Light and Grace

I dedicate this chapter to three men in my life.

Senior figures whose contribution to me, Alexander Hayes forever changed my life's prospects. Whose unwavering belief in me most certainly propelled me into who I am now.

I dedicate this chapter to my late Father-in-law who taught me a great deal in coming into light and grace. A man whose whole life was steeped in colour, in academe, in Family and friends. A man whose first words were...."...it is good to finally meet you."

Despite his horrific battle with leukaemia and later with cancer (squeamous carcinoma) of the skin through I feel I contributed to nursing him at times when he was at his hardest, his Family close at his side. Despite extensive skin grafting, he showed the most remarkable of resilience that I have never yet seen demonstrated in anyone I have ever known, my own Father included.

He was extremely tough and gentle.

A man determined to keep his faculties, to push past the dulling of morphine and whose single last love and light being that of my youngest Daughter. Upon hearing that he was to be a Grand-Father again he remarked that he was happy for his own Daughter, the Mother of my child. He also remarked that he recognised that I already had such joy written in my eyes.

He spent long hours with me teaching me all he knew of colour theory, mixing palettes of oil colour, of how to cook terrines, provincial chicken dishes. We sat for many hours amongst his pigeons looking at sunsets together. Basking in the mid-west wheatbelt heat.

Waving our fingers over hills and speaking in magic tongues, drawing on paper. Oh what joy it was. What a privilege to relate as he would say often.

So it came to be that I left Bunbury in 1997 in the midst of a terrific storm having returned to Western Australia from Sydney. Sheltered in the home of my new found friends in Perth who have to this day remained the closest of spiritual allies. I rented a home in Bellevue, at the base of the Darlington Hills arts community. 

Just prior to leaving Bunbury having graduated somehow from my Associate Degree in Arts I wrote a letter to the head of the Curtin University Art School, a Professor who in reading my letter granted me the key to the rest of my life and career as an Artist. I dedicate this chapter also to that great man who will be reading this chapter with a grin and twinkle in his eye, as he knew just what a rascal I was and how much it meant to me to accepted into the School of Art, Fine Arts, Curtin University.

Through 1997 I worked hard with a friend in a private business and studied part-time. I lived and breathed in the art school. I met the Mother of my youngest Daughter and by 1998 we decided to marry after a hasty courtship.

Things happen when children are born. People develop differently. The metaphysical dimensions of couples move from happy-go-lucky to serious parenting. Whilst we lived well, we felt the need to move from a grand old home in central Perth to that of the Darlington Hills. Green, leafy, steeped in conservative afternoon teas and champagne cocktails or gin-and-tonic on the terrace.

Sparkling Shiraz as the sun set over the ocean.

I learned the difference between cutlery sets, which crystal glasses were used for what beverage. I was given the honour of carving roasts, selecting spatchcocks, chopping firewood. I was graced and steeped in privilege.

During this time I worked with the Department of Family & Children Services. Assigned to one child for one year. Protective services sheltering this one individual from a history of abuse. I continued to work across domains and soon ended up working within three state prisons.

The Ministry of Justice. Juvenile Justice. Casuarina Prison. Woorooloo prison. The list went on.

I did my time inside as an Education Officer. Arts Tutor. Academic Lecturer. Finally that of Special Services Officer, inside "chokie" - the punishment and segregation wing within the prison itself. We ran performance art classes and my most vivid memory is being surrounded by 12 prisoners who remarked that even if I let both security alerts off to shut the prison down I would still be dead.

We made that the focus of the performance. We finally presented to the Supervisor (God) after 16 weeks of preparation.

My art performances in Curtin University followed suit. They became tough and after the 3rd altercation with my arts lecturers I was warned that my behaviour and installation works were becoming borderline for ejection from the school.

My nudity, whilst appreciated by other students was wearing thin on others. Always happy to get my kit off, lean and tanned I thought little of the impact I was having on others. The provocateur. Little has changed.

I was offered the opportunity to take a team of three students out to the wheatbelt town of Kellerberrin and to spend the second half of Honours year with them shooting a documentary of my father-in-Laws life. 

I dedicate on this third occasion also to the man, the great artist and film-maker who provided me with the equipment at great risk and also the 40 hours of high definition DAT tape, where my Father-in-law told his entire life story. I am forever in gratitude to that third man who believed it was so important that my Father-in-law be able to tell his story for the very last time.

A short documentary was cut from that filming and made into a media production that went to air via the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) years later.

My father-in-Law passed away soon after. Devastated I admit I lost my way. I ended throwing my life into to some outrageous arts installation works of which I took into the Doctorate. I also thew myself into working with hard core prisoners doing their Masters in prisons. I worked also as an Academic Tutor, Designer and then Web Architect for Open Learning Australia (OLA) using a hideous Learning Management System called WebCT.

Art online was born. The Internet was here. Floppy web 2.0 names like Moodle were born.

I had Stellarc as a Tutorial Visitor. Victoria Vesna. Ric Rue. Ian Lamb. Oh what heady days I was amongst and in the middle of as a peer, colleague, student and other things not worth mentioning here. 

I excelled in Arts History and wrote some compelling papers which to this day I quote as being the most instrumental in my arts career to date.

Relational Aesthetics. Niccolas Bourriard. Lovely stuff...the role of audience in the completion of art works.

I excelled in my Honours year during which I was offered the opportunity to apply for the Creative Doctorate of Fine Arts (PhD). My application was accepted and my supervision was split between the School of Art and the School of Australian Studies.

After 10 years in universities I had arrived or so I thought.