20 April 2013

Review of Duets in Three Thousand

Duets is a series of paintings of rockstars in awkward interviews by Simon O’Carrigan, opening on Tuesday at Rubicon ARI. I am excited about this because once I start watching interviews of famous people on Youtube I just can’t stop. It’s because of the fascinating tension between a celebrity’s efforts to maintain a likeable ‘persona’ and the awkwardness of the media interview format. These potential crisis points are what the artist has honed in on in his paintings. Celebrity subjects featured include Bon Scott, Frank Zappa, Igor Stravinsky, Janis Joplin, Iggy Pop, Ozzy Osbourne, Tom Waits, Johnny Rotten, Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, David Letterman and Dick Cavett – depicted in decidedly unflattering scenarios. Sounds like some good, mean fun!

—Claire Connors, Three Thousand

8 April 2013
Michael Dwyer, Score, The Age, 8/4/13

Michael Dwyer, Score, The Age, 8/4/13

1 January 2013
MISC Magazine, Spring 2013

MISC Magazine, Spring 2013

Down To The Well: Essay by Din Heagney

Catalogue Essay for Down To The Well at Daine Singer, 2011

She said it felt like a river inside her bones
When she went down to the well.

Simon O’Carrigan’s latest ink series takes us down to the symbolic well, the gateway between worlds. In the lexicon of late capitalism, ‘well-being’ refers to quality of life and more directly to the ultimate goal of modern individualism: that transient feeling we call happiness. It is, ironically, the one thing that the economic world cannot trade, despite the best attempts to maintain the illusion through the materialist possession. Seeking the source of both the emotional and financial opposites of this position, that of depression, O’Carrigan takes us to the borders of the earth’s surface, to the edge of hidden realms, to the lips of darkness. His inky transitions slide from the browns of a familiar earth to the blacks of creeping shadows, and combine to represent the start of a journey, from surface to underworld, conscious to unconscious, present to past.

With this idea of well being, so similar to get well messages we send to loved ones who are unwell, we see the term comes to us from quite a literal place, one that is less a state of mind and more a place of spirit, an opening into our ancient, and mostly forgotten, past. Cultures around the world identified with wells, ranking them as places of worship, places of fear, of renewal and new life, and they appear repeatedly in sacred texts and mythology. One example is the clootie well that is usually marked by a tree, becoming a place for the ancient votive practice of praying to a spirit – a well being – for healing.

The practice of drinking, washing, even marking a significant well, operates as a symbolic ritual of the source of life. Despite the best attempts of modern religions to convert these ‘pagan’ water spirits into more acceptable saints, installing crucifixes or statues over them and renaming them ‘holy wells’, the clooties continue to this day – in Ireland alone there are more than 3,000. The exorcism of these practices from urban life can be seen in the way that cities no longer rely on local wells tapped from the earth; our western wells are now owned by transnational corporations. Where we once brought our life source from the deep springs of dark and ancient underground water (subconscious) directly to the surface (conscious), we now construct massive damns to hold back the surface water, drowning the underworld in our excessive daily needs.

It is perhaps incongruous that the well, as a place and an object of observation, should take us from the realm of this spiritual biologic into the realm of the rational technologic. One of the great discoveries of early science, marking the beginning of the modern shift away from belief in the supernatural to a belief in the purely rational, happened inside a well. Around 200 BC, Eratosthenes of Cyrene visited the famously deep well in Syene, what is now Aswan in Egypt, and noticed that at midday on the longest day of the year, the sunlight was directly overhead and its reflection could be seen in the very centre of the well. From that day forth, the shadows began to slide up the walls of the well until they circled around to return a year later to the centre once again. From these observations, Eratosthenes correctly theorised that the world was in fact a sphere.

The well as a cultural symbol has been regarded throughout history through its signification as a source of life, a centre for communal activity. In religious texts, the well operated as a metaphor for beginnings, for accessing deeper truths and for replenishing the psyche. What was once deeply interconnected and ritualised through nature is now purely constructed, surface-based, utilitarian and on-tap in a corporate-owned, user-pays system. Apposite is a growing sense of mental un-well-ness in people around the world. The ways we have physically reconstructed the earth since the days when we relied on wells, both for inner and outer connections, can be seen in parallel through our total disengagement of the psyche from our environment.

The absence of this tangible well in modern urbanity is a perhaps result of our inability to manifest the physical ritual and symbolic metaphor. O’Carrigan’s varied techniques in this series reveal these things to us, from brushstrokes in lucid swirls, to dreamlike landscapes and contemplative views down into ancient stone wells, the colours drain away, absorbed from the world by the beckoning darkness of the past.

Din Heagney

Down to The Well, performed by Pixies, lyrics by Black Francis (Charles Michael Thompson), 4AD Records, 1990.

Rhys, J 1901, The Folklore of the Wells in Celtic Folklore in Welsh and Manx, sourced and viewed 15 September 2011, <http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/cfwm/cf200.htm>

Rags to Ditches: Mysterious Celtic Clootie Wells in Urban Ghosts: Forgotten Places and Urban Curiosties, viewed 10 September 2011, < http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2011/03/rags-ditches-mysterious-celtic-clootie-wells/>

Duckwork J 2001, The Bible’s Deeper Meaning in Theistic Science, viewed 14 September 2011 < http://www.theisticscience.org/religion/bible.html>

28 March 2010


Feature Article, 28 March 2010

Ballardian.com explores tropes and motifs found in the work of J.G. Ballard. It is edited and published by Simon Sellars.

The website ran a feature article covering a few different bodies of work I had produced, interspersed with excerpts from my honours thesis and quotes from J.G. Ballard’s novel The Drowned World which had, in large part, inspired my work.

You can read the full article here.

Surfacing (Cataract) 2007

Surfacing (Cataract)
Oil on canvas & acetate 76 x 51 cm



Mixed media on paper, 30 x 60 cm

The Petrol Can Rider

Essay by Martyn Pedler for launch of The Petrol Can Rider

As I write this, I’m hanging improbably in the air. The map that appears when I press a button on the armrest says I’m almost exactly halfway between Australia and my destination on the other side of the world. Looking closer – the map is unreassuringly staticky – I see that the familiar outline of home has disappeared altogether from the margins of the map.

Australia has always been defined in part by its unlikely geography. It’s not nicknamed “Down Under” for nothing. The isolation of living at the ends of the earth has also given us a strange, ongoing relationship with the end of the world.

George Miller’s Mad Max, for example, knew it would barely have to disguise the countryside to imply some kind of apocalypse. Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin’s cult heroine from the late-80s, Tank Girl, married a British punk sensibility with an Australian setting, mutated kangaroos and all. The Matrix starred a human population fooled into thinking the world hadn’t ended, but like Keanu Reeves’ Neo, we knew better – and locals knew the simulations was disguised Sydney streets, too. Worst of all, DC Comics basically blew Australia off the map in its series Invasion!, presumably thinking the rest of the world wouldn’t notice.

Which brings me, finally, to Simon O’Carrigan’s The Petrol Can Rider. This animation continues the tradition of imagining our staggering steps towards the end. His trenchcoated hero needs fuel for his car; that’s the only thing we know about him, or that we need to know. Without fuel, the story will be over. His desperation creates its own physics. Eventually, the empty petrol can he clutches itself begins to float, becoming a hopeful vehicle to carry him away.

O’Carrigan’s piece borrows its story from Franz Kafka’s short story The Coal Scuttle Rider. For many, Kafka has become shorthand for grinding, surreal bureaucracy. Does it seem strange, then, for this animation to use the kind of cartoonish logic in which the shockwaves from a dog’s bark can knock a man to the ground? People forget that Kafka is funny. It’s not so much black comedy as it is a slapstick of the soul. He’d be tickled, I think, with the O’Carrigan’s Looney Toons touches.

The script for The Petrol Can Rider includes the following line: “To remain still in this world is to be condemned to death”. This is true of any animation, of course. Some technologies of animation boast about the massive processing power and rendering times required to make their subjects move. Those giant transforming robots you last saw on the big screen? Press releases excitedly revealed that each frame required over thirty hours to process.

O’Carrigan’s apocalypse, however, is painstakingly hand-painted and cranked into motion at only 12 frames a second. Any faster than this and we’d risk missing the point. When fuel is so scarce and energy so precious, movement must be precisely calculated. Why would the back half of a dog move just because the front half does in a world collapsing into entropy? Equally, why would we see more of this world than we need to? Whatever’s outside this vignette doesn’t matter; it certainly doesn’t matter to the driver, the merchant, and the dog that populate it.

Now, I’m watching the screen in the back of the seat in front of me and its cartoon plane stutter across the simulated map of the Pacific. I imagine that if we ran out of fuel, right now, up at 33,000 feet, we wouldn’t fall. We’d hang here, landlocked in the sky like in Looney Toons, until physics finally noticed and animated our descent.

Martyn Pedler
22nd June, 2009
Halfway to New York