Chthonic Documentation

The Chthonian Element in Nature

Drawings and Photographic Documentation as Catharsis 

A Essay About the Artwork Made During My Two Most Recent Studio Residencies At the Big Ci in 2020 and 2021

In October 2020 and March 2021 I undertook studio residencies at the Big Ci in Bilpin in the Blue Mountains on the edge of the Wollemi National Park for a month each. I undertook the residency with two other creatives each time. This essay reflects on images of drawings and photographic documentation of the artwork made during these residencies.

There were many themes in my art from these residency projects. There were many drawings and a video installation about the chthonian element in nature or the forces from the bowels of the earth. This idea dates back to the cult of Dionysus in ancient Greek history. Also there were many drawings about the music I was listening to during my stay while drawing including Nick Cave, Ed Sheeran and Bjork. My art crosses over in its influences with popular culture and high art. The greatest high art influences in my residency art was the performances, drawings, sculptures and installations of the late German artist Joseph Beuys.

Beuys was a sort of shaman who healed Germany after the second world war with a large body of art. His best known performance was titled “ How to explain pictures to a dead hare” and featured him cradling a dead hare in front of a wall of framed cathartic drawings as well as having his head covered in gold leaf and honey. The hare in the performance was seen as an animal who lives in burrows beneath the earths surface and lives above the ground too and works for humans and against them too.

The other artist who has had an immense effect upon my art is the contemporary Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara. I met Nara while working at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. He was exhibiting in a contemporary Japanese exhibition called Neo Tokyo. The young Japanese English interpreter Naoko Waki was informed that I was a drawing artist and approached Nara and organised a drawing between me and him.

While I was on the studio residencies I watched the art documentary: Travelling with Yoshitomo Nara almost every night and was influenced by his large children drawings and paintings.

These childhood memories by Nara that underpin much of his art influenced me to make a book of drawings about my childhood and other artists memories of their childhoods. Other artists whose art was influenced by their childhood memories include Anselm Kiefer, Mike Kelley and others.

I made three large drawings during the residencies : two during the first residency and one during the most recent one. All these drawings are untitled. The first was a series of four images made with ink one a cocoon and one a marionette figure about the power in relationships and a face covered by a Batman mask as well as a drawing of my iPhone with Patch Adams on it my health and mind mentor who I correspond with many times by hand written letters on his behalf and printed out letters on my side. In the background were many artline drawings of faces without eyes. This shows the blankness of identity. 

The next drawing featured five repetitive ink drawings of me as a child standing in a seaside water up to my ankles. These childhood memories were surrounded by blank faces again of figures with animal horns in many figures rendered in artline pen. This shows me as a figure from the bowels of the earth or the chthonian element of nature.

The third big drawing made in March 2021 featured five drawings of naked figures under the earth or the chthonian elements in nature and in the background many artline drawings of Batman faces. The popular culture image of Batman isn’t a heroic image but rather an animalistic image of humans in popular culture.

During the October 2020 residency I made a clay cocoon with clay I found around an uprooted tree in the grounds of the Big Ci. This earthy material once again refers to the chthonian element of nature. Inside the cocoon was a television with a dvd playing on it of my top twenty five intellectuals. The drawing slide show of these people was made in artline and facial portraits of them with quotes about their beliefs. Behind the trestle table with the video installation was two lines of sixty artline drawings on a4  about all the subjects outlined so far in this essay.

In the most recent studio residency I reused the trestle table that had a monitor on it with an old drawing slide show called JD Salinger Meets Jack Kerouac. During the open day at the Big Ci I gave an artist talk about this DVD. Kerouac and Salinger along with being two of my favourite authors were seen as voices of their generation with the books: On the Road by Kerouac and The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger. Also on the table was my art portfolio and book of drawings about Yoshitomo Nara and Nick Cave my favourite artist and favourite musician.