Dragonflies and Damselflies (Family Odonta) have held a fascination for me since I was a child. Their bright colours and connection with water proved an irresistible lure as I struggled to come to terms with my first SLR camera. Then I learned to paint. For years I concentrated on the subject that had been the primary motif of artists in most ages and cultures except where expressly forbidden by religious decree, the human figure. My style was modernism, the style of my times, the twentieth century.
My painting has been changing lately. The pictures are getting smaller and the mark-making more constrained. I’m afraid I am beginning to conform. I have got old, even as modernism has got old. Picasso’s les Demoiselles d’ Avignon is a hundred and ten years old this year. Even de Kooning’s Woman is a respectable sixty five years old. The shock of the new has been replaced by the shock of the geriatric. It is hard to maintain the angst in the face of Victorian mediocrity.
When I was young there was a standing joke “Welcome to Queensland. Please set your watches back fifty years.” We’ve regressed from there, or at the very least not progressed. Coal power is still seen as the way of the future, and a V8 race is Townsville’s signature event. We don’t know where we’re going, we might be going nowhere, or to hell in a hand-basket, but burning fossil fuel is sure to get us there faster.
I have been involved with Creekwatch for the past two years. Visiting the local creeks every week put me back in touch with Dragonflies and reignited my interest in these colourful insects. I started doing small paintings as exercises and soon had an exhibition ready.
Unlike many of my earlier exhibitions, Dragons and Damsels has no political agenda. I am not trying to make a statement or force anyone to think. They are pretty pictures, domestic in scale, and should not offend anyone.
Dragons and Damsels opens at Gallery 48. The Strand, Townsville, on Saturday 13 May from 3pm til 5pm. The gallery is open Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, or by appointment and the exhibition runs for two months.