Though I’ve briefly studied art at Julian Ashton Art School and TAFE, I think of myself more as a self-taught artist. My early studies allowed an insight to the foundations and practice of drawing but it was ongoing experimentation that led me to my current media, pyrography and natural pigments.
Pyrography is the practice of burning an image onto a surface, using specially designed tools. I work mostly on paper but I also enjoy working with wood.
The pigments I use are all handmade from natural materials, most of which I collect from the bush near my home, the roadside, the garden and sometimes even the kitchen. Some of my favourite raw materials include ochres, sap, flowers, bark, leaves, coffee beans and berries. Part of my processing technique is to add natural mordants (fixatives), preservatives and binding substances.
The videos on the time lapse section of this website give some insight to how my works come together in the studio.
I’ve been a practicing artist for 15 years now and my work has of course changed a lot over this time. The first few years were spent obsessively trying to master realism, from photorealism to surrealism. One thing that has remained fairly constant is my subject matter; my work is usually about the intricacies of nature and our place in it.
I first discovered pyrography as a child - it was known as pokerwork in those days. Many years later I was reminded of this art form while studying a unit on etching. I was always more attracted to the etching plates than I was the completed image; the image seemed only a phantom of what actually went on with the production of the plate. I thought pyrography could give a type of instant etching and after giving it a go I was hooked. I loved that the image had all the textures of an etching plate, as the lines were seared into the surface of wood or paper.
For a long time I struggled with the addition of colour to my pyrographic images. I repeatedly tried synthetic pigments but I found they overpowered the subtle grooves and beautiful hues of the burnt lines.
The breakthrough came as I was letting off steam on a walk through the bush after a particularly frustrating session in the studio. I came across a rotting tree and was fascinated by all the different types of moss and lichen growing on it. I wondered if I could extract any colour from it for my work. I took some home and experimented with it, finally arriving at boiling it down and applying it on my work like a watercolour. The result for me was bliss, everything that I had struggled to achieve in the previous years finally fell into place and I realised that nothing describes an environment better than elements of that environment itself.
The focus of my work has shifted from trying to capture realistic images to harnessing the energy of the underlying building blocks of our reality.
Career highlights to date include being a finalist in the 2011 Salon des Refuses, a finalist in the 2010 Doug Moran Portrait Prize, winning the 2008 Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize (Works on Paper) and being awarded a month long residency at Hill End, NSW in 2008. I was commissioned to produce a series of artworks for musician Osunlade’s 2011 album Pyrography, which including touring Europe with the works, and in 2009 I was selected to exhibit a solo show at SH Contemporary, Shanghai, China.