HUNGRY IN WOLF TOWN

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HUNGRY IN WOLF TOWN

digital art
3 x 1.25 metres

Allow me to leap forward in time. In 2012 a 76 year old American was found dead in his Chiang Mai home. There was a bullet in his head, a revolver in his hand, and a crucifix in the other hand. His name was Bill Young, and he was the leading C.I.A Vietnam war era operative and hitman, in the jungles of Burma, Laos and Thailand.
He grew up on a Burmese mission station, his grandfather and father were missionaries there. His father forged the CIA link in that region by spying into southern China after Mao arrived on the scene.
Bill grew up amongst the hills tribes and spoke five local languages. with his special knowledge of the area, and his fathers links, it was almost a fait accompli that he would join the CIA. He had soon organized an army of several thousand Lahu tribesmen to help disrupt communist supply lines running through Laos during the Vietnam war.
At the height of the war, he was air-dropped into the mountains of central Laos to find a suitable site for an airfield base. He searched the mountainous, forested jungle terrain on foot, and finally found an ideal valley near the Plain of Jars. The airfield was named Long Cheng, and it didn’t appear on any map. It became one of the busiest airfields in s.e.asia, supplying and supporting several thousand Lahu hillstribe warriors trained by the C.I.A to disrupt the NVA supply lines. At the time all completely covert and off the radar. Together with the American bombing of Laos, It became known as the Secret War, and was one of biggest unofficial wars in history.
Thus the CIA operation Air America was born. Long Cheng was a large busy town with everything an American serviceman could ask for, including bars, casinos, brothels and a church. Flight crews, airfield maintenance crew, logistics teams, various servicemen, green berets, special ops, tribal militia groups, and all the staff it took to house, feed and operate the base. All deep in the mountains of Laos, and unknown to most people. All made possible by Bill Young.
His British co-operatives likened him to a quiet modest James Bond type which belied his CIA killer image. Killing was part of the job Bill once said, and it was known he had fought his way out of several tight skirmishes and ambushes in remote hill tribe villages. A past friend said Bill died violently the same way he lived. The US consulate general in Chiang Mai said Bill was an extraordinary person who lived an extraordinary life.
Bill also liked to party and his home became open house to a stream of air hostesses and nurses headed for the Air America base. Bill fell in love and married one hostess who convinced him to return to normal life and a job back in the states. He lasted a few months before it ended in divorce, and him returning to the life he knew best, saying I loved her dearly, she was beautiful, but my home is with the Lahu hills tribe. During these times Bill Young’s base as a CIA operative was in a comfortable house on the Thai banks of the Mekong, overlooking Laos.
My point is you never really know what is going on around you. You can read up, study some history, browse the travel guides, the same guides everyone is reading, and be dished up the same cold dried old facts. But you never really know whats occurring just around the corner from you, let alone what is happening all around you behind closed doors, in a building across the road, or a house across the river. The unfolding dramas, the clandestine machinations, through the shifting veils of subterfuge and power. The secrets and untold stories, the unmentioned human experience layered in rooms beneath the folds of time.
The town stretched along the Mekong and wandered inland towards the surrounding hills. I booked into the Wattay Noi Hotel, by the river, on the edge of town. Calling it a hotel was a little ambitious. It was a three story, family run pensione, clean and comfortable enough. On the rooftop was a flat open space with tables and chairs and some old parachutes as shading draped around. On one side there were clear views across the Mekong to Nong Khai and Thailand along the river banks.
Perhaps, just perhaps, it may have been possible to see Bill Youngs house compound from up on that roof. But what did I know back then. From the other side you looked over the immediate village below, and across Vientianne with the infamous hills as a backdrop in the distance. The Lao hills beyond Vientianne concealed various hills tribe guerilla factions, along with the Pathet Lao, Viet Cong, and covert C.I.A operations. There were all sorts of life threatening forces and nefarious activities busily undermining each other in the dark mountain jungle terrain.

THRU THE HALCYON HAZE

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THRU THE HALCYON HAZE

acrylics on canvas
80x100cm
For Sale.

This is one of my personal favourites. It has lots of little painterly tricks or devices that come together okay as a whole. The colours sing and the images are sufficiently roughed up or weathered to my liking. The title? – something about looking back thru the halcyon haze, through the memory funnel, and how more happiness than pain seems to prevail. The rose-coloured glasses in hindsight. the brain seems to tint or filter our recollections. sometimes life or events or periods of time seem like halcyon days in reflection when maybe it wasnt always sunshine and roses? How we’re affected by advertising, more than we can ever know, and media of the times. How for example the 50′s and 60′s into the early 70′s, periods of great prosperity and growth, always conjure up (mostly) Happy Days, everything moving cheeringly forwards and upwards. Those were the days! etc..i’ve always enjoyed old magazines, used to collect them – Life, Pix, Post etc. But my favourite was National Geographic from the 50′s and 60′s. It had quality colour and B+W photos, along with advertising. Lots of photos of people doing research with instruments indoors and outdoors. Often strange lighting or shadows that gave them a Francis Bacon quality. There were just lots of painterly references in the magazine, be it colour, font, texture etc. Also great for collage work. But basically those decades conjure up happy suited men whistling off to work, happy smiling wives with all their new domestic machines making life a breeze, and happy freckled children playing outside under sunny skies or filling their faces full of happy and heavily advertised food products from the supermarket. Of Bikinis and beachballs, of outboard motors and chromed rocket tail-lighted cars, teenage trends, drive-in movies and takeaway diners. Endless fun under the endless sun. Or so it seemed. The world has changed now.
So has advertising, and weve changed with it. Happy consumers that we are. So easily pleased.Sometimes i feel like a lab rat in a hamster wheel world. Then i wake up, and the sun is shining, the budgies are singing, breakfast is cooking and its time to do the dance of life. Happy daze are here again, thru the halcyon haze.

LOTUS EATER

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LOTUS EATER

acrylic on canvas
95x135cm
For Sale.

Its been reported that one in ten Americans believe the missing Malaysian airship was either stolen by aliens or had entered another space dimension or parallel universe. This left me with uncomfortable memories from the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits TV programs from the 60’s. It also shouldn’t be an intelligence level indicator of the general American population, as in all likelihood a poll in other countries may suggest similar results. Besides, Americans have the NRA and their gun culture standing out like a neon sign in the desert, to advertise any shortcomings in collective intelligence or logic at least. Besides, generalisations stray from the truth.
For a brief moment last week I thought I’d personally sighted the back half or tail end of the missing airship, sitting precariously on top of the roof of a new hip streetstyle shopping complex in Canggu. I’d been invited to tour the premises with a view to creating a street art patina along the walls of the three storey complex. Also to paint the fuselage of the huge DC10 rear end mounted with metal girders on the rooftop. The rooftop was to be a club-restaurant, and the ever dwindling Bali customer was to be enticed to enter a ground floor lift which transported you up into the body of the plane. You then walked through the plane and exited with the aid of velvet ropes and red carpet onto the club deck. I made a cheap joke to the entrepreneur about the missing aircraft, hoping he had put the passengers up in a quality Bali resort, and that it was a helluva way to obtain an aeroplane. The entrepreneur gave me a halfbaked grimace that was trying desperately to be a smile. I said I guess you’ve had a few of those jokes already huh? Just a few he mumbled. Apart from poor taste I was also probably touching on bad luck, karma, or Javanese magic spells. These were the last things he needed sprinkled like some foul smelling fairy dust on top of a heavy investment, the dark forces of Indonesian superstition being what they are.

Its been revealed that in the late 60’s a soviet sub that sank to the bottom in the waters north east of Hawaii was eventually abandoned and left to rest in peace. However the CIA had other plans afoot to raise it from the depths so as to obtain hard intelligence of soviet technology and collateral secret information. So as not to arouse attention, they disguised the project under the Howard Hughes corporate umbrella. They had a huge platform ship wielding a giant claw that was to descend to the ocean floor, grasp the submarine and drag it back up to the surface, not unlike the amusement arcade claw machine that drops down and clutches hopelessly at pink fluffy toys. If raised successfully, the submarine would be housed metres underwater, camouflaged and hidden from aerial view, then towed back Stateside. The claw actually managed to secure a section of the sub, the rest broke away. It was a grand idea, full of cold war opportunism and ingenuity, if not short on a few marbles. But the project was abandoned after the press got a whiff of it, followed quickly by the Soviets arriving on the scene. Another example of American intelligence of a different kind. Not wishing to harp on this subject, just funny how the lines interconnect in this crazy mixed up world.

Lotus Eaters is yet another revamped canvas. I’d earlier experimented with different screenprinting mediums, mixing them with paint, this had unwittingly caused the colour to fade in a couple of works. I really liked the style or techniques used in this work, it had elements of David Salle and the monotone overlayer style of late 50’s advertising. I thought the canvas was beyond repair and was going to white it out and paint over it. Fortunately I stuck with it, reprinting the girl first, and the rest fell into place or came back to life, the same but a little different.

Ive recently rediscovered the dark joys of Depeche Mode, and the journey they’ve been on.They just seem to age like a good wine, becoming a very tight outfit. Their early haircut and synth pop days aside, they morphed into a darker creature, with ongoing themes of good and evil, religion, heaven and hell, redemption and forgiveness, of praying and gospel. They flavor all this with references to bible belt Evangelism, and cultism, a wide range of influences from New Orleans voodoo to southwest frontier images and Mexicana symbolism. Behind the wall of synth keyboards and machinegun drumming is the stripped back repetitive driving blues riffs. They have a revolving door policy towards their music, alternating between dance tracks, big atmospheric ballads and driving pop/rock songs. Dave Gahn often coming on like some fallen preacherman confessing his sins via lyrics that evoke pulp dime novels, of stories from the quasi-religious swampy backwaters of the deep south. I’m not religious, I’m not sure if they are, but I like the quirky melting pot where it all comes from, and the occasional alchemy and polished gems they create from it.

LONELY AGAIN..

acrylic on canvas -95x135cm – For Sale.

Another recent work using a combo of collage, decollage and torn poster styles. Painted over an old canvas, there were so many layers of paint or build-up that the canvas texture had disappeared and the final surface had an almost glassy effect, which i quite liked. Just keeping in touch during these quiet months. We’ve had a small flurry of sales recently-thank the gods of art!..including one heavily tattooed hipster from Byron Bay, whose negotiating style via text message was to swear at me, abuse me and criticize my work, even my name, basically insult me as much as possible, in some kind of bullying technique. Then when we finally settled on a price, he apologised and lavished praise on me, and empathised with me!? -it was totally weird, i felt a bit bruised and soiled and had a vague idea how a sex worker must feel at times? i tell you its a tough gig being an artist! (;
speaking of which, i keep in touch with other artists sites, blogs and exhibitions. these are artists in Uk, France, Usa and Australia, and ive notice over the past year a significant downturn in activity or internet posts and showings, certainly compared to two or three years ago.This is the impact of the global downturn i’m guessing.

ive been reading of impending war, of another big crash coming, the real one, the one theyve managed to stave off and windowdress as an extended recession, avoiding the ‘D’ word at all times for fear of tipping us over into a ‘D’..but it seems we may have just postponed the inevitable, the bitter pill we must swallow, the tough love we need to have? either way, with climate change or seemingly worsening weather cycles(thats for the climate change denialists?) combined with the constant outbreak of contained wars (russia now) and the global economic dilemna, its not altogether a cheery looking world or life ahead it seems.
not wishing to sound like a pessimist, however its hard to not see us all collectively, slowly going down the giant gurgler, the big plughole of life?
speaking of pessimism, this brings me to Russ, the character from the wonderful True Detectives series and its gripping almost spellbinding screenwriting. Ive replayed some sections of dialogue over and over, relishing the wordplay and mash-up of ideas and reference points. Russ the pessimist “lets just say i dont go down well at parties” weaving futility and nihilism into their daily worktime car conversations in his lofty existential way.The Woody Harrelson character giving him sideglances and stating “Russ, i want you to stop talking that weird shit when we’re together in this car..how you can smell the psychosphere, or how you feel like youre in someones faded memory of a town!”
The religion shakedown conversation at the biblebashers tent was great meaty stuff also. The way the script mixes up the fears and anxieties of life, with philosophy, science, religion and backwater voodoo/demonic cult practices-and juxtaposes them against Woody’s character, who is struggling to hold together his normal suburban family life of lawnmowers, BBQ’s and hot dinners in his tick tock TV land world.
Its great to have a series to watch with a bit of meat on the bone, like the Sopranos in that sense.Theres talk the next series of True Detective will be based in southern Cali with a possible Brad Pitt character. Hollywood aside, he has a good track record of playing curly critters in cameo roles, and is interconnected with Woody through Natural Born Killers.

GOING DOWN TO FUNKYTOWN

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GOING DOWN TO FUNKYTOWN
acrylic on canvas
80x100cm
For Sale.

As we drew closer to big city civilization the traffic and energy grew more intense. We had left the sleepy towns behind, the idyllic time spent as beach bums amongst the friendly fisherman and villagers; and slowly we were absorbed into the artificial neon world, the well rehearsed chaos, the cacophony of industry, the buzz of money, in the belly of the beast. Bangkok.

The Grace Hotel or Gracies as the groundfloor venue was affectionately called, was a large cocktail bar with a sixties décor still hanging around. On most nights it was usually brimming over with American serviceman on leave from the Vietnam war, which wasn’t that far away as the crow flies. There were also a small minority of Australian servicemen, various businessmen, tourists of all persuasions and of course the main attraction, dozens of sexy girls who worked as bar dancers wearing bikinis and high heels with little numbered plastic discs pinned to their outfit. Or they worked as hostesses, wearing more clothing and plying drinks on customers but ultimately offering the same services.

These girls flocked in from the country villages in the hope of making money from the farangs, the foreigners. They often had a child or two already, and sent their hard earned money back to their village to assist their families.

This was Bangkok at the crest of the Vietnam war and the bright lights of the clubs and bars seemed to go on forever, with servicemen spilling out everywhere, in uniform or in civvies. Either way they were recognizable and to be avoided as much as possible. Bangkok was the R+R capital, the closest, quickest, safest ,fly-in fly -out pleasurezone available to the neighbouring war.

Most on leave revellers were drunk, high, or both, or on their way to getting there. There were sad drunks, and angry drunks, crazy psycho types, those that were dazed and confused, and a few conservative geeky looking types who hung in groups having coffee. Bible-belters likely. But mostly it was full tilt boogie, go hard, get smashed, get laid, and go home.These were endless wild nights fuelled by the American taxpayers dollar. A lot of supercharged testosterone seeking to blow off steam in any way possible before regrouping and flown back to the reality of the military machinations and frontline camps in the dark jungles of Vietnam.

Gracies was the hotspot, the appetizer, the rendezvous, where you met your crew and kicked off the night. From there they would move on to the adjoining Hideaway Club, or the Pigalle, Safari, Executive, and a classic for the time, the Superstar. As the night progressed, the action got heavier and more hardcore in the smaller backstreet bars and clubs as they morphed into the red light areas. Most things were available, a variety of sex novelty attractions, all the clichés imaginable and more. The crowd and traffic noise, a heady mix by itself; disco music, rocknroll, blues, jazz and syrupy Thai pop music all swirling around together in the night air.

I was a twenty two year old fine arts student, a little out of his league perhaps but swimming with the current, going with the flow, learning a thing or two along the way. Bangkok at this time was quite apocalyptic in a hedonistic way. It was some kind of Sodom and Gomorrah with all the furious energy of a tropical monsoon.

Now I was leaving the city behind, and as the coach jostled its way through traffic on the exit ramps, lanes and highways, I began to amuse myself looking at billboards. There were occassional handpainted canvas banners and movie billboards draped from the sides of buildings and overpasses. The paintings were remarkably skilfull in their garish colours, not unlike Pop art. I admired the scale and impact of these, and recalled how billboards and their painters were the cornerstone of pop art in their handpainted zenith in the American 50’s and 60’s.They had a dazzling immediacy, a rawness and naievety about them, unlike our slick corporate campaigns, these weren’t hamstrung by social values, morals or taste. What you saw was what you got – buckets of painted blood, lurid violence, and fluorescent sex.

Slumped against the window gazing out as we hit the outskirts and the city profile started to melt away, I began to notice an increasing military presence. As we headed north there were Thai soldiers on duty mingling in night markets, at major intersections, and guarding public buildings. Along the highway itself were convoys of army trucks parked on the sides or moving through the traffic, full of seated soldiers with weapons at the ready, all junglegreens and webbing. They all had the same serious looks on the faces, as though they had serious places to go and serious things to do. With Vietnam just next door running the length of the country, and its civil war starting to fall apart and collapse in on itself, Thailand was obviously in a heightened state of vigilance.

(Bordertown)- There mustve been hundreds of soldiers here, seemingy on short term leave from across the border. What immediately stood out was that they were nearly all young African Americans.
It dawned on me what I was seeing closer to the Vietnam front, were the foot soldiers, the cattle, the cannon fodder. They were spilling down the streets, jostling past the coach, jeering and jivetalking, pushing and shoving, drunk and loaded. I gazed at the faces as they bustled by. There seemed to be two expressions only, wildeyed or numb. They seemed manic and revved up, half crazed even, or devoid of expression, with those blank soulless eyes, like something inside them had died. A heavy mix of war and drugs. These guys weren’t like the troops on R+R in Bangkok, all starchpressed and cleanshaven, bootpolished and smelling like the oil of a Califonian poppy.

These young soldiers were dragged in from outposts and perimeter patrol duties for a quick furlow, maybe a 24 hour turnaround. This was real frontline cannonfodder, still rough around the edges and still warzone wild. One or two nights of freedom in some semi-reality to blow off their load.They hadn’t adjusted and probably never would. One day in a bunker or patrolling the jungle, or digging latrines. The next day in a dimly lit brothel made of packing crates and cheap linoleum, or an outside disco bar high on Mekong whisky and heroin. All falling around in the mud and the stench and the beer like something from a cowboy movie.

The town and its jungle green rent-a-crowd had taken on a bizarre quality, like some strange filmset, a Thai spaghetti western.Then from out of the background as the coach slowly inched through the street crowds, amidst the maze of garish coloured lights, snaking through the crowd, I heard what was now becoming a familiar and haunting refrain. Only this time it had an eerie disjointed quality to it, the night had just gone to a surreal level as I heard “Everyone was Kung-fu fighting, those moves were fast as lightning, in fact it was a little bit frightening”.
Once again amongst the shadows and market stalls, country kids were kungfu-ing and kickboxing to the tune, oblivious to the heightened tension of a country surrounded by turmoil.

We finally arrived at Nong Khai in the red dust haze of early morning and given a fourteen day visa. With the steam rising off the jungle and a refreshing coolness in the morning air, we crossed the Mekong river into Laos, aboard a small chugging ferry at sunrise.
(excerpts from short story ‘Night Coach To Nong Khai’
by Bret Polok)

ROBOTS OF DESIRE

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ROBOTS OF DESIRE

acrylic on canvas
60x80cm

We wound down out of the Perth hills towards the flat plains of Midland Junction on a blustery mid winters night. We were hills boys and wrapped in our op-shop overcoats we felt cocooned in a watertight cabin with the heater on and the soothing bass tones of Fm radio and the cassette player.
Beneath us purred the big six of an old Dodge ute. On purchase the duco was showing its age with telltale signs of car cancer. Rust was starting to appear and to avoid a police work order, a yellow sticker on the windscreen, we rubbed the car down, puttied it up and handsprayed it with several cans of cheap aerosol enamel in matt white. The aerosol can method was amateurish at best, resulting in patchy paint work closer to graffiti than a car duco job. Standing back it looked more like a swirling mobile cloud by default. A celestial white smudge against the black bitumen. A heavenly body always out of context grounded against its earthly surrounds. We nicknamed it the Cloud. A car called cloud. Just taking the cloud for a spin around the block.
So in our white cloud we descended into the industrial lighting of the Midland flats below. Down amongst the boneyards and detritus of working class dreams. Past the secondhand truck lots, the semi prime movers and farmtrucks, the abbotoir and fertilizer factories, the railway shunting yards, liquor stores and takeaway food outlets. We made our way through the bleak scrapyards and livestock pens. Up in the night sky the wind whips around yesterdays news and plastic shopping bags as flying insects are illuminated by the phosphorescent glow of street lighting.
We drove past unionized working mens pubs with names like the Freemasons Arms and the Railway Hotel whose sticky dark carpets are embedded with the stain of old mens dreams, the hard lumps of gum as left over mementoes from their faded lives, their beer and spittle, burn holes and butts like punctuation marks in the carpet. Strewn across the worn floors like dead moths are the torn up betting tabs of the eternal battling punters. The smoke filled rooms with raucous cackle, loud rock ballads pumping from a jukebox, skimpy barmaids and the clack of pool balls.
Soon we are in the dimly lit back blocks slipping past the last of the used car lots and petrol stations with their sad colourful bunting flapping noisily for nobody in the empty streets, winding through the upper swan valley. Past the neverending old vineyards whose rows of vines stand stark in the winter moonlight. Heading north to sunshine and freedom in the subtropics, to the dry season heat of northwestern Australia.
(excerpt from short story ‘A Car Called Cloud’ by Bret Polok.

this is an earlier painting from a couple of years back, once again ‘trying’ to depict life in a leaky boat..the contradictions between our sheltered middleclass existence, and reality? (;

RETURN TO DREAMSVILLE

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RETURN TO DREAMSVILLE

acrylic on canvas
95 x 125 cm

BODGIE LAND
In Inglewood if I was bored in between homework and sports training I’d hang out sometimes with greasy Tony across the street. He seemed to take me under his wing without bullying me too much. I was his underage assistant, the passenger, a fifteen year old shotgun rider, a witness to his hotted up car dreams. This was a leafy low rent suburb of solid old brick bungalow style housing from the thirties and forties. It was leafy parks and sporting grounds all the way back to the sparkling city which was only a 25 minute bus ride away. But from here on out in the other direction north, it was bogan country, or bodgie land, where the thin veneer of society was tested frequently. It was a time of rockers and mods, bodgies and widgies, surfies and beatniks even.
The Australian suburbs were a strange stew at the best of times, with its own parochial layers of local culture, the greater blanket of national identity, and imported overseas pop culture. In the suburbs all these factors came crashing together and bounced off forming their own divisions and turf and gangs.
Bodgies were greasers or rockers favouring Brylcreem, and clothing such as tight jeans with chrome studded belts with car emblems on the buckle. The Ford V8 customline emblem was considered premium. They wore black mesh singlets or black satin shirts, or workers dark plaid shirts, wrinkle soled black desert boots, had crude highschool tatts, and listened to rockn’roll. Their palefaced pimply girlfriends were widgies or greasy moles who always seemed to get pregnant and disappear for awhile. They hung around hotted up cars and motorbikes. Bodgies came across as tougher more disenfranchised or dysfunctional, born to lose and proud of it. They all smoked and chewed gum a lot. They drank mainly king browns of beer or bottles of coke and ate hamburgers and fish n’ chips from Hamburger joints and Milkbars. Most of them couldn’t afford cars or motorbikes, so they just hung around those that could, the older ones with a steady job.
I’d go driving with greasy Tony in his rumble wagon. His pride and joy. The chick magnet. He’d head straight for the heart of bodgie land, Morley Park, and cruise the parking lots and takeaways. He’d pull over and park somewhere busy and we’d just hang out and watch girls, chewing wrigleys spearmint sticks, drinking coke and smoking ‘Styvo’s’ or Peter Stuyvesants, “the international passport to smoking pleasure”. A bodgie with a sophisticated edge? Tony liked the soft pack and how you half opened the top and could tap a durrie out from the bottom. It looked cool i guess. He always had the latest girlie magazine to flick through in the car glovebox with his condoms, the fantasy compartment, a way of killing time as though somehow equating those images with what he was trying to pick up I guess.
Tony was always working on his car, a Holden FB sedan. The rear end was jacked up with suspension blocks, and he always seemed to have oily hands, grease under the fingernails and smelling of petrol. Constantly working on the tappets or the timing and the carbies. It was all shaved heads, rocker covers, double valve springs, manifolds and extractors. Then there were the wheels, the grill, and the interior customising such as the steering wheel and the gear stick which was converted from the column to a floor shift. This was before tape decks and cd players. Maybe the best thing then if you could afford it was a stereo or FM radio, otherwise it was twiddling the dial for AM top 40 hits such as Them, Kinks, Spencer Davis or The Troggs. He liked his Stones singles and I was good with that. His favourite was ‘Get Off My Cloud’ which wasnt trad bodgie music, otherise Elvis was the king and Gerry Lee Lewis the dark prince.
Once a month there’d be a dance at the Bedford Park youth Club. We’d pull into the carpark and like others hold court in the car with doors open, covertly drinking from king browns, Emu bitter. We’d go inside if the band broke into a good dance tune, and stomp or jive a little. Sometimes the police would cruise by. Other times a fight or scuffle might break out in the carpark. I always seemed to get overlooked in these, even when confronted by a brawling bogan or bodgie, they would move on perhaps looking for the real deal. It was as if I wore a badge that said ‘the passenger’, or perhaps my style confounded the bodgies- i was also in black like them, but more a confused beatnik style with black boots and a dark turtleneck, black skinny pinstriped pants, and a sixties moptop. Maybe they felt sorry for me. The odd looking geek.
But mainly we were all there to dip into the teenage hormonal pool of frustrated desire in the backseats of cars. It was all pretty innocent really given the girdled underwear of the times which acted like a firewall to stop unbridled lust dead in its tracks. Any type of sex or foreplay back then was based on psychological warfare. First you had to break down their mind control. Then soften them up. A kind of slow torture really, for both parties. The word love was often thrown around as some kind of guarantee or insurance, offering a smokescreen validity you couldn’t bank on, but sometimes paid dividends.
(excerpt from short story “Bodgieland” by Bret Polok.)

once again the above painting doesnt have much to do with this story, but then again maybe it does..just another work to keep my mojo working, with whats available for the time being.

DOG DAY DESIRES

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DOG DAY DESIRES

acrylic on canvas
95x135cm

I’m walking down George street past the dark video parlours, pinballs, movie houses, takeaways, and ice cream shops. Sirens are wailing all over the city. Its just rained a heavy tropical downpour. The wet streets are rivers of neon colour. Distant church bells are ringing in the oppressive night sky. My t-shirt sticks to my back. I’m wet with sweat and grimy city rain. The sky is sheer purgatory. Low clouds as grey as battleships completely blanket the city rolling and boiling like molten lead. The city lights are trapped beneath the clouds making them flicker and glow in turgid colours, silhouetting a swarm of bats squealing and diving over city buildings and traffic.
Down on the street wino’s junkies and crazies stumble and fall as they rant to themselves and nobody listens or cares. Pressing crowds of fashionable young things bright as butterflies prancing off to clubs and restaurants and theatres mesmerized by flashing lights and noisy streetlife like moths to the flame, as they step over the casualties of life on the sidewalk amongst the streams and pools of cheap wine and piss.
Cutting through Chinatown my rubbersoled shoes slip and slide on the food scraps littering the street, cabbage leaves and fat. The smells of barbecued pork and pungent sweet wok fried sauces hang in the air. Chinamen get out of their smart little Japanese cars puffing their chests and suck cigarette smoke through gold teeth. I’m carrying a blue plastic shopping bag containing an art magazine, takeaway chinese, two Heinekins, a can of bourbon and coke, and a pack of Lucky Strikes. I’m going home for dinner. I cough and spit to clear my throat. It’s the pollution and the warm sticky air. (excerpt from short story-”Takeway Chinese In An Occasional Hell)

this doesnt have much to do with anything, maybe it relates to Dog Day Desires obliquely? this canvas is playing around with pop keeping it strong and simple. Black always makes for bling and colours sing. not breaking new ground here, but keeping my mojo wet.

HOLIDAY ROMANCE

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HOLIDAY ROMANCE

acrylic on canvas
95x125cm.
2010.
For Sale.

Well, its official it seems, after 15 years of cruising in (plastic) paradise as my alter ego ‘Scooter Boy’, and living the dream of the artist lotus eater, it is time the walrus said, to come crashing back to earth…or to a harsher western reality at least. So my little family and i will make the move back to Perth sometime this year, within the next few months probably, and look forward to the positives that Perth has to offer – clean air, little pollution, great food and coffee, big blue skies, suburban rage, meth/crackheads etc – cant wait to get amongst it, with excited trepidation..

meanwhile back in the studio, since on the subject of leaving Bali, i thought i’d have a Bali theme today..with this canvas ‘Holiday Romance’, painted a while ago, but a personal favourite. I’ll finish off with some lines from a short story of mine about first arriving in Bali all those years go in year 2000…how things have changed.

WELCOME TO PARADISE..

Peering below as the plane circled over the beaches of Nusa Dua and Sanur, I was taken by the standard postcard image of shining white sands and sparkling turquoise waves. Along the beach tidy rows of bronzed bodies lying in near naked states of inertia, oiled and sizzling on their sunbeds amongst the coconut and palm trees, like so many german sausages in G-strings. It was all so wonderfully clichéd, just like a travel write-up in a glossy magazine. Beyond the breaking waves the sea was flattened into an oily mass typical of the tropics. Further out in the water could be seen huge floating trails of brown sludge, which curiously ran parallel to the string of hotels along the beachfront.
As the plane dropped lower over the water, what I imagined to be coral flotsam and jetsam, or an abundance of colourful reef fish, morphed into large clumps of multicoloured plastic floating out to sea and merging with the brown sludge like some exotic potpourri. The telltale signs of life as we know it. The island of the gods was surrounded by a magic ring of floating turds and discarded plastic shopping bags. Possibly to ward off evil spirits. It certainly didn’t appear to ward off the tourists, who were no doubt partially or indirectly responsible for this refuse, along with the original inhabitants.
“Welcome to paradise!” announced the pilots smooth voice over the intercom, as the seatbelt signs flashed and the Indonesian trolley-dollys adjusted themselves and made ready to land.
Finally the airport auto-sliding doors had closed behind me on the leering oppurtunistic immigration officers, and also closed on a chapter of my life. Now here I was on the wrong side of forty, out of shape, out of season, dressed in the wrong clothes, slowly withering in the humidity, waiting for my lift at Ngurah Rai airport. Before me lay the exciting prospect of living and working in a kind of permanent holiday mode on this lush volcanic rock, one rock east of Java, this once fabled 1930’s cultural paradise, the perfumed garden, a surfing and tourist mecca, this land of black and white magic, age old superstitions, of colourful clockwork Hindu ceremonies, this island of the gods, Bali.

Fragments From Pleasureland

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Fragments From Pleasureland

acrylic on canvas
50x105cm
For Sale.

Another monday morning in Ponky Plastic Paradise. how fast the days go. Bali is awash with garbage and plastic refuse washed up on the beaches. the recent cyclonic weather along with the usual wet season has seen the onshore winds push all the garbage that was washed down the canals and waterways and into the sea, back onto the beaches. yes its sad, terrible, ugly, awful, foul etc…but in some ways its a good thing. a kind of instant karma that must be addressed. if only all countries garbage was immediately dumped back on their shores, then there would be a likewise response. people and countries would clean up their own mess, and take responsibility. instead most countries garbage gets flushed down the waterways into the coastal currents and drifts away to join the great oceanic swirling sludgepools…the floating garbage graveyards that are in international waters, out of mind but not out of sight. so in some ways it would be better if more of Bali’s garbage washed back on its shores, then the people would have to deal with the root cause, and set in place a cleaner, more accountable, efficient disposal and processing system..but here in the land of rubber time and ancient clockwork ceremonies, i’m probably dreaming?
then theres the maddening gridlock traffic, but we wont go there…not today.

‘Fragments’ is another small salvaged or reworked canvas using the decollage or torn poster method. i enjoy this process along with the collage techniques. always lots of options, variables and unknowns. has a sort of retro vibe to it.

More Style More Power and a Built In Future

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More Style More Power and a Built In Future

acrylic on canvas
60x80cm
For Sale.

Was quite pleased with this result. these decollage styles can turn out to be a dogs dinner sometimes, but you just have to keep working it, until you hit a stage where it sings! of course you can cross that line and its overworked and you scrub the whole thing out and start again, or save the best bits for the next layers of collage. was experimenting with one technique, palette knife texturing-it can be seen under the yellow arrow stripes top left corner-but in the process i changed tack, as you do, and stumbled onto another interesting or accidental mistake. A tearing up of the paint surface. i’m always trying to get texture in my work one way or another. i’d noticed this ‘tearing’ result before, but hadnt deliberately pursued it. this time it happened with the easter island image on bottom right, and then i applied it to the girl on the left. It happens when you lay the screen down on the background colour while the paint is still wet. The trick is the paint has to be at the right stage of tackiness or semi cured. when screening the image on top, the pressure of the squeegee sticks the screen to the paint, and when you pull the screen off, it tears or lifts off areas of paint, both top and bottom layers, leaving a weathered roughed up texture. There is a slight risk of tearing your screen i suppose, but thats a ‘feel’ thing too.

ive been quite intrigued and influenced by old photographs recently, particularly daguerreotypes and early colour photography, and the grainy scratchy surface on these. so this screen process goes some way to achieving this. the other ways are hand weathering the finished paint surface yourself eg-sandpaper etc, or screenprinting weathered textures on top. or on each layer as you go. i already have new weathered textures photoshopped and ready for screen, using natural and urban textures, paint surfaces etc. for mine the big thing with decollage or collage is getting the balance right. it has to look accidental or random, but just right, not so random its a visual mess, it still must be left with some aesthetic or pictorial qualities. This is the wonderful ongoing joy of discovery or learning a craft i guess. little steps of fulfillment and progress along the way. it certainly makes up for other parts of my dysfunctional life in this futuro-modern fastchanging world!?? the title is one ive used before, and will use again no doubt, borrowed from a retro journal and the golden era of advertising.

The Vibrant Night Life Unfolds At Cocktail Hour

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The Vibrant Night Life Unfolds At Cocktail Hour

acrylics on canvas
95x135cm
For Sale.

A title i found randomly in a magazine and spiked up a little. it related to the banner at the foot of the canvas, and was ambiguous enough to fit in and possibly suggest any number of things. thats the thing about art, it doesnt have to mean anything. it doesnt have to make sense or offer revelations and epiphanys. it can simply exist in its own mercurial unknown state. a creative connundrum hanging on your wall. this doesnt make it any less worthy or valuable. its integrity is not compromised. many great works of art are indeed unexplainable, meaningless, or abstract. most artists revel in being obtuse or contradictory with their imagemaking, this is normal practise and part of the creative process. they would probably wonder why i even bother dwelling on this topic.
but its come to my attention on numerous occasions, when dealing with clients on the internet and in our little gallery (Art Haus-Jl.Drupardi, Seminyak, Bali) – that many require an explanation or a breakdown of a painting. they ask ‘can you please explain this’ or ‘what does this mean’. rather than give them some flip, cool, obscure warholian reply, and to avoid having to explain the unexplainable (and make a fool of myself), i go down the road of ‘you know, art doesnt have to mean anything’ or simply try and change the subject as covertly as possible. any of this will usually produce a reaction from the client, often expressed as a wry, knowing smile, suggesting an element of flakiness or con-artistry is involved. that it’s somehow not real or genuine without a legitimate certificate of explainability? how can i, the client, therefore buy into it, let alone be able to explain it later to my social circle, in the intimacy of my loungeroom? and why should i invest my good money into something that doesnt make sense? but does life make sense? does house music make sense? – i guess you can jerk and twerk to it! of course art, and even the unexpalinable has different meanings to different people. its what people read into it. it can trigger different emotions, it can stimulate memories, or draw out an intellectual response. thats the thing about art, its mercurial, its alchemy, its shapeshifting magic. its something that didnt exist before, for better or worse (thats a different subject). a combination of images, symbols, text, marks, drips or splashes that didnt exist before.
personally, i draw on lots of different reference points from my past, my influences, my travels, the people and streets ive observed, books and movies, things that bother me in the world, all sorts of stuff, as i’m sure most artists do. all these little signals and signposts that may or may not evoke a response from the viewer…
regarding pop art, neo pop art, and pop culture, i lose track of it all and what it means. there is so much work out there now in the world or on internet that tags itself under the genre of pop art, it seems to have become a bottomless grab bag for anything distantly or poorly related. pop art seems to fold back in on itself to reinvent itself in increasingly minute extensions. street art is not so different. possibly a lot of art is doing the same in these speedy internet heady days. in fact i dont think there is any longer a need to label something as pop art, because its become such a generality, a common platform most things are based on, its either no longer relevant, past its used by date, or is just simply ‘art’. why bother with the pop tag? i’m making unpop-ular art now. like music there is so much fusion, cross pollination, sampling and deconstructing going on, it seems often impossible to refer to anything tangible such as art history. has the internet era broken down the seemingly rigid timeline of (western?) art history. the lineage is no longer laid out like a train line. suddenly all types of art are everywhere all at once all the time, forever? how does art history deal with this. its also just one example of how the internet and social media is breaking down stereotypes and changing the world..
anyway once again i banter on in my own obsessive microcosm..getting back to the painting above..i’m somewhat fiscally unfathomable at present, and cant commit new images onto screen for the time being due to the cost involved…so all i can do is experiment in techniques with the images at hand, albeit somewhat overused..necessity being the mother of invention? one hopes..and tries.

Sometimes I Wonder

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Sometimes I Wonder

acrylic, aerosol, gloss varnish on canvas
100x145cm
For Sale

What a week…there was snowfall in north vietnam, and snowcovered pyramids in cairo, while australia has its hottest pre-summer on record, ever. i wouldnt have thought it ever snowed in cairo, well not since the last big freeze, but apparently it last snowed there 112 years ago. this places it around the industrial revolution times, give or take a few years, and thus mankinds first big input towards unwittingly polluting the planet…very difficult to connect the two though, although it would seem to give the climate denialists some ammunition in their argument. if it snowed over a century ago in cairo, and its snowing now, how can you attribute that to climate change would be their argument. Also the global banana industry is under threat from blight and an increase in insect swarms also purported to be caused by climate change..the worldwide bee population is shrinking..the sun is any day now about to flip its polarity, reverse its magnetic field, which it does every 11 years, creating added electro-magnetic activity, causing outtages in communications technology…a woman walking along a melbourne pier, engrossed in her handphone, absentmindedly walked off the end of the pier, and fell into the sea, coincidentally she couldnt swim. she was saved by onlookers, and when police interviewed her she reported no lost valuables, and was still clutching her handphone..a sign of the times in a crazy mixed up world.

sometimes i wonder if you join all these little news headlines and bits of internet information together, would you see a bigger picture. are they intermittent indicators towards shifting patterns in society, stockmarkets, climate, borders, and countries. like hashtags are they guiding you towards some kind of inevitable result. these indicators often predict wars, or natural disasters or stockmarket collapses. sometimes the writing is on the wall, the proof is in the pudding, the devil is in the detail. sometimes there is a trail of clues or minor events leading up to a final result, often viewed more clearly with the benefit of hindsight. for example look at the events leading up to the first and second world wars, the signposts were there, and with some huge natural disasters in the past. the earth or nature gave us warning signs. animals, birds, insects are very attuned to natures signals. man not so much.

sometimes i wonder if its a widely held view that life in the world as we know it will end someday. that it will unravel something like this…increasing frequency of storms and superstorms, cyclones, tornadoes and typhoons, blizzards and ice storms, bushfires, floods, and rising sea levels. these will occur with more frequency to the point where we hardly have time to recover from one event, when another is upon us, and another, until there is no time to recover from these relentless forces of nature. this causes a domino effect or flow on to wildlife, insects, fish and birds. things are thrown out of balance. insect plagues persist. fish are no longer plentiful. basic crops are destroyed and cant recover. there is a worldwide food shortage. crops are blighted and food stocks run low.

this leads to mass migration from the rural areas to the cities, and more importantly across borders and countries. food, water and shelter become the most important agendas for
these shifting populations. cities and infrastructures are overwhelmed. law and order breaks down. the thin veneer of society, the very fabric itself, begins to rip and tear. riots and mass looting takes place. whole commercial areas are ransacked. the suburbs are prized pickings and become fenced off and patrolled by gangs of local paramilitary homeowners. one house can supply a group of drifters or raiders with shelter, vehicles, food, weapons, tools, supplies and a large array of survival items. just eliminate the occupants. its them or you. kill or be killed. survival reduced to its most basic level…and returning to indicators again, you know where all this is heading, you know you know what comes next, you just cant face the reality of it, the overwhelming fear, of …….Bloodsucking Zombies! thats right, those motherfucking, creepy, shapeshifting, walking dead. those rancid smelling, ghoulish cadavers with putrid flesh that feed in a frenzied orgy, greedily gulping down your blood.
this is where we’re headed, and this is the new reality, the atonement, the judgement, the sentence passed down for all your past transgressions..ye who have idolised false gods, icons and brand names. ye who have slavishly followed fashion and style, who are consumed by material possessions and status symbols. your empty pathetic shopping mall mentality. you buy more happiness as you shimmer translucent in your shallowness, you revel in your hedonistic narcissism as you devour all that trite and fluffy ‘stuff’. those meaningless labels to appease your bloated ego, as you slowly gorge your way to a living hell..like the kardashians you are already a zombie, you just didnt know it…

just fucking with you.

sometimes i wonder if i shouldnt get back to work, and cease this mindless banter.

sometimes i wonder is a new canvas with some old favourites. its been re-worked and rectified since it was last posted. i wanted something bold and bright, something that pops!
its not so much a new direction yet, just tweaking and twerking-oops, tuning, fiddling about with bits and pieces.
i remove my canvasses from the taksu gallery exhibition tomorrow. it ran for 2 weeks. nothing sold. disappointing for both parties, but thats the way it is here in Bali for the time being.my interview in the yak magazine should be out this week, hopefully that drives some sales.
i had an offer over the internet, a commission to paint a 1.5 x2.5 m canvas. thats quite large. but we just coudnt reach an agreement on the price. it was so frustrating as i could certainly use the funds. i came down generously in price, but the client wanted a cheaper price. finally my pride kicked in, and i said look ive done everything i can to help you, but you havent returned that, you havent met me halfway, i might be a struggling artist but i’m not a prostitute..and i say that with all due respect to sex workers…anyway no point crying over spilt milk, but damn sometimes i wonder. ((;

BAD NEWS AND CHEAP SHOES

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BAD NEWS AND CHEAP SHOES

acrylic on canvas
60x80cm
For Sale.

Well, the xmas tree has gone up again..how fast that comes around, it seems only a couple of months ago i packed it all away..life seems to speed up as you age – its connected to your memory banks, and how full the accounts are, apparently? i’m sure mines connected to the liberal imbibing ive done over the years, of various exotic beverages and ingredients..lets not go there, i’m liberal in my outlook, just dont hurt anyone or scare the horses in the process – well try not to.

i was chastising myself recently for my weekend imbibing at my tender autumnal age, and coincidentally trying to get some writing done-in the process i picked up an old book from my shelf for inspiration-it was Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis..i’d read it a few years back, and was sucked into its whirling vortex again, not being able to put it down..and quite gobsmacked by the amount, the scale, of his alcohol and substance consumption. How he can do all that and still be alive, let alone coherent – not unlike Hunter S.Thompson in that regard. The body is an amazing thing, up to a certain point i’m sure. Dont get me wrong, i’m not aspiring to those ‘tools’ to lubricate my writing, or anything else for that matter. However i did stop beating myself up after reading that. It made me look positively virginal? Mind you there are two or three decades difference, which must be taken into account..but i do like rolling around town on cuban rum…speaking of which, i finally caught up with the ‘Mad Men’ series (DVD) and am enjoying the golden era office and domestic surrounds, the styling and attention to detail is well pitched…i have to say the level of smoking and drinking seems abnormal..the smoking actually makes me feel nauseous, and i’m a casual smoker.How could they drink that much and function at their jobs? But you can see the same artful script or visual touches as The Sopranos..enjoying it.

The monsoonal rains are here, and recently flushed a drenched but cheerful Frenchman into our little gallery.He apologised profusely for leaving little puddles of water around the shop floor, then proceeded to purchase 18 canvasses. For this he received an excellent price for a bulk purchase, and both parties were happy. Its been slim pickings for many retail outlets in Bali, and for us, but this was a welcome relief, certainly eases the stress for awhile..once again ‘Vive Le France’..the French have been by far our best customers over time.

Bad News And Cheap Shoes=just pottering around with unfinished small canvasses lying around, before i get stuck into a new block of work, which i’m still prepping. This is another experiment with collage and decollage style, using more faded or vintage colours. It taken me awhile to realise that classic comic colours for instance, or mid century magazine graphics colours actually have a lot of black or paynes grey in them-quite toned down and flat. Am trying to focus or converge my seemingly continual problem of creating on about three stylistic fronts, into one mongrel hybrid..one bastard dog with a bite?..a job ahead of me, and so it goes…

Nelson Mandela free at last..the news and TV seems neverending with their tributes, which makes you suspect their reasons, converting his cache into viewing and thus advertising time..the nature of the beast…anyway, may he rest in peace.

Hotrod Holyland

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Hotrod Holyland

acrylics on canvas
95x135cm
For Sale.

Oh dear, i seem to have misplaced my Menu on this site..i cant find my HOME or my ABOUT pages or widgets or whatever theyre called – has anyone seen them?
Well, if you happen to be walking home and trip over my widget,or see my ABOUT page heading up an escalator at the shopping mall, please contact me.

So this painting is an earlier piece from a couple of years ago. it has a certain grungy quality that appeals to me, along with the ‘off’ colours.
I quite like the title also,Hotrod Holyland,seems to capture some of americas essence.I’ve always enjoyed watching the show on History called The Pickers, mainly because i like old retro or vintage collectibles, then it was Pawn Stars, and the vegas guy who restores stuff,and the vegas guy who flips cars,then storage wars,luggage wars,and flipping houses. now of course theres english versions and australian versions of some of these programs.anyway i slowly realised i was being annoyed by these programs,as much as i liked the finished products,it was all about loud aggressive males,stitching up a deal,clinching a bargain, making a profit..the collective machismo aggressive drive to succeed just became very unattractive,distasteful and offputting.

Am presently having a break from painting as i prep my images and ideas for a new block of work. The brakes have also been applied due to the economy slowdown,and a necessary visa run to Singapore,which has caused a break in routine,albeit a welcome one.

i’ve taken the oppurtunity to focus my attention on writing in the short term ahead. Have been writing off and on for years. Although never seriously, i’ve always bashed out random bits of spiel, along with many attempts at short stories. In my younger years i used to write poems and song lyrics, but discovered the portable typewriter, and was soon addicted to type and the printed word. i’m not actually that well read, not as much as others i know, or in my family. I do read, but occassionally, and i have a selection of favourite books in my sideroom that i go back and read over. These are mainly short stories, my preferred format.

anyway to cut a long story into shorts, after much deliberation and pontification, and just straight out beating around the bush – looking for a way to start writing, or a theme, or to pick up a thread to begin with – i finally decided to go in and just write anything, write a short story, just write, and the rest will follow. And so it did. I just belted out the framework or grid for the story, but its all there, just needing to flesh it out, panelbeat it around and fine tune it, which is the best part. the part i savour most. Already i can see it acting as the lead-in story, and it can serve as a platform to build other stories around it, or project stories forward.

So we enter the xmas holiday period here in Bali, along with the arrival of the wet season and the mango season. I have about a dozen paintings hung at Taksu gallery in the W-Hotel for the next two weeks, and am hoping for some sales from that and our own little gallery. I live quite removed from all the ‘Bali Holiday Paradise’ machinations, i dont often enter the tourist corridors or pleasure zones or wallyworld as i call it.
However when we were delivering the paintings to the gallery inside the W-Hotel, near the lobby which faces out across the whole unfolding landscape of swimming pools, pizzeria, bars, sun beds and palm trees down to the beach-my indonesian truck driver and I just stood there mesmerised. There was a whole passing throng of sophisticated upmarket hotel holidaymakers, including well coiffured women in bikinis with full make up click clacking around in stilettos, chiffon wraps breezing behind them, with an expensive designer bag in one hand, and a resort styled boyfriend on the other! my driver and i looked at each other, and smiled. It was all quite surreal really.