Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Like Horatio on holidays from university

A nice video by a friend on the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois formed part of my morning’s entertainment. I’d finished processing her comments on my blogposts, making tea, and putting the sheets in the clothes dryer when I decided to sit down again to write this piece you’re reading (or “creading”, as we create when we read, making sense in headspace from what’s in the pagespace) about fathers.

Basia’s video on the sculptor is related to fathers because she talks about her father’s death and this is in the context of Bourgeois’ commentary, in her art, on her own father. My father’s influence on me was on the corrosive side of the spectrum from loving to destructive, he was like the acid used to make an etching, whereas my mother was like the stylus used to cut the plate or metal. I’m not sure what role my grandmother (who lived with us when I was growing up) played though like mum she for the most part enabled my father’s aggressive need to control.

When I had finally left home I made a meme which goes like this:

Control is the manifestation of joy.

This strange pronouncement is all of a piece with the broken figure I made as I walked the corridors of Sydney University or strolled on a sunny day across Victoria Park to my apartment, I wrote a poem about the Stack in 2013, here it is:

Walk over the squishy linoleum
and rise, inside a lift, to the ninth floor
and enter an aerial museum.
All accessed from their temporary store.

Taking an hour out from nothing, I browse.
Marks flashed interminably in my eyes.
A pure gift – I think this one Basia knows – 
I’ve seen this and it’s a pack of lies.

How many hours and days pass in this guise?
How many times did I go up the stair?
How long ago did how many hopes rise?
Wonder why I feel as if I’m still there …

Next to the Stack’s copper cladding you stand near
the largest in the southern hemisphere.

This sonnet is titled ‘Hunting in Fisher Library’ and it was written on 10 February 2013 as well as 26 and 29 November 2020 (I date sonnet construction, showing how control is the manifestation of joy). It’s part of a long sequence of poems called ‘The Words to Say’ and this, funnily enough, is the final poem in the collection. It’s entirely of a piece with reality that Basia features in this poem, as we’ve recently been talking about art and artmaking.

Dad took photographs. I have one of his constructions in my collection of art, a montage comprised of three photos taken seconds apart showing the view from an apartment balcony where my mother is walking down the street, she’s probably on her way back from buying something at the grocery store or from the real estate agents’ to pick up a document. I cannot know what she was doing but the important thing is that dad got the photos developed and printed by cutting the negatives or by cutting prints, sticking them together, and taking a photo of the resulting montage so that it could be developed. I cannot know how he made it though if I asked a photographer who’s used traditional techniques perhaps I could get a better idea.

Reading the poem now I’m transported back to the aimless days when I tried to engage with the course of study but often felt alienated from the subjects I was asked to focus on with my mind and memory. I read a lot of American novels. I made linocuts in my unit, as well, wielding the busy knives (I still have several of those productions) at times when essays weren’t demanding my attention. When I eventually lost everything due to ill health dad would tell people even if they didn’t ask that I’d graduated from Sydney University, as though this fact were some sort of proof of his own skill.

After I came back to Australia, homeless, I’d write poetry instead of making art because by this time I was alienated from visual art by the trauma I’d experienced. Poetry became an alternative way for me to express myself and to find comfort in a largely indifferent world without resorting to pen and paper, or to brush and palette. Writing was an “out” from an impasse forged by iron laws. I was reclaiming control, though infrequently felt joy. 

These days joy comes from thinking about art, reading about art, wondering about other people who – due to whatever alchemical process nature devised – have made art. It’s a holiday resort of the mind, like the TV ads I watch in the late afternoons in the breaks between news segments. I watch news about car crashes, fires, military invasions, stock market plunges, I watch storms carry loads of moisture over miles of land. Before I started making art I’d return to reruns of crime dramas after the news, switching from the ABC to a secondary digital channel where ‘Father Brown’ or ‘Death in Paradise’ could be seen in the evenings.

Now that I’ve started making paramontages I’ve stopped doing this. I might instead watch ‘7.30’ (a magazine-style current affairs program) then get ready for bed. 

I even made a paramontage talking about these evenings, it’s called ‘TV’. Here it is:


This assemblage uses a photo of TV news where men were losing their jobs making cars. I matched it with a shot taken while driving in 2008 in Sydney. A work like this might seem overly pessimistic unless you understand that I spent 25 years working in offices doing things I had little aptitude for and that were predicated on the need to earn a wage because of the course of life chosen for me by my meddling father. Nowadays, if I rise after 4am I’m very happy though even if I’m forced out of bed at 2am I can make things or write things that mean something to me. I can ignore the soft torture of coursework. I can try to forget the boredom and time spent sitting at a desk, though with the computer and the software I’m ironically still cemented to an office desk.

Some habits become ingrained. Horatio was visiting on holidays from university when the bulk of ‘Hamlet’ played out in the fictive space. For myself, I never have to go back there again.

Monday, 27 June 2022

Revisiting type-2 and type-4 paramontages

Type 2: Multiple different-sized images and sonnets (ongoing)

Type 3: Multiple different-sized images and free-form long poems (ongoing)

Type 4: Multiple different-sized images and 6-line poems (paused)

Some type-2 paramontages are still at the print shop but when I spent 30 minutes looking through these I felt glad that things I thought about had already informed my practice. One problem I wrote about recently is legibility, and with some of the type-2 paramontages the sonnets are too small. I’m not happy with these particular examples and in future if I feel inclined to do more I might go back and change them in order to improve them. Doing so would, of course, require more expense so I’m holding off for the moment.

A type-2 paramontage titled 'On the way to New England'

Type-2 and -4 paramontages measure 38cm across. They’re longer than this, in centimetres, so to frame them would cost several hundred dollars each. 

I’ve paused type-4 production for the moment – I hold off using the word “stopped” because I don’t know what I’ll want to do in future – though a need for new type 2s remains an issue as I have hundreds of sonnets that have no assemblage done for them, waiting to be picked up and dealt with. I’ve started doing new type 3s having paused them for a while.

A type-3 paramontage titled 'In'

Just a further note on my reaction to my review, before I go on to talking about other things. As a general observation I felt happy with the subject matter, even if some of the execution was sub-standard. This is hardly surprising as the subject is engendered in the poem (the title always comes from the poem) and these are writings that go back years. With the sonnets I have additional clues to my state of mind at the time of writing as for them I always put down the date the work was done. Sometimes they were written on one day but more frequently they were written on several days, sometimes days spaced years apart. 

Revisiting these type 2s and 4s gave me a chance to augment the quality of the pause I’m currently engaged in with regard to type 2s, though it’s a time I’m using to do more type 3s. By critically assessing the type 2s and 4s I think back not only to the creation of the assemblage but also I remember what caused me to write the poem. It’s a kind of double indemnity against lack of meaning, the looking guaranteeing satisfaction even if judgement as to quality (especially regarding execution) tends to veer toward the negative because that’s the nature of a review: you want to find fault, it’s human to do so, so that you can progress. Even if I don’t particularly like what I’m exposed to, the act of looking means something to me.

A type-4 paramontage titled 'Tail lamp'

This is important as it adds an extra layer to the creative process. What I mean is that meaning is generated when you’re taking the photos, writing the poem, putting it together on the computer, and even when, in a stray moment while watching TV or while cooking, you have an idea about what to do with a particular poem in your files. All of this varied activity, more of less active, is meaningful.

The other layer – by looking and critically assessing paramontage – heightens the pleasure the process generates. Creating meaning in this way helps me to avoid pain, it fulfills me and makes me happy in a way that few other things do. I might get this kind of happy feeling when I drive over to a friend’s house, especially when I’m plugging in my phone to connect it to the car while the radio is playing music in the cabin. I might get this happy feeling when I get home from an outing, having completed a number of small but important errands. I might get it when lying on the couch settling in to watch the Nine News, or when a rerun comes on at 7.30pm. 

In the latter case I often think of mum as she also liked these silly crime dramas, and we’d usually watch one of them when I went over to her apartment in the late afternoon to cook dinner. If she were alive she’d be delighted with my new practice, I know this because she used to applaud each new article I placed with a magazine when I was working as a freelance journalist. She especially liked it because I got paid for my work.

To a certain degree making art shields me from thoughts of death. When mum passed away I struggled for a significant number of months, and I remember also when dad died she struggled for a while, finding it hard to get up in the morning so that when I went over to her place for breakfast she’d still be in bed on those days when life felt too hard. 

The number of stories involving death is spellbindingly rich and varied, we seem to never lose this appeal for each other. I wonder what animals think. Do dogs think about death? Do cats? Do pygmy possums? 

What about bananabirds? Up in Queensland I lived in a small town so there was much more wildlife than there is here in Sydney but life up there was often pale by comparison, I resented the quiet streets even if on occasion I got to see a bush turkey, shy animals that stalk away, fearing death, if you get too close but that live among humans, building their nests in people’s gardens.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Sometimes I adjust or alter images

I try to keep images unchanged and in any case with the graphical manipulation software I very rarely change brightness or contrast. What I need to do especially for my type-2 paramontages is crop images. Cropping is still problematic and I try to keep it to a minimum but the demands of this type of work mean that some removal is necessary to make the photo fit in the assemblage.

The idea of honesty is central to this discussion. As a gallerist told me once when I was discussing a set of two small gouache paintings that I’d bought from him, “Art is editing.” How much editing you do gets to the core of the photography project.

I remember David Bailey talking about Surrealist precepts informing his work, the juxtaposition of elements helping to create surprises and therefore helping in the task of making meaning. Something that is surprising will, of course, impact the viewer in a different way from something that is expected. If you turn the sun into an eye you have made poetry because you’re asking questions that get to the core of what it means to be human, though when a person is walking down the street very likely they’re more intent on remembering which shop it was they intended to enter (yes, they need to buy a bottle of milk) than in contemplating the nature of the universe.

A surreal contrast between disparate elements can create poetry, so it’s these forces that are under discussion in this blogpost. I want to be authentic so as far as possible I avoid too great a use of software tools to change images. 

This raw tendency is central to what I want to be as an artist. About five years ago I spent a good deal of time visiting the Sydney City archives to consult records about office buildings in the central business district. Brutalism was a force here in the 70s and 80s until architects abandoned it and replaced it with postmodernism. But Brutalism is about raw materials, showing the method of construction in the finished edifice, revealing the how as well as the what. I love Brutalist buildings but sadly they’re being torn down one by one as the structure after that long is worth nothing and we don’t tax carbon. 

The land is worth a fortune so we easily decide to remove an entire building and replace it with something better. It happens all the time. I was however blown away by the magnificence of 50 Bridge Street, which is new, and which replaced a Brutalist office building. The old one was square and imposing and the new one twists like a snake (and is equally as imposing). I get inspired by skyscrapers and when I went to Vivid in May I was entertained by lights playing on their sides like magic lanterns seem by thousands of people, their mobile phones held above their heads.

They captured the sights in silicon memory. I try to distort what is before me before I cause it to be captured, but I do this distortion at the site of capture, en plein air (as it were) and not back at home on my computer. I have a technique that I use to do this and if I want a fuzzy image I just go to the folder containing the original images and select one but cropping remains a bugbear and I fight with myself every time I make a decision to remove part of a photo before fitting it into the assemblage. 

With the type-1 paramontages the use of filters for overlaid images is imperative so I don’t worry at all about doing this and recently I’ve experimented with adding filters to text so that when it sits on the images it is dappled or else it changes colour compared to the selected text colour. Changing the filter changes the text colour and gives it variation but doing these things isn’t (in my estimation) dishonest in the same way that cropping is deceptive.

With the type-1 paramontages for the most part I don’t crop images. Juxtaposition of elements might let me see the figure of a person sit squarely inside the face of a person in another image – this not done deliberately but just happening by chance. 

Surreal.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Having multiple outlets helps me

There are several different series of paramontage:

  1. A4 with overlays on single image and 6-line poems (ongoing)
  2. Multiple different-sized images and sonnets (ongoing)
  3. Multiple different-sized images and free-form long poems (paused)
  4. Multiple different-sized images and 6-line poems (paused)
  5. Grid with free-form long poem (paused)
  6. Grid with sonnet (paused)
  7. Long format with prose poem (paused)

I’ve also made a series comprising eight items, including one with a sonnet but most of which have 6-line poems. This series is 28cm square each print. 

I plan to get this series framed and there are some of the type-3 type that I want to frame as well. Two problems exist however, one to do with sharing and one to do with legibility. I’ll deal with the first of these problems by saying that I don’t know about other writers but you don’t want everyone to see what you’ve written because some people might identify themselves. I was thinking about the relationship between fiction and autobiography and it might be that the reason for fiction is so that we can say things people close to us are able to be exposed to. We don’t want to alienate the very individuals we depend on but on the other hand they inform our worldview.

As for legibility I worry with the types that have been paused that the poems won’t be able to be read when the items are framed and hanging. In fact I’m certain in some cases that they won’t be readable. For the rest (the series that are ongoing) I’m still a bit concerned about legibility.

This is a stumbling block in terms of paramontage. The Cubists 100 years ago included text in some of their paintings but in some cases it wasn’t really meant to be read – newspaper clippings for example – so the demands on the letters used in their works is different from how they’re used in mine. 

I also have a problem that text in the items I get made looks different from how it appears on-screen. What appeals to me as ravishing when I look at it on the computer turns into illegible text on some occasions when I see the final product after I get home from the print shop.

I’ve got 82 A4 type-1s (see list above) which is astonishing as I only started doing these a couple of weeks ago, it seems, though it could be longer, time seems to twist and bend in odd ways. I feel a distorted reality when I think back because though I only began to make these assemblages at the start of last month I’ve been collecting photos for 15 years.

Many of the photos I’m using date from 2007 and 2008, the ones for Myall Creek massacre commemoration events sitting in time back when travel to remote parts of the state was possible – I wouldn’t go to New England now. I did do some Photoshop work at that time, for a set of photos taken while I was waiting for a movie showing at Burwood, in Sydney’s inner west, to start one night. But the paramontage project could only start once I had poems prepared, a practice that began also in 2007.

The poems, as I said, are often autobiographical and because we’re social animals they often include observations sparked by interactions with friends. A “friend” is a special person but he or she is still a person so shares traits and characteristics in common with other individuals living in the community. These give rise to thoughts about the species generally, and I wonder if it’s this reticence to share certain observations with certain people that makes fiction so attractive for writers. We want to talk freely so cloak our ideas in generalisations, in embodiments of ideas, in scattered clues to that elusive identity. Are we just telling white lies? Would it be better if we were open about what bothers us, about what inspires us? 

What do you think? I’m grateful I have many ways to express myself. One week I might be making type-1 paramontages and then I’ll stop and just do housekeeping for a couple of days, including blogging. Then I might spend a day doing type-2 paramontages I’d planned long before but that I’d not got around to completing because I’d been interrupted by type-1 methodologies and ways of seeing the world.

The type-1 methodology is helped by the fact that, because they’re relatively small, I can do them quickly, the type-2 paramontages taking a lot longer to complete in the software. Now, however, as I’ve done so many type-1s I need to write more 6-line poems in order to furnish new material. I’ve added many paramontages to the A4 binder I have used for ‘Before Dawn’ and so am going back to some sonnets I put aside for bigger works, but building up the reserves of energy needed to get through making a type-2 paramontage can take a few days.

I made two of this type yesterday morning and so am a bit depleted in that vein. Luckily I can blog, do housekeeping, and use one of my many Twitter accounts to get through the dark hours before dawn.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

More thoughts about making art

While watching some videos in a YouTube channel  I was prompted to thinking about what sort of response I should make, adding some comments but also wanting to expand at more length here. 

The two episodes in Basia’s series I want to talk about are for ‘Books’ and ‘Journals’. As for the first, what remains in my mind most strongly is the fact that despite the almost-instantaneous nature of photography making a book takes time so the process has to slow down. For my part, making a folder with paramontage in A4 size was complicated because the printer didn’t make the right size for some items so I have to go back to the shop to get them trimmed. It’s only a couple of millimetres but that’s a big margin when you’re talking about manufactured supplies. When I called them Sam offered to do this (I assume there’ll be no charge) but it means another bus trip and a walk through Redfern. 

The folder contains different types of print, some made on my office InkJet printer, some made at Officeworks, and some at Pixel Perfect in Chippendale (which is close to Redfern Station). I got a bag of plastic sleeves the other day and have been filling them up slowly. I also make a table of contents to go at the front of the folder under the title page and in front of the introduction. The complete package is handy because it means I can transport my work easily without the need for cumbersome stationery like a portfolio. The materials for making the folder came partly from old stock, things I’ve owned for God-knows how long and had never used. This is not strictly true in the case of the green plastic folder for the main series, which used to hold failed job applications. I like to think with bitter fondness of those pieces of paper consigned one year to the shredder.

As for ‘Journals’ what was most interesting about Basia’s video was how her drawing derived from using a journal. For Basia is more than just a photographer, and I own some of her drawings, two of which are hanging in my studio paired with prints she made of native Australian flowers. One is a grevillea, and as I write my own grevillea out the front of my house is flowering. The plant had been eaten partly by some sort of bug but I got a bottle of spray from a nursery and used it on several occasions so it’s doing ok now.

Art also needs nurturing but it’s something of a mystery where the need for making it comes from. Going by the records we have some art has always been used for ceremonial purposes, and this can be seen as being just as true nowadays in the ways that movies, for example, or popular music are deployed in advertising and in TV shows, other secular cultural products that enable us to contemplate the unsolved questions of the universe. In many ways the focus has narrowed as time has progressed because most of these products gravitate in their essential elements to the political. To a large degree the numinous has been relegated to the fringes, whereas in the past it was firmly at the centre of people’s lived experience.

Given the advances in medicine and other technologies it’s hard to lament the past. We’re probably better off now with refrigeration and washing machines than people alive, say, when Virginia Woolf was arguing with her housekeeper. I, for one, would regret an inability to watch friends’ videos.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

The meaning of art

Photography is different in a material way from other visual arts because of its relationship to the figurative space. This is partly what I want to talk about today. I will talk about the feelings of anxiety that this practice engenders in me, the sense of doom that sometimes burdens me as I sit at home, perhaps doing the dishes (physical activity distracts) or else sitting on the couch watching TV.

I also want to talk about the kinds of subjects that I choose. The word “challenging” is bandied about with gay abandon in such fields as literature and art but for the most part there’s nothing dangerous about them. For my part I’ve been using two different sources for my paramontages, including old files on my computer dating back 15 years (some of them) and including images from adult sites. Other old files show roads, the countryside, sequences of television visuals, a range of convenient subjects. There are even shots taken inside fast-food restaurants in the inner west of Sydney.

As I mentioned some days ago I’ve been making a book, and in the document file (‘Before Dawn’) that I’ve already talked about I have different sections that are being expanded as the inspiration takes me, so one day I might add a poem to the section ‘Capital’ and on another day I might add one to the section labelled ‘Creativity’. The buckets fill up slowly but surely just as, at the end of another day, I drain my bank balance to pay for prints that I learn about via email when Pixel Perfect tells me an invoice is ready to pay.

As I said I pay in other ways, too. I do a good deal of censoring because I’m not sure what the shop will accept. When the front desk staff look in my USB drive folder to see the files I want to submit there’s a small gap as he or she takes stock of what I’ve brought and in that momentary pause I am suspended. One time I was so flustered I forgot the USB drive and had to call the shop when I’d got to the tram stop to tell them it was still sitting in the dock. “I’ll put it with your order,” I was told over the phone when the line connected. Four days later the invoice arrived so this morning I’ll be going there to pay and to pick up prints.

I made only one paramontage this morning and this is surprising considering the rate I’ve obeyed on recent days. I had been thinking about this one composition overnight and yesterday afternoon when I was busy doing other things (I usually stop working by six or seven o’clock in the morning, at which time I eat food) and it came together after I got up following a tense dream in which I discovered a dead body while I was flying down a staircase.

When I got to the bottom of the staircase I discovered that the body had subsequently been shifted, and the next time I glided down the police were working on the evidence, a forensic team dusting and measuring and analysing with their panoply of chemicals and equipment. It was a university and I was a student, at one point I had to find a seat in a lecture theatre full of different classes, one teacher giving a talk for her group of students who where seated in a section of the room while other classes with their own students were seated in the same room and forced to listen to the same content. 

I didn’t think about the dream when I got up but instead did some housekeeping with my files, copying a bunch of them to a different USB drive and making that awaited paramontage I’d thought about overnight that contains a poem written the previous day and which references a TV commercial. Its gestation was relatively long because most of my thinking occurs early in the morning when I sit down to work. 

I’d downloaded a number of files to my phone from the cloud so that I could look at them while I was downstairs in the living room and so that I could think about the eventual composition in free moments when I wasn’t talking on the phone or cooking. The original files sit in a folder dated June 2008, which was just at the start of a difficult period when I had a relapse of my illness. From August I wouldn’t make many photos until late in the spring, and the folders (I used to make a separate folder for each day whereas now I make one for each month) attest to the fact of crisis. But it’s not only in my dreams that the legacy of such events lingers. I have to look after myself and while making things is a way that I use to moderate feelings of despair – it helps to do something meaningful with my time awake – as mentioned sometimes the figurative play causes anxiety.

It's a bit of a tightrope, and experience helps me to understand the best way to proceed. Meanwhile every now and then I marvel not because of my ability to stay on the line but because of the very existence of all those old files and I wonder what spirit led me back then to make them at a time when I had far fewer options. In those days I was working full-time and I had no space to speak of as I was living in a small, two-bedroom apartment. In 2022 I am free of the crushing burden of work and I occupy a house that with its spaciousness to a degree inspired my new-found dedication to making art. The fact that I have the old files tells me that this future I’ve made for myself was written down somewhere and it’s only now that I’ve been able to decipher the script, though some of the symbols are difficult to make out. 

If I brush away the dust I can just see the initials of the rest of my life. The meaning is art and though I can anticipate a number of viable years I’ve waited so long for this moment that a sense of urgency imbues the practice. So If I say to myself, “I’ll only make one paramontage this morning” that’s a sign to stay on the rope. It’s important to be “grounded” even if the support you’re relying on for stability is a thin wire hanging in space. 

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Early morning musing

It’s 3am and I’m awake as usual but this morning I have no inspiration to work on paramontage, just an awareness of the fact of the act, I think about getting recognition and about the images I left for printing. I watched a segment on the news last night about an art exhibition in Surry Hills where people queued for hours to get cheap paintings and drawings not knowing before buying who did the works, hoping for a bargain, and I am mesmerised by the fact of success, it seems there is an insatiable appetite for gain in the field of visual art but nevertheless it is deprecated in a culture that privileges the body.

Sport, drugs, music – we spend vast amounts of money on escaping reality instead of on trying to find more rational ways of alleviating the pain of existence, and it’s amazing that we manage to pay our mortgages, our phone bills, pay for power, water, waste collection. We do whatever it takes to get away from what occupies our most productive hours, to compensate for the vicissitudes of work, the politics, the disagreements, the rankling rivalries as we try to get to the top so that we can have our will done instead of someone else’s.

Mentally I chew the end of a pencil as I take stock. Now that it’s been seven weeks since I started this journey I am the owner of dozens of prints but few have seen them. More than most things – I almost said “More than anything” but considered this expression too extreme – I want feedback. On Friday I took one largeish paramontage to a meeting and showed it to the participants who read it carefully, each person giving time to it so that they could read to the end of the sonnet, and then I sent the file (reduced for email) to be shared as well. What a privilege to get others to look, to take stock, to let the words sink in, to allow the effect of the whole to capture their imagination for a short while. 

Sharing is like this. Life produces so much pain, we’re always looking for more, our appetites are limitless as is our creative ability if only we let it express itself. But we try to shut it off or else we direct it into activities that fail to embody our desires in a true sense. This need to suppress this essential urge, an irrational need for acclaim and recognition of the particular, unique nature of our suffering, it’s like the thing that drives us is what we spend most of our time denying access to material form.

I’m still having trouble reading, when I think about sitting down to concentrate on a story – it might be a biography, a novel, a book of history – I feel revulsion. It’s interesting, this failure to apply myself to someone else’s narrative, as though surrendering were too risky in a spiritual sense, as though I need to ration my approval for fear of short-changing my own priorities, perhaps it’s this that stops people from taking art seriously. 

Perhaps I’m not competitive enough. Maybe the competition is the thing that keeps people sane. Perhaps I need to compete on a playing field with only one or two participants, not in a place populated heavily. Perhaps I’m a coward.

Whatever prevents me from diluting my energies in reading is typical of me, though I’m probably unconscious of what or who I really am. I am linked by irrational ties to people and things around me, that lie in my orbit like moons to my sun. Light from me illuminates the interplay of exchange as we revolve slowly in social space. I shine so that others may see what lies in their paths in the black immensity of creation the author of which remains blank in It’s face, the great “It” like a question hanging over us, keeping the path free for our relentless forward movement as we try to live together and stay alive. We need each other but we fear the consequences of community, so we make rules that everyone can agree on, but then a new generation comes along with their own words, their own priorities, their own heroes. Their martyrs, their stories, their particular history. So to try to find common ground we all sit down on the national couch to barrack for our team, knowing that the longer the game goes on the more likely it becomes that we will lose. Or else we all win. But the game continues even when we get up and switch the machine off. There is no full-time score. There is no arrest. No suspect unveiled. No crime solved. Life goes on forever and ever until the sun dies, and hopefully we’ll find another planet to live in before that happens, we’ll ferry the totality of humanity across the vastness of space to another place in time. 

Perhaps we should work out a way to live together before we embark. A world- constitution, a governing body for everyone. A global Parliament. Some guidelines are in order before we colonise an Earth-like planet orbiting Andromeda (or whichever sun has captured it), some agreed rules to govern life. Maybe this is the purpose of sport, to accustom us to playing by the book. 

It has to have some useful purpose. I think sport is good for children, it allows them to express those ungainly emotions, to give vent to feelings that need an outlet but that can be corrosive without a proper channel. Playing and losing, or paying and winning, are constructive activities that train the growing mind to understand what is permitted and what is not, what is positive and what is destructive. I was good at sailing when I was young but good at not much else, I was wicket-keeper playing cricket and I ran and played rugby union, soccer and tennis. I even bought petanque balls after one trip to Noumea where my father had a friend, a family I stayed with on a couple of occasions when I was at secondary school. Petanque is a fairly calm sport, anyone can play even senior citizens, it involves throwing a “pig” (like in lawn bowls) and trying to get your metal balls close to it. Unlike in lawn bowls, where the balls are rolled along the ground, in petanque they’re thrown through the air, but because they’re heavy objects they don’t bounce.

God’s arm is not visible in the movement of planets and suns, in the movement of moons and comets, in the arc of galaxies revolving slowly in the void. But someone set off the explosion, someone set the rules that govern the universe. Whose fingers press the keys of the intergalactic calculator? 

Are they fingers like mine?

Friday, 17 June 2022

Making a book of paramontage

On Wednesday I went three times to the stationery store for different reasons but it was sparked by a need to make a book of paramontage. Over the previous week or so I’d been going not to the print shop in Chippendale to get printouts but to Officeworks to make cheaper prints, and Officeworks’ machines favour standard sizes. Because I had made a lot of paramontages using the standard photo aspect ratio I was equipped with dozens of prints and then naturally I wanted to collect them together. I added some using my home printer because of the subject matter (these ones are made using images taken from porn sites) and by the end had about 60 prints that I put in plastic slips and inserted in a green folder I used to use for job applications.

Most of my job applications at the time were unsuccessful, I did hundreds of ‘em and in the end got a job at Sydney University where I learned technical writing and where I used my HTML skills. I’ve always worked at computers, it’s my natural environment, so it feels right to sit at my desk manipulating images – cropping, resizing, adjusting the tones and intensity of images in layers, pasting text over the top and moving it around in the frame – using software. My relationship with technology is fraught at best, and I somehow muddle through using an expert at times when the challenge is too big. Tim set up my office when I moved in and I also used him when my old PC died.

I sometimes look things up on the internet and sometimes I even trouble my brother Peter who sent me a photo of his pets the other day out of the blue. He must’ve been reading these blogposts and thought to himself, “I think I’ll tell Matthew about DropBox before he asks me how to transfer large files without using email.” In fact I’d not had a thought along those lines but you could see how it would be good to learn this type of technique. In fact I used to have a DropBox account but it fell into disuse and I needed to log in using Google when Peter sent the link. As it turned out I accessed my password and got the app set up on my phone without a horrendous amount of inconvenience but possibly only my brother could get me to take the trouble in this way.

The situation as it stands now is that I’ve almost run out of short, 6-line poems to use to match with photos. The collection ‘Before Dawn’ has morphed into a new project, and anyone can understand the sense of excitement that a new project induces in the subject. You feel proud and wary by turns, but my main concern now is making sure I don’t run out of money in the process of making prints for my book. 

I came across a slight impediment at Officeworks because some of the images won’t print on the kiosk machines the company makes available for customers to use on their shop floor. You add credit to a plastic card using EFTPOS and scan the card at a copier with a touch screen display, then print as many images as you need. The problem is that some images won’t open in these machines and I asked the staffer behind the counter about this peculiarity. I was told that with images with a large colour range that have had many layers the machines can fail to open the JPG, so I had to get slightly-more expensive manual prints done in some cases.

This is a minor issue. A bigger challenge is what to do with the need to experiment. On the same day I started making the book, with my mind all set on making A4 images, I had an idea to make much larger assemblages of photos and text. Then there’s the problem of what to do with my sonnets. There are still many things to think about and this keeps me guessing the direction this undertaking will turn, it’s impossible to predict from one day to the next with any accuracy. Right now it seems my ambition is getting away from me because I fear being comfortable apparently, just the idea of always being stuck with the A4 printout makes me shudder with revulsion and I have to imagine a world where I could be doing something as outrageous as A3 or even – heaven knows – A2 (!) or some intermediate size that obeys no convention. The problem with prints that are larger than A4 is that I worry about legibility. If I do big prints but the poem when it’s framed and hanging on the wall is impossible to read then what is the point? This is key and for the moment I have no answer to the question, I’ll just have to get one framed and hung up, one of the big ones, to see if it suits the real world rather than the ideal confines of my desktop PC.

Looking at a paramontage on the screen is not the same as seeing it on paper. This is an iron rule. The print shop uses JPGs not PNG files – this is another snippet of information that I’ve gleaned from my excursions on the 309 bus to town – because PNG files are designed for the online world, you use ‘em for graphical elements in websites. 

I’m getting more Pixel Perfect work done because they are the only place I know that can do the work in a way that suits my practice. A4 or A3 that’s the reality and that’s where things stand right now at a time when I’m contemplating going to an old prose document made some years back to mine it for text. Because I’ve almost run out of fresh 6-line ‘Before Dawn’ poems I should be readying things in MS-Word and not gallivanting about with GIMP (my free graphics package) but the lure of the paramontage is strong. The “force” is with me.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Take two: Look Again, David Bailey

I got this the other day when I was in town, popping into Abbeys Bookshop to browse.


In the background for this photo of the cover of David Bailey’s autobiography I included photos my mother’s uncle took when he was alive. Noel entered some photos in competitions but I think he’s worth a lot more than the small acclaim those prizes garnered him. His sister also took photos, and I have her slides in my archives. 

David Bailey is referred to in this book as “Bailey” and I noted my brother sent a photo of his dogs using DropBox, probably to get me acquainted with the service (I had to log on using Google, which took some time). I don’t know if Bailey, his Labrador, is named after the photographer but it might be so as I’ve been writing about my own practice on the blog, something that probably sparked my brother’s action.

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Editing and printing paramontages

When reading about the agency Magnum I came across the idea of using raw images, uncropped or otherwise unchanged and a friend told me that this in the context of the agency’s founders relates to an interest in Surrealism. In my case the situation is slightly different because of the novelty of my form of art, which is not just about photography but also about literature. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to change the characteristics of an image using graphical manipulation software, for example adding a dark background where the presence of too many light-coloured pixels would impede legibility. I did this recently in order to make an item easier to read and I don’t regret it, and though mostly I haven’t changed the brightness or contrast of images I use in my assemblages, appreciating the nature of reportage that photography offers to the creative, in the past two days I’ve gone the whole hog and use overlays and special effects to achieve different looks.

I haven’t had much feedback from the print shop, though Sam who works there told me he thinks what I’m making is collage. I have become acquainted with the staff, there are two including the business owner who I had a quick chat with the other day on account of the holiday weekend. She didn’t have anything special planned but she asked me if I did and I said “No”. 

Printing is sometimes disappointing because it can throw up results I hadn’t wanted, for example where the text is too small or else the size of the print is wrong (always due to mistakes on my part) but it’s a process and I think quality takes time. I give Pixel Perfect instructions as a measurement along one axis of each item, so for example I’ll specify “38cm wide” and they take it from there, the intricacies of printing being beyond me though no doubt I’ll learn about this aspect of the discipline down the track. I got used to letting them look after the physical object, concentrating instead on capturing scenes and on making verses to go with them, but today I plan to go to Officeworks instead because I have been spending thousands of dollars and want to economise. 

I spend hours each morning right now matching poems with images, usually by going through the folders full of files viewing each one independently while I keep the poetry file open on my computer at an item I want to find something to go with. As I look at each photo I think about the poem and at some point the penny will drop. Other ways this happens are when I think about a specific image overnight and go into the poetry file fresh in the morning, choosing or discarding candidates as the whim drags me. 

On a rare occasion a poem will be completely rewritten on the basis of experiencing again an image, this happened recently with a poem titled ‘Quantum theory’ which is about the discord you see everywhere on social media and how it has changed the nature of the public sphere. This is something that strikes me regularly when I go online and read what people say, there’s something corrosive about people’s conduct that has had generally negative outcomes. I matched the poem with a photo taken earlier this month when I was sitting in a cafĂ© in Newtown.

I’d gone there to attend a book launch but as usual I was too early so popped into a shop and had a cup of coffee while I waited for others to arrive. Fancy keeps me occupied when I’m out walking. When I dropped into the print shop recently it was part of a longer outing during which I bought the low-carb bread I eat as well as some books. I also passed through Pyrmont to visit the barber because my hair had grown unruly. The sun was shining bright all morning and I got home just after 1pm having left the house around 9am. 

Walking along Broadway and George Street, then Market Street and Pyrmont Bridge I was transported back in time. In the first case it was to my days as an undergraduate when I lived in Glebe. Back then Broadway was hardly salubrious though it wasn’t as busy with traffic as it is now. These days because of the presence of international students Broadway is a bustling thoroughfare with restaurants and cafes dotting the strip malls. Before it was a dingy and run-down place you wouldn’t by preference linger in, it had an overtone of violence as so many streets in Sydney had before multiculturalism improved the prospect.

As for Union Street and Pyrmont I lived there for about five years and so know the area just as well as Broadway. Some of the shops on Union Street are different from when I lived out that way, but the barber is the same although he charges me more now than he has done in the past. He gave me a coffee the last time I went because I accepted when he offered, the long walk had fatigued me, but I’m uncertain on thinking about it whether the extra $5 he made me pay was on account of the refreshment or if his rates have just increased. 

Last time I spoke with him about patronage he said it had dropped compared to before the virus. I can’t find any reason to regret moving out of Pyrmont, the new house is probably partly responsible for my creative surge, the old place much smaller with fewer walls to fill up with pictures. I can also get to town just as quickly with the 309 bus going along Botany Road, it only takes about 30 minutes to Redfern or else I can get off at Green Square and catch the train if I need to get to Pitt Street Mall.

That part of the city is always changing with people shopping or meeting up for a meal. Beggars sit there with their pets, their blankets and cups ornamenting the pavements near retail outlets. When I lived in Pyrmont I’d get to Pitt Street Mall in 30 minutes by walking, and it’s about 45 minutes from home now on the bus and train.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Take two: Magnum: Streetwise, ed Stephen McLaren

I got this the other day when I was in town, popping into Abbeys Bookshop to browse. 

For the background I chose a photo by a friend made in the 1980s. Customs have changed so it’d be problematic taking a photo nowadays of children in this way, but it’s a charming photo that captures movement efficiently. My dad had this photo in his archives and I rediscovered it when I was going through his stuff a few years ago, I got the photo professionally framed in order to conserve it.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

The poems in paramontages

The reason I label these artworks “paramontages” is because they go beyond collage and beyond literature, they’re a hybrid form with no particular bias one way or the other. If science as we know it was the product of the attempt by scholars in the Renaissance to find a universal form of knowledge, and if the first manifesto of the method was written by a lawyer (Francis Bacon) who was always trying, in his life, to navigate a median way between the interests of Parliament and those of the king, then it’s fitting that I, 400 years later, should seek refinement in a middle way with two distinct disciplines, for why are they kept apart?

In fact the socius is cluttered with a melange of text and image. Personally, I found my first expression in this vein at school making projects. I found my first inspiration in children’s books and later in magazines, where words and pictures are married for strong effect, in order to communicate complex ideas and to educate people living in the wider community. 

When I think about imagery and artmaking it’s remarkable that I didn’t start making work like this years back. For many years employed in the then-nascent field of desktop publishing, I honed the skills needed to make paramontages over a formative period equal in importance to my childhood but it was in childhood that I first became enamoured of art in the form of drawing. It wasn’t until I hit 17 when my father forbid me from dropping French so that I could pursue art that I found a conflict in reality. That discussion changed my life and almost destroyed me, so when I started making things this year it’s because in the late 70s I wasn’t able to do what I was made to do. 

Now that my parents are dead I let the muses advise me. Poetry was something very easy to get into, easy because all you need is a desk and a computer. While drawing and painting have certain material requirements that make it more complex to get involved in doing, poetry allowed me to say things that could only be said through art but to do so at home in the quiet of a small room. I also didn’t have to face my demons with poetry, whereas drawing would’ve required me to confront the terrible sacrifice my younger self made on the altar of my father’s overweening vanity.

With the longer free-form poems I use in recent paramontages I am able to explore more complex arguments than with the short, 6-line clips I made in the collection I titled ‘Before Dawn’. The short poems can be meaningful and punchy, however, so I continue to write them, but I also appreciate the discursive nature of longer poems. The sonnets are another facet I explore using a different set of tools, though I am not sure what it means to write a sonnet in 2021. Perhaps they’re just baubles or a passage to other realms, I don’t know.

What I do know is that matching a poem with an image or set of images isn’t always the same process. Because I have the ‘Before Dawn’ PDF I can sometimes look through a series of photos and settle on a match having just gone back to the PDF for reference. Sometimes I’ll go out and capture images in order to fit a particular poem, and this might be a quick exchange or else days might elapse before the relevant photos are ready to use. Sometimes I choose a poem after viewing an image. 

Each work has its own logic, just as I choose different fonts to go with the words based on the overall idea of the item itself. What I’ve found by printing the things out on quality paper at high resolution is that impact is important, so I will prefer now to use a very bright colour for the text, or else I might touch up a photo so there’s plenty of contrast between the text and the background image. What looks ok on-screen might very well fail to have enough impact when it’s put on paper. I live and learn.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Taking stock and taking new directions

I watched a friend’s video about her creative process because when we talked she mentioned it. I’d been watching her videos – her creative alphabet – but hadn’t I think seen this particular video. The previous evening we’d been talking about my creative process and I got some valuable feedback when I mentioned I’d started making paramontages with single images and short poems.

The poems in this case are from a collection titled ‘Before Dawn’ in the introduction to which I wrote:

I started this collection of writerly sketches this year in late July or early August, making individual files in the dead of winter at a time when I’d almost finished working on a series of longer biographical poems titled ‘Winter Nouns’.

I wrote that in August 2021, so about a year ago now, and reading this (and posting it for others to read) makes me reflect on what Basia mentions in her video about trusting the process. I had no idea when I started ‘Winter Nouns’ that I’d feel ready to embark on a different path in my creative journey, a path that’d take me through a landscape where aphorisms and brief observations would dot the horizon like telegraph poles or pine trees. 

Trust is a loaded word however, as living with a mental illness I have to be careful of where forces that seem to come from elsewhere – which Basia talks about in her video – can lead. I have to watch myself for signs that the creative process isn’t leading to a new episode, and this perhaps makes my creative process different from my friend’s.

When we spoke Basia also suggested not spending big bucks on getting art-quality prints made and instead getting lower-quality prints made at a different shop. I quickly rejected this idea because I think that each item I make has equal value. I do so because of the journey. I get prints made so that I can really experience the artwork as seeing a piece of work on-screen in reduced scale lacks the impact of a full-colour print on proper paper. I want to know what I have done so that I can understand it, and a grainy, poor-colour print with borders won’t have the same specific gravity as a good, crisp and cropped print on nice matte paper. So going to Officeworks might save me money but it still costs money and I won’t get the same result as going to Pixel Perfect.

I’ve already talked about the initial spark that caused me to start this journey, and it’s related to my illness. What caused Basia to give me her suggestion to use a cheaper printing alternative is that I mentioned I’d slowed down my production. Well, that was two days ago. Yesterday I delivered about 15 new files to the print shop, so my pact with myself to go slower didn’t last long.

What happened however was that I began to make paramontages with single images instead of assemblages of multiple images. Basia evinced interest when I made this comment during our discussion, and I took from this a valuable clue to my own creative process. It suggested – the raised intonation of her voice, her deciding to linger over this point in our to-and-fro of words – that she approved of this change.

Such approval can be taken different ways. On the one hand it validates what you’ve decided to do but on the other hand it can be read as a criticism of other things you’ve made.

Privileging the individual photo over the assemblage makes me think of a book on Magnum, the photography agency. I bought a book on Magnum yesterday and started to read it. After dropping off the files at the print shop I caught the light rail to Town Hall and walked to Abbeys Bookshop to browse because I wanted biographies on photographers. They have a solid biography section and I saw a memoir by David Bailey which I’ll probably go back and buy later on, but I gravitated to the photography section and bought this Magnum volume instead, putting it in my bag and heading off to Pitt Street to take photos of Australia Square. Once home I cracked it open and consumed many pages throughout the afternoon, taking breaks to work on my things and to watch the news.

Lessons from the book include the fact that Magnum initially only had photographers using black and white. Another lesson is that some of them didn’t crop their photos. The agency has changed over time however and both colour and cropping are commonplace for participants’ work but reading these passages makes me think about what the medium means for me.

I suspect that Magnum would prefer I use single photos with short poems, like Basia. The problem is that I write a variety of different poems, including longer free-form poems and sonnets. I also write prose-poems (like ‘Winter Nouns’) that have their own dynamic and poise. In order to accommodate these works I say to myself that I need multiple images but I wonder if this is really the case. Might it be possible to accompany a longer piece of prose poetry with a single image, instead of the six or seven that I’ve been using so far? 

The ‘Winter Nouns’ extracts have been made at 70cm wide, so they’re narrow and big, and with a two-colour gradient I’ve embellished them to make elements of the photos stand out. What I normally do is take colours that exist in the photos (GIMP, the graphics program, has a colour picker tool that lets you sample a pixel in the image) and use them for the gradient fill. The poems in ‘Before Dawn’ are much shorter at only six lines each. Each line is very brief so that the poems seem to twist and flex in space like little sculptures. Because they’re so brief they lend themselves to use with single images, but the sonnets I’ve written are more like arguments or intellectual exercises. 

Sonnets have a distinct structure that gives them this kind of function. The sonnets I write are in three parts, starting with two quatrains that set up the terms of debate. After this comes a volta where you come to a fork in the road that changes the approach to the subject under discussion. Finally, at the end, you have a decisive couplet that fixes the dialogue in place for all time (or, until the next poem is attempted as a reader).

The six-line ‘Before Dawn’ poems include one called ‘Round’ which I put with an image and sent off to the print shop. It goes like this:

Like Mother’s
eye, which saw
me everyday

while time
prepared
the masterstroke.

The image I used to go with this poem contains the camera I’m holding in my right hand when I take the snapshot. You can see the lens (which is, of course, round) like an eye looking at the viewer at the same time as it’s pointed at the scene outside the bus window, for I was on public transport when I took the photo. 

I sometimes make images with the lens visible. Here is one I made yesterday while in the city.


You can easily see the camera lens in the top of the image, and normally I wouldn’t use a photo like this for a paramontage but because I’d written ‘Round’ I thought to myself as I was looking through the PDF ‘Before Dawn’ resides in that it might do. What is like Mother’s eye? Is it art? Now that both my parents are dead and I no longer have access to whatever wisdom they accrued over long lives am I able to consult with the muse in the same way that I might’ve had a chat with mum when I went over to her place up on the Coast in order to make dinner for the both of us? Are the muses like my parents? Do they look out for me, counsel me, play the role model? Or are they something like a guide, as Basia suggests in her video when she says that the creative process is, for her, like a journey? 

Do I trust them or do I react to them and set off on a new path? What is the role of art, for me? For the moment I’ll continue to make multi-image paramontages but because I have a range of options I can change from moment to moment and from day to day, varying my approach to whatever subject catches my attention. For making art is enjoyable and I wonder if more people mightn’t benefit from it. Instead of gambling or drinking or taking recreational drugs, might people more profitably spend a few hours each day with their muses? Talking about going from the sonnets to ‘Winter Nouns’ to ‘Before Dawn’ to the paramontages I retrace steps leading somewhere, but I wonder if I trust the process or if I am just making circles in the sand.

Monday, 6 June 2022

‘Daisy and Woolf’ book launch – Better Read Than Dead

Goodness what a big evening for me, I’m usually in bed by eight o’clock but last night I was traipsing around Newtown. I left home too early as usual so I was the first person seated at the book launch, right next to the kids’ books so I spent a bit of time reading the spines. The room was full when the right time for the opening arrived and I learned a lot about Michelle Cahill, the author, that I didn’t know before. The book part of a PhD done with the University of Wollongong.

Michelle has written a lot of poetry as well, and she also runs a literary magazine called Mascara. I’d known about the novel, ‘Daisy & Woolf’ and I have a review copy the publisher kindly sent me but I haven’t read it because of Putin and his dreadful crimes, it’s been so distressing to think of the waste of life and treasure Russia is perpetrating in the name of some old grievance. Regardless of my ongoing distraction – which has brought me back to creative activities myself – I did enjoy listening to the panel, including the author, talk about the gestation of the book. Michelle did a short reading from one of the sections in it, so I had a taste of the prose, which seemed on hearing it to be poetic and rich. I’ll reserve my judgement about the whole until I can summon up my powers of concentration


I had coffee next door in the cafe just before the launch. The coffee was very good and I sat for about 30 minutes by myself watching the world go by.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

The different types of paramontage

I made a video this morning talking about what I thought were eight different types of paramontage, but I realised that there’s one at the framer’s with variable photo sizes and no poem. So in fact there are nine different types. I find myself classifying as part of my art practice, it helps me to take stock and to settle before moving on. I’ve slowed down a lot in recent days, and this morning early made only one new item with photos I’d identified for treatment weeks ago and had not got around to dealing with.

Being a bit slower with my output lets me reflect and understand what I have to work with (I took many photos over many years) so that I can more effectively tell a story. Just by looking at the photos at leisure I can see new concurrences, new links between colours and topical elements, and so gracefully incorporate each one into a seamless whole.

Stepping back and talking about the process is useful because you feel more in control of the material, if you just heedlessly create without medial steps you risk making things that are substandard. I want each paramontage to possess its own specific gravity, to be in the world but also to embody my ideas and hopefully to communicate with other people.

A routine is important. I go to the print shop about twice a week to pick up finished items, drop off cardboard tubes for reuse, and deposit new files for them to work on. I always use the same paper and chemical process, these are true photographs under the Fuji brand. The bus takes me there and brings me home, and sometimes I’ll stop off at a nearby shopping centre to do errands such as grocery shopping.

This routine is the metronome around which my creativity revolves. The blogposts and videos are mainly so that I can stay in touch with friends. Anyone else who engages via a comment is welcome to join in, and I will take other views seriously, giving them due weight and responding in kind.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

A month of making art

I can scarcely credit the fact but that’s how long it’s been for me with my paramontages, practically every morning from before dawn I’ve been busy manipulating software. Either writing poems or putting together the assemblages. One or the other, one thing or another.

It’s surreal.

For so long I’ve been mute, unable to say anything, trapped like Han Solo in his block of carbonite, the minutes slipping by as fast as days, the weeks disappearing mute as fast as years. Time sped up, slowed down, but anyway without expression of all of the feelings inside me apart from book reviews.

If Putin sparked my gardening – and I’m still wrestling with pests and diseases – then he also helped me to come to grips with my past. It seems wrong to only write about things other people have written in a world where there’s so much evil. It’s as if I have to help in some way, I have to contribute to the effort aimed at countering the forces of torment and destruction Russia has unleashed by invading a neighbouring country. So much destruction asks for commensurate efforts from people everywhere.

In our own region China continues to push its autocratic bias. If Scott Morrison can be congratulated for anything – and I know many are happy to see less of him (though not me) – calling it an “arc of autocracy” is right on the money, and such countries deeply resent freedom because the very example we pose to their kleptocratic practices offends them so deeply they would rather kill and destroy than sit back and listen to their own people complain.

What could I do in the face of such men?

Just yesterday while on the bus going into town to pick up more paramontages I saw the park glowing in the afternoon sun. I don’t even have to go outside, but a change of scene helps to stir the creative juices and the green grass wedged by hedges, houses, and traffic formed a quick burst of ecstasy that enlivened my senses, I promised myself to go back on another clear day to take photos of the glory. The light shows of Vivid Sydney, which began recently, have helped me to focus my energies because they provided a context within which to create and a subject for study. 

On one day I took enough photos harvested with two cameras to furnish material for four paramontages, resulting in files I left with the print shop yesterday. On the day in question I went into town early when it was still light and took photos in the CBD for a while, walking down Market Street then George Street and finally along Pitt Street Mall and Martin Place before heading north to the Quay. The crowds of shoppers gave me what I needed on in that interval though at other times it was a ferry shunting past the blocks of apartments beside the harbour or the Opera House standing like a beacon on its promontory overlooking the water.

At night the office buildings were glowing with illuminations projected onto their facades. The creators of these shots had put together a varied show where, at one moment, you could see children’s drawings of buildings (on the side of the Customs House) then the next you could see windsurfers. Green, yellow, blue, red switched around in curious montages someone had spent time making, who it was invisible there were no signatures on the work. But people took away memories.

Or perhaps they didn’t, perhaps the slideshow disappeared into oblivion like a fallen leaf on a tree in autumn. Life is vanishingly swift, we grow up to be – something, a project manager or an actor, a dentist or a politician – and then before we realise what’s just happened we’re ready to retire. With any luck we’ll enjoy our lives, but few people make a record apart from what remains in the memories of their children.

On my part this journey started in the last days of April but it’s not over yet. What’s been released from the box cannot be put back in.