My work in The Swamp has links to the stealth associated with graffiti artists and the flamboyant play of the theatre. It is based on intimacy with the site, daily visits, observation of seasonal variations and an anonymous interaction or dialogue with a youth sub-culture.
Over the last fourteen years, with my dogs I have visited a ‘wasteland' on the edge of Darwin's northern suburbs known locally as 'The Swamp'. For the young men and boys in the prime of their suburban warrior hood it's a place to spin out in old cars, or stolen cars, 4WD's or on motorbikes. Plenty of active ‘circle work' - donuts and burnouts are part of the energy of the Swamp. The Swamp is littered with the wreckages of disintegrating, abandoned cars. These blackened, crumpled metal bodies provide me with an opportunity.
The Yellow Clay Flat is a level area of clay between the tidal mudflat and the scrub. To me the yellow flat is a living canvas regularly revitalised by all who visit it. An abandoned car is being transformed over a period of weeks and months. Mud is sprayed up on the car as the hoons spin around and when they have gone, out come my spray cans again. Anonymity in the context of the Swamp is important to me. In that context the car works are authorless. I am painting on cars for my own pleasure and working through my own artistic goals but there is also a sense of performance and play associated with the potential unknown audience. I glimpse that audience at a distance as they glimpse me. We do not pay each other much attention. We retain the freedom of distance to do our own thing. They are on their own journey riding powerful or piffling motorbikes, hooning around in a variety of fat engined cars.
So the young men in their spinning cars take part in the work with out setting out to participate. My dogs accompany me every day and often become part of the action and play. One could say the work is collaborative involving the elements and interaction by unknown persons. The wind, tropical sun and rain are protagonists. Reflections of cars, sky and clouds in puddles of water, embrace and include light as a participant protagonist. We are enveloped in changing light. This is our environment. This is our shared space.
I have names for the remains of all these predominantly burned cars. The Hungry Car, Apollo Car, Fatboy Car, Painted Sunbird, Viva Void Car, Shadow Car, Burned House Car, Survivor Car, Tuscan, Burned Twice Car, Yellow Car, Police Beware Car, Nickelodeon Car and Sponge Bob Car are just a few. The Nickelodeon Car has been painted in response to the colour and patterns of the ground in and around the Yellow Clay Flat. This is an energy mark - speed lines, lightning, ground or sky marks.
Eventually the car bodies return to the ground, the earth.
The cars in their various stages of transformation are symbolic mediators between earth and technological man. The car bodies wear away, crumble and disintegrate as the land itself is torn and worn and as our own bodies tire and retire.
One sees so clearly the earth in process as the car bodies in the Swamp rust and break down. Here is a cycle of renewal. I am visiting these sites every day. Yearly I witness the ongoing cycles - birds migrating, breeding, singing and displaying; tidal activity, flooding and drying. Equinoxes and solstices, the traversing sun and moon and the journeys of cars. Car bodies returning to the earth. Ash to ash; dust to dust. Earth to metal, metal to earth.