Night - 2001
Gallery East, North Fremantle, WA
This exhibition was a series of very personal paintings inspired by the writing of Perth writer Rob Finlayson. They were not paintings of places at night but rather paintings about approaching night and being in night.
The use of Redgum resin locates the work in Western Australia, representing for me ideas of the earth, fatal bleeding and the spirit. Moonjar; the West Australian Christmas Tree or Nuytsia Floribunda is important to the theme of this exhibition. To the Nyungar people of WA the tree is sacred. It is thought that when someone dies the spirit of the dead person goes and rests or waits on the Moonjar or Mundjar until ready to move on.
The word 'zulu' does not only refer to the name of a group of people, but in their language, also means ' the space between the stars' (a comment by Lucky Oceans on 'the Planet', radio national, 7.3.2001).
There is of course a debt to John Cattapan, Tim Maguire and Georgia O'Keefes' night paintings.
Night by Rob Finlayson 1995
It's always difficult to approach, night, but it's worth it. Once you're in it, it's fine, sweet, appropriate, not the wrong thing at all, but just right, the sort of place to go for a bit of a rest, a bit of a clandestine lie down, a release of zeds, an emanation of the end of the alphabet, the end of order, the end of big consciousness. Night harbours smallness: the small infinity of the stars, the space between your hand and your face, the equality of colour, the ability to absorb, the rotund investigation of the tiny acts of sex, passion, crime, loyalty. It rolls in relentlessly, even here, in the city, even here where the ships hoot across the roofs and young men drive fast cars fast around corners and shout incomprehensibly at pedestrians who turn another corner and disappear, to turn another corner and stand at the scene of a car accident where a young man has driven his fast car too fast around the corner and crashed and been killed, and killed all his passengers, the other young men and women, and where the pedestrian has walked on past the flashing amber and blue and red lights and men and women in different coloured uniforms surrounded by different coloured vehicles, and walked on again, past the lights of the shops, down to the docks to watch the tugs pushing the huge ship around in the harbour, it doesn't take long, maybe fifteen minutes, even in the quiet night, the water black and thick, the arc lights of the container dock brilliant across the half kilometre of harbour, and then walked back through the city, past the corner where the young men and women died, and there is nothing there, no lights, no broken glass, no bodies, no uniforms, no sign at all of death, in this city where night comes, comes creeping in so restfully and makes its usual point. Night makes the city seem completely alcoholic, except for the sombre pedestrian, the working few. Night allows an intoxication to perambulate, listing along, side to side, across an intersection, against a pole, spilled from a nightclub, a party, a pub.
Night is the horizontal moment, the relief from the vertical day, the time when all is spread out uniformly, when the stars are incomprehensible, the grass playing-field with frost stitched neatly at the horizon of tin roofs to the frozen spectra of light, the uncanny face of the moon. It's a time when nothing seems to happen, when the ability to describe what did happen is lost, when words are softened up, muted, lost in pillows, around corners, in black trees, beneath water. The night is the time for uncertainties to allow themselves, for love affairs to start, businesses to recede, guests to remember homes, the whole grief-stricken earth to roll over, refresh, walk to the sea and drink. Night is full of salt. In a moment the salt stars are everything, incomprehensible to desire, a disease, a format that limps, a longer list. In a moment the day is illuminated as but a luminous shadow, as a street lamp flickers out in a roadway between buildings and darkness falls, denser, thicker, courageous. The night is made to forget and is impossible to approach. Approaching the night allows us never to meet it, for night is unimaginable. In this manner we walk through nonexistent streets in the hope of nothing, nothing that is possible in the instant. Instead, our nonhopes are fulfilled, in ways that we liken later to dream, to cascades, almost, of innocence, amongst the sweet scented rows of peppermint trees, sparse grass, all gray, all submerged in the ocean of night, the same place of the sea, the same seat of the world, the same place as the stars, the utterly unfamiliar which is the entire half of a world. It could be any world, anyone's world. It floats under its own auspices, renowned, feted, ignored. We come occasionally into the night as an offering, a gift, full of the greatest of loves: a dead hope; a hope so dead that it embraces the final death, that moves through, around, and in, death. It never alters its face, nor has one. It admires only difference which is the same. In such a place we fall in love, dead, laughing and boisterous. In such places the word 'life' is understood as something to be discussed, molded, improved upon; an examination of the path to the end of the jetty; the various rocks along the breakwater, their vestigal origins as foundation, pylon, concourse, wall; the decaying tarmac; the fisherpeople; the mouth of the harbour and the vessels, their lights and the lights of the sea roads. The roads are gauged by depth, danger, currents, the useful correlations of grief, ebb, flow; desire to be gone, home, asleep; in the daylight with the beloved, the distant. In the night, you are invisible and your words luminous, naming a day that doesn't exist. In the night you are the wholly adored, forgiven, hated. You are allowed to be your wretched, laughing self: wholly indefensible, utterly without rights, complete and devoid. The night approaches us and we browse on the edges of the grass, feeling the air cool, the breeze settle, the light fall from our eyes in dangerous moments of love. The words take themselves wherever the night is, wherever darkness falls, onto children who duck to avoid its crash, who pull fathers from before cars, cradle mothers in their arms, repair the rift. It is the night that heals the brilliance, divides time, orchestrates indifference and removal, arrival and the notion of impermanence. The night is so busy with itself that we drown in its metaphor, uphold our dignity with a fragile precision and cavalcade in a tired bravado to our execution, glad to be so sure of our fatigue, its unfathom. It is in this manner, just, that I meet you, just, aquiver. It places a psychology of loss into the spaces, the interstices, the implausibilities, the wholly reprehensible and loved: the dangerous, the tense, the unholy. It is in this manner that love occurs at this moment, unspeakable and indefensible and profoundly afraid of movement, and it is in just that manner that we leave, propelled and acquitted and renewed, until the day, until the night which is impossible to approach, approaching.