Chest 110; Ganges dawn

5 Sep

Chest 110 C ganges dawn

Chest 110; Ganges dawn


Varanasi is one of the great holy sites of Hindu religion and the conjoint site of two rivers, the Varana, and the Asi between which the city lies, on the bank of the Ganges, or Ganga. I have combined successive images of sunrise as well as the swastika (Sanskrit su = good, vasti = being, meaning well-being) symbol of the Lord Shiva who, according to legend founded the city. The image also contains the textural residue of a chest X-ray of an Indian lady with miliary tuberculosis. At every level in this amazing and crowded city is the human factor; the outline of two boys sitting in a boat can be seen on the left. One cannot help but be impressed by the devotion of the pilgrims that flock to wash in the Ganges in the morning, and during the day.

Our senses were assaulted when we walked through the back streets, temples painted bright red, or with towers plated in solid gold, and through narrow lanes splattered with cow dung and reeking of litter. Stalls selling silks, shawls of every hue and texture. The colours and shapes come tumbling out in this image.



Mr Punch makes an appearance

23 Aug

P&J together

Mr Punch and Judy begin a marital dispute

What is there to say about Mr Punch? He is Everyman, his life is a short, but disingenuous full of sound and fury, signifying… well, that’s where the discussion starts.

Punch 3

Mr Punch takes a bow

Mr Punch commits the most heinous of acts and gets away with them. He throws the baby out the window, whacks his wife with a big stick, kills off the authorities that want to take him to jail, and chases the ghost away. His greatest triumph is to vanquish the devil himself. He does this all with a merry grin, pleased as Punch.

To the superficial his is just a violent little man, to the politically correct he is an anathema, and to the rest of the world he is a Clown. Most of the humourless arguments against him are based on a simplistic interpretation of Mr Punch and simulated violence in the show. Fortunately he has a keen nose for spotting flawed logic and his opinion of those po-faced do-gooders is as low as theirs is of him. Those people who argue that his behaviour promotes violence amongst children would do well to compare with other children’s stories – does Goldilocks promote breaking and entry? Do Tom and Jerry promote cruelty to animals? Shakespeare has Desdemona smothered to death by her husband Othello. Has the world’s greatest playwright been condemned for sparking copycat murders in marriage? Always remember, these are just puppets to retain a sense of perspective; “That’s the way to do it!”

Mr Punch’s character originates deep within the culture of Europe. In the mystery plays of mediaeval times he was Vice – an amoral buffoon who fights with the devil and is carried off to hell. This situation continued until the mid 18th century but later things changed. Mr Punch began to prevail over the devil carting him off in a wheelbarrow to the fiery furnace. This delighted audiences although more proper folk bewailed the situation. The Landlady in Tom Jones (1749) laments “I remember when puppet shows were made of good scripture and when wicked people were carried away by the devil”.

I believe that Mr Punch is an allegory of the sinners path through the world, a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress He conquers the temptations of the flesh in the form of his wife Judy and, when she is included in the show, Pretty Polly his mistress. He goes on to triumph against worldly wealth and position, the Beadle, the hangman, and in the end death and the power of the devil. It’s difficult to believe this was the original intent of the play, however one thing is certain; Mr Punch remains indifferent to castigation and he knows only too well that as long as we – young and old – delight in the sight of authoritative figures getting whacked over the head and seeing the rogue emerge triumphant, he, of the preposterous nose and squawky voice, will never disappear.

Punch hat

The hat brim and hair, small amount of stuffing to keep it upright

Punch hat 2

Side view of the hat with the golden tassel and hair ready to be stuck onto the head



Mr Punch classically wears yellow and red, and a curved witch’s hat that has a tassel hanging from the tip. He also has a hump that is often decorated.

Punch jacket

The jacket complete with buttons about to be applied





Punch pants 1

Trousers, back view before sewing onto the black sleeve

Punch pants 2

Trousers, strips of yellow and red sewn together to make the stripes

I made his coat with a skirt of red and a neck-ruff of yellow. His trousers are striped yellow and red, I used the same cloth cut into strips and sewn together. The clothes were decorated with rick-rack. He was also given a pair of yellow stockings and green elfin curved-tip shoes.

Punch hand 2

One hand in a pointing gesure



The hands match his clothes with yellow and red gloves. They have been difficult to use as they tend to slip off my thumb – in future I intend to make the arms of the black sleeve a little shorter on the thumb side – I found that a little piece of sand-paper stuck into the hand socket prevents it slipping and helps the thing to stay in place. This is important when trying to pick things up.


Punch prep

My work-space whilst building Mr Punch

This is a picture of my workspace as I was building the  puppets. I learned dressmaking techniques very quickly, not a lot of skill though. Perhaps that comes with time.

As of this date the character set is now complete, the whole gang is assembled and we are ready to go, just await the building of a home – The Booth! Watch this space!

Marital counselling for Mr Punch and Judy

Marital counselling for Mr Punch and Judy






Chest 109; Human Realm

22 Aug


Chest 109 C

Chest 109; Human Realm


Buddhist cosmology divides existence into six realms, although earlier texts refer to only five (Gods and demi-gods in one realm) these realms are understood as psychological states of mind.

My picture shows the wheel of life carrying the X-ray of a newborn babys chest, in the centre are five spots symbolising the five realms with the descriptive terms; God & demi-God, Human, Animal, “Hungry ghost”, Hell.

To understand the value of the realms, the most important to us is the fifth, the Human realm, because of choice. The Gods are perfectly happy and so they have no choice, the Hell realm too is perfectly painful, and again no choice. The Human realm is in between, where there is a balance between happiness and pain that is governed to a large extent by choice. When you are not too happy, and not too much in pain what does it mean? – a step closer to normality of the mind. (Dzongsar Khyentse).

The choices we make to establish that normality are our own responsibility, and that is what creates our own human situation. If we get into a mess, we must extract ourselves from it, and the best way to do that is to prevent the cause through our own wisdom. External beings will not bestow grace upon us, nor will they pull our strings differently. We are freed through our own choices through wisdom, and through our own compassion i.e. not only compassion for others, but also for ourselves, to treat ourselves better and this brings the way of treating others with greater compassion.

In this image I have tried to move away from the darkness that has overshadowed many of the last studies and bring about some freedom of the mind through this.

Portrait 1

22 Aug

portrait 1 C

Portrait 1

An intensely personal portrait including the one person in my life that is most important to me. The layers include the beautiful red leaf from a mangrove, with eucalypts silhouetted against the evening sky.

Chest 107; Rocky Road

15 Aug

Chest 107 C

Chest 107; Rocky Road

It has been some time since I was last able to put a picture onto my blog, the time has not, however, been wasted.
I’ve applied for two formal exhibitions in one of the local galleries; the first with a series of about ten images as a formal showing. The second in a confined space (the gallery is an old bank, it’s in the old safe-room) with a few small printed pictures, and a loop video of a picture in the process of development. Along with this I’ve offered a morning workshop in Photoshop introducing techniques I’ve discovered through trial and error over the past couple of years. Now the decision of the gallery committee is awaited.
James Cook University has bought a dozen pictures to hang in the newly built clinic corridors. It was astounding to discover how expensive framing is, particularly at the size (A1) of these prints. Any advice or guidance from fellow artists would be most gratefully received. The pictures have been hung up in one of the erstwhile dingy corridors, the colours in the prints have brightened it up considerably. Most pleasing was the number of comments received from people as they walked along. Gives some credibility to the work.
I’m also in the process of producing a set of hand-puppets for a traditional Punch and Judy show. This is an ambition that I’ve had for many years. The original plan was to purchase puppets, but good ones start at $300 each, to get a full set was prohibitively expensive. I’ve therefore had to make my own – and it is much more fun. See the beginnings of my blog at where some of the technique and pictures of the puppets in progress have been uploaded. After making the heads I politely asked my wife if she would kindly make costumes – but answer came there none! If I had known how fiddly and labour intensive it would be I probably wouldn’t have started, but I didn’t. So, rushing in where fools fear to tread, started work on that. It has been a steep learning curve!
The image I’m loading today is highly fragmented and rather explosive. The base X-ray was brought to the front of the image and given a strong texture. This comes from a woman with a large tumour in the chest – a single one, potentially removable, but nevertheless an explosive situation. The underlying colour is unrelated to the X-ray but comes from a red leaf and the reflections on the side of a blue soft-drink dispenser. Together they help to mix about ten layers. There is a layer of texture provided by a picture of wood-chip mulch, and a layer using the highlights of the mulch to bring out the fragmentation even further. Several layers provide detail upon detail trying to bring the layers forward, and others are there to hide what is behind.

Chest 106; Forest spirit

27 Jun
Chest 106 C

Chest 106; Forest spirit



This image has a kind of Sci-Fi feeling to it – “The blob from outer space”. It just kind’a grew out of a variety of elements, like Topsy. In this work I hoped to explore the notion of chaos within structure, in which the chaotic element itself has a kind of inexorable structure of its own.
We often see cancers on chest X-rays as irregular rounded densities with fine radiating spicules. Occasionally the cancer grows between the normal structures of the organ along lymphatic channels towards the lung root (the hilum) where they invade lymph nodes which enlarge.
This picture contains two X-rays, well hidden; the first from a woman with mastectomy for breast cancer and previous cardiac surgery. The big red blob originated from a purple bird-splat on a window, presumably the bird had previously eaten some coloured fruit. It is connected via multiple fine lines to the smaller blob in the centre of the picture which is where the second X-ray hides. To see it the picture must be greatly magnified. This is from a person with multiple metastatic deposits in the lungs; both are therefore from people with cancers.
I’m not sure as to how successful I have been, however there is clearly a feeling of unease in the contrasting choice of colour and the erratic, rather diffuse mass bumbling through the trees, the broken areas of dark and light playing against each other. By rights the reds should contrast with green, and the blues with yellow. In this image there is very little complementary colouring and I think this causes further disjunction.



Chest 105; Spirit child

20 Jun

Chest 105 C


This X-ray comes from a baby that was born and died very soon after with congenital malformations. I am trying to evoke Ben Okri’s novel The Famished Road about spirit children – those children that are born in Africa and live only a short time – children that are actually spirits. The book follows a spirit child who is being constantly harassed by his fellow spirits in another world to return to play with them.

The X-ray figure itself is white and bland against a rich textural backdrop. It incorporates figures just visible in the background – when involved in a life-changing experience like a serious illness one is often aware of the “real” world progressing just the other side of the wall walking around, talking, fighting, and eating, completely oblivious to the momentous events on this side. One hospital I worked in had televisions mounted at intervals along the walls in the wards. I often felt it was incongruous trying to save a patient’s life in a cardiac arrest resuscitation with some grinning television personality beaming down from above full of geniality and bonhomie.


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