding the conscious mind in the physical world so that the occult senses have free reign. What is left behind is the mere artefact of art, the effigy of image that exists properly elsewhere—in the airy substance of longing and the imagination.


Explore this theme

1. Introduction

2. Heads and Horns

3. The Effigy of Image (You Are Here)

4. Transmigratory Passage of the Death Wish

5. Dealing the Death of Me