I regarded myself as a writer rather than a visual artist until I joined Richard Neville’s OZ Magazine in London in 1968. I soon realised I was more interested in the OZ artists than the writers, who were Richard’s main passion. We became a good double act, with Felix Dennis already the businessman, handling advertising and design. We survived the six week seminal Conspiracy and Obscenity Trial of 1971 at the Old Bailey, but two
years later, we closed OZ down and went our separate ways.
In 1975, I settled in Bolinas, an alternative town in northern California and became the Monday editor of the local newspaper, the Hearsay News. As well as writing a weekly column about local affairs - plenty of those, Bolinas at that
time being a renowned political and creative hothouse - I had to come up with a weekly front cover. Thus began my life as a collage artist.
My work has been exhibited frequently in both northern California and back here in Sydney after I returned to Australia in 1993. LAMPOON, AN HISTORICAL ART TRAJECTORY 1971-2011 an exhibition at the University of Sydney’s Tin Sheds Gallery summed up my career in both image and word.
Lampoon was also the title of an illustrated book accompanying the exhibition, which was under the aegis of that year’s Mardi Gras Festival. My new series, Landscapes of Survival and Reconciliation will be part of the HeadOn Photo Festival 2020, now rescheduled for November after a successful run online (courtesy of Covid-19) in May.
I have been called an activist artist and in some sense this is true. I became attracted to the more reformative and progressive life when I realised I would be sacked by the Department of the Attorney General and of Justice in Sydney if I came out of the closet as a gay man. I was a lawyer then, not an artist.
I resigned and a few years later was a free spirit marching against the Establishment with the Gay Liberation Front down London’s Oxford Street. Already with an artist’s sensibility, I had become politicised and part of a movement for change and justice. Always more comfortable as a follower than as a leader, an agent for change yes, but in a minor key. Satire, surprise juxtapositions and a black sense of humour were my weapons. Everything and nothing is sacred became my only apology for some aspects of my output as a collagist.
In my more mature years I have become no less urgent in my creative output, but kinder, an artist whose aim is to soften the inevitable collision of nations and their policies, by the exercise of a universal sense of respect for the world’s many disparate cultures. Reconciliation is now the concept that inspires me. Every small and aware step as an artist helps what has become
necessary to save the planet from becoming uninhabitable for us and every other species. We are the first in Earth’s long history whose success has sown the seeds of our own destruction. The indecent speed at which it is happening, post the Industrial Revolution, is unsustainable.
The situation, in which we find ourselves, was unimaginable in all previous centuries of humankind’s march through time. The dinosaurs dominated the earth for some millions of years but had nothing to do with whatever changes of climate Earth went through. It took an external interstellar force of tremendous magnitude to bring about their demise. A demise, which
eventually lead to the dominance of homo sapiens. Are we smarter or dumber than the dinosaurs? The time for fossilised thinking is over. Do we have the intelligence in fact, not to go to hell in a hand basket – as a poet has so amusingly put it.