Uncertainty and all its minions (comment on my painting: Imperial Hotel Mt. Victoria)

While painting on the street.. I am just painting.. putting paint down on the canvas.. like a recent cold morning on the highest part of the blue mountains.. Mount Victoria.. I was painting the Imperial hotel at 6am.. afterwards I looked at the painting and I could see all the things that are on my mind about how we live and who we might be.. and all the things I think about that give this world its energy and make it unbounded.. I think about the things that excite me.. ideas about resolution and its counterpart… incompleteness.. I think about the fact that we love things to get resolved but resolution is an impossibility a constantly yearned after place – eden… yearning is itself.. a creative force.. as things ride that ever diminishing asymptotic wave to completeness.. but we never get to that place.. death is the closest we can come..

I also see in my painting the struggle between order and chaos.. we like order… it is safe for us.. chaos suggests death.. life is the fine balancing act between order – indifferent death.. and chaos – wild death on the other side.. it is interesting that life exists on a narrow plane between the these two forms of death… this plays out in the painting where things are vacillating between holding onto a form / structure.. or giving into an unresolved sense of form.. but not holding on to that idea too tightly.. not giving in to the safety of death…

in the painting.. as in life the other great force is a synthetic force.. and this is pitted against an entropic destructive force… both are necessary for the painting… things are never created cleanly there is always destruction in the midst of creation you see this in cellular systems.. for structures to emerge in complex organisms cells need to die – usually in a controlled way to yield a functional form..

The phenomenon that governs these forces is Uncertainty.. no structures are certain… the edges of things don’t exist in any real way.. Cezanne seemed to discover that in his paintings.. when you get up close to one.. you get a sense that all the colours or possibilities are somehow contained in the finite space held by the form.. we are fooled into a sense of certainty by the way our brains interpret the data presented to them by our senses… in this case the eye… but in truth things are not as they seem and when I feel a painting has worked it is usually because it has given me some insight into the possibilities about how things really are or might be.. and I find that exhilarating..


Treatise on Lined paper and Thomas Moore and something I once heard on the radio about aboriginal culture


Western culture sees art as some

separate thing from life..

i.e. we separate ourselves

into the seclusion of the

studio or the garret if you

are a poet and you make

art ABOUT life

but art tries to BE  life with

my Lined paper

as I move through the

world with its shopping

lists I want art to fall

onto that page as I


the lined paper is

what I move around


it does not demand a

separation from the


it is the now

I don’t have to do studies

on it then move to the

unlined paper; to the


the art is the life is the

lined paper

I heard on the radio once

that aboriginal culture

could not quite understand

why we separate music

from life

people play music while

moving about their life

‘they do not formally

Learn a  musical instrument

and Thomas Moore said:

“about spirituality, art

and the everyday sacred…

in Care of the Soul

‘… and thus in a small but significant way can make the everyday sacred.  This kind of spirituality, so ordinary and close to home, is especially nourishing to the soul.  Without this lowly incorporation of the sacred into life, religion can become so far removed from the human situation as to be irrelevant. “

the dying word bird




I often sit and draw with nothing in mind as I go and then look at it after for clues.. I do think it is a way of processing or highlighting what is currently in my conscious mind and I am sure the subconscious babbles through in this process.. how I then interpret the drawing is affected by exactly what is used to create it.. without over-analysing it I note that in this drawing the bleeding bird.. holding the word.. and it made me think about how our words have become impoverished in everyday speak.. they are bleeding outside their cages.. some not even sure where their cages are anymore.. when an ice-cream or a car can be described as awesome and sublime.. where does it leave those small miracles that try to show their faces in our everyday.. they become shut out.. I think this drawing laments that..

quote from Thomas Moore

I am trying to get more reading done.. so I now sometimes pick a book off the shelf and  read from anywhere in the middle of the book.. I figure books are like rivers anyway.. to know the whole river is a big job.. find the source; where it meets the sea.. and all the bits in between.. but you can also jump in the middle somewhere.. and soon you will have a sense of the character of that particular river.. after all something is carried through.. but I stray.. this book.. Thomas Moore’s Care of the soul.. I read this bit: ‘Do we need to understand all mysteries? We are used to hearing about the great revelations of science: the discovery of atoms, particles and DNA – and so quite naturally we think that mysteries are there to be solved.  The alternative seems strange, but at the same time it has its own appeal: use our intelligence and skill to preserve the mysteries.’ I think that is one of the reasons I moved away from an academic life.. I felt I had lost that sense of wonder for the world.. that had so viscerally got me into science when I was 13 years old.. paging through and looking at the images of bygone prehistoric eras in David Attenborough’s Life on Earth.. it was the mystery that engaged me.. it is a tricky one.. we are curious animals.. and want to solve the mysteries.. but.. how do we do that that without losing our deep sense of mystery and wonder.. which for me operates no less than another sense… 



sinking thid thinking sid

for the last couple of years I’d say I’ve been silently mourning our demise.. while going about my business of being engaged  and living I have been inwardly acknowledging our hopelessness.. our doomed state.. I would have the radio on.. and all I would be left with.. from all the information is how we are destined for a catastrophic future.. hip new events like Burning Man Festival.. seemed more attuned to our condition.. I was going about my business making paintings and caring for my family.. having a family.. children that I love makes it difficult to face the barrage of information and its horrifying conclusion.. unabated us cooking.. I imagined us living in a world where it is too terrifying to go outside.. 50oC.. boiled like a lobster in a pot…. terrifying storms and floods.. floods like the ones I paint over and over again.. recalling the biblical Noah.. and how that all seems a daily occurrence.. images on Youtube.. which I cannot get enough of.. Tsunamis and other waters raging through our streets.. I paint Noah.. sailing wistfully on his boat.. animals in two by two.. with the fish looking up.. charging their glasses at us but we don’t talk about these things  at dinner parties or Sunday teas.. life continues to happen.. of course we don’t talk about it.. because there seems nothing we can do.. yes.. use less electricity.. that will do it.. recycle.. consume responsibly… all good of course.. but beneath it feels futile.. like ok here I am.. living in a suburb of Sydney.. one out of 9 billion.. insignificant really.. I come away with the feeling that there are just too many of us… I remember the radio show where they announced that the 9 billionth human was born.. we are a species that is so successful.. but all species reach a point of plateau and then usually decline.. that could be gradual or it could be punctuated.. the geological record is testimony to that and our impact on many other species bears this out too…. that is nature… the nature of it.. Robert Malthus… who had a big impact on Darwin.. predicted this in 1789.. I feel a lot of guilt for what I / we have done to the planet.. but then I am reminded of the planet’s complete indifference to all of this.. it just goes on.. it does not mind the great Pacific garbage patch the size of Texas.. and the impact it has on sea animals.. sea creatures are either put out by it but others… adapt.. see it as an opportunity.. life’s engine gathers around that too.. and goes on like it does…  much of the difficulty is that I think about how the planet was thousands of years ago.. beautiful lush green great herds on the plains fish in the sea and I feel bad but it’s all sentiment.. really a longing for how things were.. a human condition.. it feels safe.. we know the past.. we can’t know the future.. I am, totally sentimental I still listen to records and have a toy monkey called Chimpy who sits with me as I write this.. I’ve had him since I was 4.. it terrifies and excites me that the geologists of the future are going to uncover as one of the strata.. the plasticosphere.. I wonder what fossils relics will be preserved in that.. it is possibly arrogant to think we have a choice in how the future of the planet plays out.. we are part of this great biological engine.. the planet is indifferent to our sentiment.. our guilt is borne out of much media telling us we have to do this… do that to alter the course of our history.. our governments can’t act because opinion polls of a ‘healthy’ democracy abrogate real meaningful change which is never popular.. you unpopular.. you get voted out… stable democracies are good in stable worlds.. there are just too many of us.. that’s the root of it.. yes we say it is corporate greed that is massively responsible but like anything.. we start off with a good idea.. like free market economy coupled with democracy.. which will evolve into monopolies and corporate greed.. it is the nature of any idea being protected and covered by layers of time.. time itself breeds corruption time is the engine of the peripheral machine.. when an idea gets protected.. walled up and new peripheral ideas connected to the core idea get laid on top of the original idea sometimes clarifying it / elaborating it.. and sometimes like an overprotective guardian.. consuming it… but really this is all a story about me.. I turned off the radio 6 months ago because all this information was depressing me.. floods in India.. thousands dying.. I am a million miles away.. why do I  / should I even know or care about this.. the truth is I do know.. that’s why I should know.. but I chose not to know.. Ruth Ozeki said it best… ‘ignorance is a choice’.. where in today’s’ world we have access to too much information that we feel powerless over.. this worked quite well… I could engage more in the world I inhabited… my local world.. I did start planting flowering plants in my little garden though.. ones that attract mostly bees but also hopefully butterflies too.. I am sentimental… a silly old human animal.. well intentioned.. full of thinking.. which I think means something.. so I planted some lavender because bees like it.. and then maybe bees will come here… and drink the nectar and be ok again in this world.. because I know bees are on the decline.. they have to bus them in now to pollinate the almond crop in the U.S.. and I am hoping because that is the sort of crazy animal I am.. that my lavender will be enjoyed by them.. give them a haven.. a butterfly landed on it just as I finished planting .. and I told my wife that it was to say thanks… and I believed it.. Imagedge

the illusion of definition

plein air painting has become a way for me

to see past the deception of

the eye..

which we interpret as a photographic thing

but the eye shuttles rapidly

between objects overlapping things

thrust forward

held back

the brain with its neural networking

assembles the visual data and interprets the


gives it edges

gives it definition


when I paint and

am in the zone

and the canvas is heavily


denying me edges

I start to sense what the eye is seeing

by my interaction

with the canvas

and what I see


as my eye

scans the painting

and the edgeless


so for a while

the illusion of definition

is lostImage

© Copyright Sid Sledge Artist