Watching

The drugs were wearing off and the Fear was kicking in as I walked home from the party through the midnight park. I took in the old-but-not-quite-ancient trees. They were all so beautiful – broad, tall and gnarled, yet proud. There was a smarminess about them though that I really didn’t like.

I soon realised why: these trees were the sole survivors of the other act of genocide that was waged in Sydney at the end of the 18th century – the environmental holocaust. Smug sentinels that declared their own eliteness, and belligerently mistook sheer luck for evolutionary supremacy over their felled forest comrades.

I sat beneath one of the tallest ones and sculled some sweet nectar from my sack.

The war memorial stood in the clearing, looming over the pretty city park in silent territoriality. It was a monument to grief; a monument to thieves. There was a young couple making out in the locked doorway of this concrete monolith. They looked so much in love, as though they had so much to taste of each other that was new, and a rushed desperation to feast now, now, now.

As I watched them from the shadows of the trees, I felt hopeful despite the onset of my comedown, but also sad and anxious as amplified by my frail state. I was okay with this though, because aren’t all of the most profound experiences flooded with seemingly incongruent emotions?

I gave myself a layback and meditated on the interconnectedness of sex and death. I wondered how long it would take before the glory of bloodshed that this couple lusted after each other underneath would permeate their relationship. How long until they, too, were at war?

From Where Its Roots Run

From Where Its Roots Run

Writing About Art Is Like Talking About Music (which is apparently like dancing about architecture)

I have drawing on the brain

A few months ago, I enrolled in an art course called Acrylics for Beginners. I had really wanted to do an oil painting course because I have never used them before, but alas! the oils course wasn’t running that semester. I thought, “Fuck it; I’ll just start here.” I am no beginner of acrylics, having used them extensively throughout high school and sporadically beyond, and I have had my work exhibited – but it has been a while. For the last few years, I’ve been moving around a lot to different towns, different states and even different countries. If I wasn’t half-arsed about painting before I began my wanderings, my nomadic existence became the most convenient creative cop-out. Money-wise, it just wasn’t feasible to buy new materials wherever I hung up my hat, and it has always been highly impractical to bring it all with.

However, I was never willing to break up with art completely. So instead of painting, I started drawing. It is much easier to create art with whatever is at hand – scrap paper, pens and pencils – than to set up paints and canvas, brushes, water and drop sheets whenever one gets motivated, because there is no time for the inspiration to be diluted. Drawing is truly a portable art form. I have drawn at the beach, in the bush, in the mountains and in cities; antisocially at peoples’ houses and at cafes; in buses, cars and trains, on trams, ferries and planes; on my way to and fro gigs; in work breaks; when I had nothing better to do and especially when I had ‘more important’ things to do. It’s even been a cheeky little icebreaker at times.

In the beginning, I never thought of myself as a good drawer (whatever that means). In fact, I had the idea that I could be a decent painter, but because I never had the time/space/money to get stuck into it I would never fulfil my potential. This is because it is practise, and not proclivity, that makes perfect. In hindsight, I would say that I’ve always had wonderful – wondrous! – ideas, but travelling was the perfect excuse to not even try to execute them. Drawing, however, became my foil. The ideas that I have can be quickly and basically outlined by pen or by pencil, and it is far less heartbreaking to screw up on scrap paper than it is to fuck up a pristine canvas. Yes, canvases can be painted over, but not without a prequel of guilty hesitation. Paper can be ripped up and recycle-binned without remorse.

And, may I say? That while I was apparently wasting my ideas on pissy little doodles, I accidently got pretty good at it. And by good, I don’t mean that I can draw objects realistically from memory or even by looking at the object and copying every detail. I can’t. Anyway, that’s what photography is for (which is what I started telling myself as a balm for my frustrated ego with such failed lofty goals). By good, I mean that I became proficient in manifesting on paper the pictures that swim around blindly in the deep dark grottos of my mind. Quite by accident, I discovered how much I love lines and shapes, negative space and suggestion, patterns and repetition, anomalies and deviations. Each drawing is an artistic fugue, with every line adding a more interesting layer and building the picture up, variation by miniscule adaptation. Straight up drawing, without worrying about materials and the ritual of setting up and planning and packing up and cleaning, for me, is true psychedelic art. Etymologically, the word psychedelic means “mind-manifesting” and so it goes with me – the pictures in my psyche are quickly projected onto paper. Whilst my drawings are a long way from photorealism, they do turn out exactly the way I want them to. There’s a giddy kind of freedom in that for perfectionist cunts like me.

I still surprise myself. I will start off with an idea; something that I’ve previously glimpsed and then gestated in my verdant imagination, that suddenly expresses itself in a dream or a vision or some other altered state. I’ll feverishly put down the lines and the shapes that suggest the image that I hold in my head, and I just keep at it until I’m smug and satisfied. Sometimes it turns out approximately the way I’ve visualised it, but more often than not it grows into a better version that I never could have imagined. I’m always amazed with the product:

I did that? Fuck off!” The astonishment is not with the level of shit that swarms my headspace; more so the fact that the execution always fits. It’s a fucking grand old feeling.

And while I’ve grown to love my drawings, I’ve felt for some time that some important thing has been missing. I’ve secretly been yearning for something to bring this up to some next-level shit. I live and breathe beautiful colours and textures; anybody who has seen even a tenth of my dressups can attest to this. Coloured pencils just don’t cut it. They’re too soft or too streaky or too unpredictable in their texture. And while texta is pretty decent compared with pencils, there’s no subtle blending allowed. It’s all solid blocks or nothing, which is comparable to art fascism. That’s fine sometimes, but the shit that comes out of my imagination is too intensely layered to be represented in colours that are just this or only that. In-betweens and fade-outs and subtleties and fierce vibrant rainbows are more fitting embellishments for my style.  My forays into colour thus far have been tentative and cowardly at best. Some things I am happy enough with, but most I feel could have been achieved more beautifully in a richer, more pliable medium…such as oils! And here, in my roundabout way, I have come full circle.

I moved to this city six months ago with the intention of staying at least a year – an intention I have not had for a few years now. I moved out of my ghetto beach shack in early 2010, and I’ve moved residences a lot since then. I slothed on Mum’s couch for a bit, then I moved out bush, then back to the beach and on friends’ couches for a few weeks, then I lived in hostels in London, a huge share house in Brixton, back to the coast and on Mum’s couch again, then briefly at my Auntie’s house in the west, and here I am in [insert city name here] – a set of keys, suitcases unpacked, a real-enough bed, and a door that closes on my own room. The gypsy lifestyle was awesome while it lasted (and I must confess I still yearn for the open sky, where my roots are firmly planted) but it is nice to have a place that I know I’ll be at for longer than a few months. Here we go! Did I just accidently take you on another revolution? I hope you’re not too dizzy by now, and you have my utmost gratitude for staying with me on this literary merry-go-round.

I decided to start painting again – seriously this time. But a few weeks and then months went by and I hadn’t yet made room in my busy life to splash around in paints. One day I walked past my local art supplier and picked up a brochure for art classes, and the Oils for Beginners course caught my glittering eye. After enquiring within as the text requested, I learnt that the oils class would not be running that semester. So, I had two choices: I could wait nine weeks or start a different course straightaway. And so, I chose the acrylics course, knowing full well that I otherwise wouldn’t put brush to palette in that two-month interim. The class was on one evening per week for two and a half hours per session. At the time I started writing this, I had just finished my final class and although it wasn’t anything revelatory, I was actually painting again on a regular basis! The exercises were basic tasks: playing with tones, shades, lines and composition; mixing colours and using different mediums; and interpreting masterpieces, still life, landscapes and painting from photographs. It was a decent socialising date too. There were some lovely characters in my class and at the end of my solitary research days it’s nice to have a yarn and interact with flesh and blood for a while. Most importantly though, it was a time and space in which I had done what I had wanted to do for such a long time. I work well within the boundaries of vague routines; ‘a time for everything, and everything in its time’. And, regardless of the exercises that I would not have attempted if left to my own devices, it was fucking nice to just put some colour down again – to defile holy white canvii with maniacal brush strokes.

Now I have the background trout out of the way, I am going to get to the point of this. This is a story about wishful thinking and blessed synchronicity and good things coming to those who wait work and happily ever afters.

A few Sundays after my last art class, I was down at my local markets buying my weekly food the way it should be bought – direct from the farmer, fresh, organic, in the open air and with the lonesome sounds of a proficient blues slide guitarist soulfully licking my eardrums.

(Fuck supermarkets. Fuck fluorescent lighting; fuck crowds of unhealthy and stressed-out drones; fuck 90% of the ‘food’ being wrapped in plastic for ‘freshness’; fuck the other 10% of unwrapped food coming from interstate or overseas, grown from clones, watered with chemicals and sprayed with pesticides to preserve its already subpar colour, texture, flavour and nutritional value. Fuck government subsidies for farmers who pollute the earth, fuck the cheapness of this ill-gotten produce that shuts down small businesses and drives the price of real food up, and fuck the middle-men who profit at the expense of the farmers without doing any real work. Fuck the Coles-Woolworths duopoly. But I digress.)

I actually look forward to my food shopping; the whole experience soothes my soul and the feeling is refreshed momentarily throughout the week whenever I bite into a crunchy and juicy apple, and when I create gourmet feasts from my happily purchased and lovingly grown organic produce.

It was within this mellow high that I accidently wandered into the art gallery at the markets and was warmed to my very cockles to see an entire room adorned with the beauteous art of some Eastern Arrente women. What a fantastic surprise! May I advise the uninitiated that this art is magick, pure and sweet. Not only do the designs look gorgeous, they also tell the most important stories that only symbols can describe – those of eternal and creation and dissolution, breaking and healing, living and dying, ad infinitum, played out simultaneously in the past, the present and the future; known to many as Dreaming stories. It is almost impossible to describe, but the canvas shimmies and shimmers right before your eyes. Two-dimensional planes come alive and create depth in your perception, thus forming the holy trinity of our known three dimensions. I highly recommend appreciating such art for yourself in person. Try not to be enchanted in the physical presence of such art, I dare you. Small-scale images on the internet flatten and render the music silent, so the Divine Matrix just won’t cut it this time I’m afraid.

I circled the room, drinking in the magic of these works. Each and every one mesmerised me, and it’s a memory that I will carry in my eyes forever. It was in this heightened state of stokedness that I mused to myself, “I would love for my art to decorate public spaces, and for people to stop and to get lost therein.” That desire sparkled within me for a while and then danced away into the ether, and I made my way home soon after.

Later that afternoon, I went to my favourite café in the universe for a late lunch. I noticed that they had painted the previously garish acid-pink walls a crisp and soothing white, and this pleased me. I felt less harried there, and I enjoyed my ramen at leisure. Whilst digesting, I took out my sketchbook and I got working on a design that I’d been fucking around with. Soon the bubbly manager approached me. We had a little yarn, then she asked to look at my work and I obliged. She asked if I was “an artist”. I said, “yes, in a way”, because I still find it supremely difficult to define what I am and describe it to others in minimal words (have you noticed?). She told me that they had painted the café white because they wanted a mural to decorate that space. They wanted a big cherry blossom tree painted upon those virginal walls. Then, she asked if I would be interested in making this happen. Oh!

I skipped home and sketched. Trees are my forte, and tree is the metaphorical meaning of two of my mother- and grandmother-given names. They are an absolute pleasure for me to draw. My Dharug ancestors grew and lived and died under the ancient darani (ghost gums) on the banks of the Deerubban (Hawkesbury River). My Lebanese ancestors grew and lived and died beneath the strong and fragrant cedars of Lebanon. They were tree people, all of them, and therefore I am too. I dream of them more often than not. They are spiritual guardians for me; the shapes and the colours and the textures and the scents make me feel balanced and whole. One day I will live in a tree house, and when I ride the lightning on my final trip out of this dimension, my body will be sung back into a tree where it belongs. But in the meantime, I drew some sketches and wrote a geeky little introduction letter to go with, and dropped it into the owner that week. He told me he was impressed and we discussed timeframes and materials and rates of pay and other unimportant niceties. And so, I was casually commissioned to create my interpretation of a thick and gnarled tree in cool dark browns that burst forth sprays of pale pink cherry blossoms from their fingertips in airy clouds like fairy floss. I started my sample paintings a few weeks ago. The first brush stroke was drawgasmic, and every day the tree grows in these preliminaries, branch by branch, as my psychedelic design comes more alive. There has not yet been any further talk about the whens and wherefores of the painting, but even if this mural doesn’t blossom on the wall of that café, the seeds of self-belief have germinated and taken root in my mind.

Make of this what you will, dear reader. Think of it as the law hypothesis conjecture of attraction if that is your proclivity. I personally cannot do the karma/fate/‘meant to be’ angle because in my understanding of my life there are no straight lines to just desserts; just baby steps in a marathon, monumental journey. All such fantastic coincidences have more layers of meaning than such a limited explanation will allow. But this is not a rant on spiritual lore (or is it?). If anything, it is just my writerly worship of things that are impossible to delineate in words, and an offering to you of one shining facet of my otherwise confined existence at the moment. And all that really matters is that I am fairly fucking pumped on life right now – the way it should be.

PS: to each and every one of my amazingly creative but devastatingly lazy friends, acquaintances and other passing readers – your apathy pisses me off. Have a go! Scare yourself. Pick up pen or paintbrush or musical instrument or whatever form your magic wand takes and create something new today. It will soothe you and make you feel human again. And if you die tomorrow, you can be at peace knowing that you have left something beautiful and tangible behind for us. Go forth and play. Solve et Coagula cunts!

 

Defender Of The Faith – 02.09.12

Medicinal Paranoia

Verdant Medicine, Dharug country

I’ve always had a healthy dose of paranoia – probably a latent genetic inheritance – and in my teens, the sleeping giant awoke with a roar at the realisation of society’s invasive attempts at spiritual colonisation. I actively resisted enslavement, using the wisdom of printed tomes and tools of the technological revolution to armour my mind. However I am still, to this day, overshadowed by a fear of Orwellian hells. And so, because I was already pre-disposed to paranoia from my larval years, I am still highly susceptible to conspiratorial hypotheses as an adult. Although I have stronger barriers today, this wound has never completely closed and transdermal reinfection is recurring; propaganda permeates even the toughest membranes.

Familial baggage has also been a blessed preservative in my case: the effects of transgenerational trauma ensure that I have never trusted the medical and welfare establishments to have my best interests at heart because historically, these institutions have rarely done the right thing by my kin. I have always refused to take the pills that various medical charlatans have ignorantly prescribed me to treat the symptoms of socio-spiritual diseases, because I’ve always intuited that these dubiously-tested psychotropic drugs are not the cure for what ails me. Besides, I have been self-medicating from an early age. Biochemically and entheogenically both – experimenting with substances, breath, endorphins, trance, creative pursuits – in various combinations, dosages and means of administration. I’m no physician but I know what medicine to use to heal myself. And I know that if I ingest their pharmaceutical toxins, I will become a dumbed-down, apathetic and unfeeling shell of myself. My fire will be extinguished.

I am suffiently paranoid to fear that their drugs would annihilate my curiosity, eradicate my creativity, eliminate my sex-drive, obliterate my passion and terminate my righteous rage. These things are good and necessary in a functioning person. Any paranoid, depressive, anxious or manic symptoms that surface show me that I am functioning well; these are healthy reactions to a sick culture. Only the living dead show no symptoms because they have no fire left. Without fire, we are easily controlled, herded and sacrificed. I will never be one of those. I will always burn for something, no matter how inconvenient it may be for society.

A few weeks ago, I awoke with a mild case of apocalyptic paranoia; disturbing dreams did stalk my sleep and their hangover carried over into my waking existence. Later on in the morning, a particular social networking site further fuelled the fire. Facebook: that intangible yet all-too-real noosphere that is the habitat of the voyeur and/or narcissist. It has truly opened up the ways in which we can understand each other. Before, we only had contact with certain facets of certain people’s faces. Now, we can gain an experiential understanding of more than we ‘should’; we gain knowledge of people by seeing the things they like and judging the content of their comments.

With Facebook*, I can step outside of myself and into the paradigms of other people; or rather, I can let other paradigms infuse my own. I’ve had to become selective with what gets on my feed – no more song casino poker quiz shit, no more rednecks, no more bimbos, no more ignorant nationalists, no more boring drivel. Instead, I let myself be affected by the stuff that really matters: astronomy, political critiques, heavy metal lore, plebian art, living geography, obscure Youtube film clips of the first wave of hardcore punk bands, backyard tattoos, psychedelic consciousness, Indigenous rights and cultural pride, Carl Sagan and other less important scientists, drug law reform, Earth-centred theologies and DIY lifestyle tips. I’m a discerning woman, so I sort through the chaff to find the seeds that will germinate in my subconscious and inspire my evolving and increasingly complex worldview. You can’t change the world, but you can change how the world appears; by choosing what is emphasised and what recedes you can thus manipulate how the world materialises.

For an empathic person like myself, I must be careful what I take in because I truly take things on, mind body and soul. I’m highly susceptible to other people’s altered states. I get free contact highs, I get sick with other people’s anxiety, and I am soothed in the presence of relaxed folk. Back when I had a television, I wasn’t able to watch the news without crying uncontrollably and I couldn’t even watch puppy dog ads without misting up. I’m not as tough as I would lead you to believe.

On this particular morning, I was inundated by unsubstantiated pseudo-evidence that a tidal wave was going to drown the city in which I reside. Intellectually, I knew it was bullshit, but I found myself enjoying the immediacy of the doomsday prophecies. I promptly threw the essentials in my car and drove two hours inland; not so much ‘just in case’, but more of ‘a need for verdant medicine’. And so, to the mountains! Apocalypse or no, I wanted to be myself again, and my paranoia was a timely reminder that I was long overdue.

On the first day I explored the mountains, stopping the internal chatter and being where I was instead of in the past or future, in books or theory, in social paradigms or spiritual crises. The air was so clean and cold and it was snowing. I sat underneath a sheer mossy cliff face and ate some fruit. Soon, a lyrebird came over near me and started foraging in the littoral rot, and in its wake three tiny sparrows scavenged around her abandoned sites. I began to remember that I am a part of the world, not apart from it – a forgetting that is unfortunately somewhat necessary to function in a zoo city life. More and more, I was listening, connecting and communing without the social mind.

On the second day, I walked over twenty kilometres through majestic rainforests and down steep cliffs and up mountains following the trails of pristine waterfalls. I got high off myself and had profound psychedelic experiences. I relied on my ears and turned my vision down, letting the sounds come to the fore, and all the subtleties revealed themselves to my ears when I relied on them more. I was hearing everything which was amazing because I’m ninety per cent deaf in one ear. I was hearing all the high and low, close and far sounds as though they were inside of me, not out there. I cried a few times with joy and I was dizzy with the greenness, high off the clean green air. Again, there was no distinction between ‘me’ and ‘the world’. I was not moving through the landscape; rather, we were one and moving together. My skin wasn’t a barrier anymore.

This walkabout reawakened my yearning to quit my lifestyle and live in the mountains where I experience the most natural acceptance. This was a legitimate experience of singularity and it was especially powerful in this place because it’s where some of my ancestors are from. The trees were singing a welcome home song to my DNA, and my DNA was singing a love song of belonging.

– Defender Of the Faith, 22.08.12

*Quit Facebook? Check. My reality is now my own.