I was flying back to Adelaide from Melbourne about five years ago. I’d just turned 60, and I was wondering how much longer I’d want to go on playing pubs, little clubs and the occasional music festival. I’d been thinking about painting again for a long time but music had dominated my life since I’d left art school in 1968.
I’d finished a four year painting diploma at the South Australian School of Art (there was no degree in those days; art education was low profile until Don Dunstan became Premier for the second time in 1970) and headed for the UK, for no particular reason. I played the club circuit around London and the Midlands leaving a trail of canvases and drawings in the houses of people I met along the way. After a few years on the road I stopped in Birmingham, the city where I was born, and found myself a place big enough to work in. The next couple of years I painted, played very little music, and completed a postgraduate degree from Birmingham University.
I worked as a musician and continued to paint until 1976, when I returned to Adelaide and worked as an art educator for the next ten years. Being forever restless, I quit teaching, went back to art school for a couple of years, printed T-shirts for rock bands, then formed a band and went on the road for the next decade. I was fifty-five when the band broke up and I spent the next few years wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life. During that time I’d started painting again, but I was looking for a direction which wasn’t coming easily.
When I looked out the window of that plane, I felt inspired to grab my camera, and I shot about fifty pictures of the ground. Those pictures started me on my present course. For me, painting has always been a difficult choice. I’ve always had problems with questions relating to the words ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Concept’ when it comes to painting. I don’t believe artists need a reason to make art. I draw my ideas from abstraction in nature: fallen objects, road-kill, down looking up and up looking down, chaos and randomness.
As a songwriter, the sound of my music is usually dictated by the sentiment of the words, and as a consequence I’ve never been restricted by style. I’m attempting to approach painting with the same attitude.
The Ghoul’s Hand, Oil on board, 80cm x 52cm