Christophe Stibio- The Encoded Landscape at Flinders Lane Gallery

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Catalogue essay by- Georges Petitjean. July 2014 Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art (Utrecht, The Netherlands)

Christophe Stibio is not afraid of the land. He endeavours to plough it mentally. He is determined to go deeper, to explore what is under its skin. His art is the visual and tangible result of a profound mental geology of a country which has both physical and spiritual dimensions.

‘Sitting By Some Drying Ponds, Roberto I Love You,’ 2014, natural pigments, shredded documents and rice paper on canvas, 110 x 110 cm.


On a formal level Stibio’s multilayered landscapes are utterly sophisticated in their construct. Stibio employs Chinese rice-paper, watercolours and shredded documents as applied materials. The use of shredded documents is a recent addition to his artistic practice. Often confidential, these shreds of paper now form crucial compositional elements to the landscapes. They even play a pivotal role in the narratives of the pictures as they become an integral part of an exploration into the essence of the Australian landscape.

That this essence is interlaced with hidden codes is something that we know from the Aboriginal owners of the land. Grids and patterns in Aboriginal art often reveal something about the hidden codes, the journeys of the ancestral creation beings, in the land. Stibio, not being Aboriginal but a migrant to this country, undertakes his own quest to acknowledge these codes in a highly personal manner.

The Housing Commissions, the Primary School, the Silos and the Brothel,’ 2014, natural pigments, shredded documents and rice paper on canvas, 106 x 106 cm


The use of strips of shredded documents to visualise this intense inner exploration and analysis of the landscape is odd and symbolic at once. The very reason that these documents have been disfigured is because they were believed to once contain very valuable information. They were reduced to detritus, a discarded remnant of our highly technical and bureaucratic society. By placing strip by strip in the paintings to slowly create a pattern or a shape, these dismissed pieces of documents once more become a language. A purely visual language that is. The fragments of text and images become senseless, invaluable. Letters become illegible; the numbers lose all context.

By denying the meaning of written words and numbers, Stibio assigns new sense to them by incorporating them into a visual, even musical poem. Lines constitute one of the most important components in these compositions, as they serve to express the land, including its religious aspects. Fields of lines cause the picture to vibrate and ‘sing’ the landscape alive. As a formal element, they present a visual parallel with the art of Aboriginal people in which lines also explicitly evoke their connectedness with the land.

Life Without Humans, 2014, natural pigments, shredded documents and rice paper on canvas, 80 x 200cm.


However, Stibio’s pictures are semantically left open. Lines are not there to enclose the landscape, but to imagine it. In this odd, almost coincidental examination of the relationship between language and sign, there are relationships to the land that are constantly being questioned. With the juxtaposition or symbiosis of these mechanically torn paper lines, rice-paper and paint, these pictures almost function as visual metaphors of relationships between humans (our current society) and the earth. In an era marked by global socio-economical and ensuing environmental changes, this is a very timely conversation.

Stibio recuperates parts of letters and numbers and endowes them with a new sense. He reappropriates them to construct meaningful landscapes. This is highly paradoxical given the fact that these documents are archetypically man-made. They are derivations from a society that supposedly has subdued nature to its own needs with irreversible exploitation as its legacy. Documents are also what is used to sell or resell the earth, the land, or to draft treaties on.

The strips of paper stem from a society with a history of imposing extensive and irrevocable change upon things, substituting natural worlds by artificial ones, and in which profound physical and mental altering of environment is inflicted on a daily basis. But also a society in which on a daily basis doubt is growing about the validity of such an attitude given the serious consequences of failures to learn from this history or to assume responsibility over these practices. One only has to think of the profound impact the mining industry has on the environment. This stands very much in strong contrast with the Aboriginal idea of respectful custodianship of the land.

Drying Ponds In Coastal Fire Trail, 2014, natural pigments, shredded documents and rice paper on canvas, 89.5 x 250cm

That most of the landscapes in Stibio’s oeuvre are not subdued by humans is clear. Men and landscape are not connected yet in several of Stibio’s pictures. They are in fact, as the title of some works implies, life without humans. Earlier pictures, in which soft tones dominate, such as is the case with the triptych Life Without Humans and Beach no 16, are outspoken landscape pictures. Yet there is an evolution of the Australian landscape to be found, from being unaffected by people, through to the presence of mankind and later radical man-inflicted changes. Scarcity. Lakes Mungo and Arumpo for instance can with its title refer to the the archeological traces of the first humans living on this land, while Flesh of Coastal Fire Trail can allude to the age-old practice of burning down the land to replenish it as well as to the recent malevolent man-made bushfires.

Sitting by Some Drying Ponds Roberto I Love You presents a remarkable symbiosis, a fusing of organic forms of the landscape and the human body. Both merge into a sensual picture which seems to incorporate body parts in lustful embraces as well as rock formations and other natural elements. In this meeting of abstract human forms and organic, living land, the landscape becomes anthropomorphic.

In more recent work (The Housing Commissions, the Primary School, the Silos and the Brothel) the strips are used to demarcate the ways, streets, and roads of the urban setting. These urban landscapes are, contrary to the rendition of natural organic country that employs more of a side perspective, shown from above as cartographic images. Yet organic in form, they show a spreading of a human-made web of streets and ways in the flattened land.

In his work Christophe Stibio shows simultaneously the transient character of a society based on a vision of the short term gain and instant gratification, more often than not to the detriment of the land, and the timeless monumentality

the features of the land. Like a surrealistic partitur of paper snippets, letters, numbers and signs forming the incongruent notes of a eulogy of the land, these pictures let themselves read as rhythmic abstracted maps of landscapes. They are encoded landscapes in which a meeting of different codes takes place that reflect a complex and fragile equilibrium between man and environment, life and resources, natural environment and urbanisation. These pictures are also a strong reminder that no human intervention or interference will leave the landscape unaffected.


Flinders Lane Gallery is currently holding an exhibition to celebrate it’s existence in Melbourne for 25 years.

See here for details


Christophe Stibio – The Encoded landscape


Never Real, Always True 7 – 25 October 2014

Flinders Lane Gallery

137 Flinders Lane,

Melbourne, VIC 3000



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By Celeste Hawkins

RRRThere are many reasons as to why Melbourne is known as the cultural capital of Australia. I know I am probably preaching to the converted here for most of our Melbourne readers, but Community radio station RRR (102.7) is an absolute gem shining in what sometimes may seem like a sea of commerciality and banality. For the benefit of overseas visitors to this site and those living in other states-you can stream RRR live any time online.

I’m going to share with you just two of my many favourite segments here:

Smart Arts with Richard Watts.

Anyone who has listened to Richard will soon realise that he is extremely passionate about the arts and in particular has a penchant for live performance. This morning they were talking about some of the pieces that are going to be apart of this years Melbourne Fringe Festival which kicked off yesterday- but I couldn’t listen to all of it, so fortunately I can catch up on it here. Richard is also the National Reviews Editor for Arts Hub.

Multi-Storied with Elizabeth Mc Carthy and Louise Irving

These ladies always have some interesting commentary on story telling- interviews with authors, all things stage, poetry, mythology and reviews contribute to the mix.  As presenters they converse in a witty and most comforatble way that makes you feel like you are apart.


Happy Listening!



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See the link here for Malcolm’s response regarding the future of community television.




The Australia Community Television Alliance is shattered by the announcement today from the Minister of Communications, Malcolm Turnbull that their access to broadcast spectrum will not be extended beyond the end of 2015 – a move that will almost certainly lead to the death of community TV in Australia.

ACTA is disappointed that this decision has been made public without any reasonable process of consultation with community TV stations and rejects the Ministers assertion that this decision “is in the best interests of community television”. This decision has been made in the interests of the major media organisations and at the expense of the community.

ACTA asserts that free-to-air television is presently the dominant form of media in this country and that community access to spectrum is a vital contributor to media diversity. ACTA accepts audiences are moving online and the sector should be preparing for this future, however it is unfair that community television be forced off the air well in advance of all other television broadcasters and in a time frame that is likely to cause the closure of all stations.

We call on the Minister to open dialogue with the sector to find a solution that would enable community television to transition its business model in a time frame that is more feasible or to explore the option of sharing the SBS multiplex, utilising their third channel, currently used to re-transmit the stations primary channel.

Community Television in Australia has a 20 year history of providing open access to local communities to broadcast their stories on free-to-air television. Community Television’s purpose is to ensure that free-to-air broadcast spectrum is accessible by all members of the public – to make and screen content that is local, provides access to community groups and provides industry based learning for media students and independent filmmakers.

At a time when there are six shopping channels broadcasting on free-to-air in the capital cities, it is unfortunate that the Minister does not value the contribution community television has made – and could continue to make – to media diversity in this country.

You have no choice…

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By Celeste Hawkins

You have no choice but to make art.

Artists are like scientists or mathematicians. They set out to crack a code, to work though a problem. They never give up until they’ve ‘cracked it’ (double meaning there!). But even if they feel like they have-there is always more. If they give up they are tormented. If they keep going they are tormented. Either way, the life of an artist can be extremely frustrating, elating and isolating all at once. All the fears arise along with feelings of self-judgment, shame, doubt and self-deprecation. But despite all this-they know they have no choice. They must make art. There comes a point where a balance has been lost. A sacrifice must be made. A breakdown of a relationship or loss of a paid job is common as the only satisfying element left is the act. The strongest most reliable relationship is with the art.

However, just like a Hollywood movie, every cloud has a silver lining. There is also solidarity and collaboration with others who share your yearning. There is a feeling of deep immersion in your craft and immense feelings of joy. There is the exploration into the infinite caverns of the subconscious mind. There is a deep satisfaction that what you are doing is worthwhile and necessary and what is everything else anyway?

Art is everything in that it is both immaterial and material. It comes from this other worldliness, which is immaterial and can be sold or viewed as a commodity, which is material. It has a language of its own, mostly visual or spatial but sometimes textual or a combination. Most of all at its heart, it is the real language of life.

I’ll leave you with this. One of the three short films in a collection entilted; ‘New York Stories’. This clip is taken from the Martin Scorsese short called ‘Life Lessons-starring Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette. Its one of my favourtes! Enjoy.


Facts and Figures

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By Celeste Hawkins

I thought I would share with you today my personal picks in regard to artists of the figure painting and drawing kind.  One of my favourite Melbourne figurative painters is Jon Cattapan. Jon seeks  to make art that is engaged with the human condition and contemporay society, but also draws influences from Science Fiction and Film. Some of his earlier influences include :Schiele, Duchamp and Picasso. His works often draw on diffferent events and themes, for example,  the theme of fire saw works created on a Footscray chemical fire in 1989 and the burning of the houses of parliament, a historical event.

Jon Cattapan The Break (Vekeki) 2009 oil and acrylic on linen 180.0 x 250.0 cm -Image-Station Gallery

“I see painting as a personal observation of the ironic nature of life”. Jon Cattapan-Artist Statement 1980.

Cattapan on the children overboard affair: “I think its a very particular thing to try to record something like that through paining, to actually make a painting very slowly and absorb the event through the actual act, the physical act of making the work takes it somewhere else.”

In essence, Jon is an interpreter and dissector of events, further reinforcing the relevance and importance of the artist within our society.

Source: Jon Cattapan-Possible Histories-By Chris Mc Auliffe

Jon Cattapan is represented by Station Gallery


Godwin Bradbeer

I had the chance to view the works of Melbourne native Godwin Bradbeer at the James Makin Gallery in 2013 at an exhibiton called “Pentimenti” The sheer size and grandeur of his works were awe inspiring. The confident and often overlapping lines and perfect balance of the form, extra limbs,  and carfeully rubbed back areas were what struck me. A head confidently extends itself off the top of the paper as is the foot and the hand. This classically drawn woman had an etheral quality about her, almost floating or weightless on the surface. His backgound and knowledge of photography is  evident,   given the perfection and realist elements present with his burnishing techniques and use of Chinagraph- giving him that ‘solarised Man Ray photograph’ quality that he describes.

Bradbeer,Godwin -White Woman Chinagraph, pastel dusk silver oxide on paper – Image-James Makin Gallery

Transit of the Drangonfly

Bradbeer,Godwin -Transit of the Dragonfly Drawing – chinagraph, silver oxide and pastel on paper Image Size: 122 x 114 – Image- James Makin gallery


Bradbeer says himself about his imagery, that he is conscious about drawing himself. “This knowledge of the figure is embedded in you. If you understand that and can drag it up then that really can help when you’re having difficulties”. 

From his series of works called the “Metaphysical Body”, a survey exhibiton from 1970-2005, Dr Neill Overton sums it up beautifully, “Summarily, Bradbeer explores the mechanisms of Renaissance intent without hiding it beneath irony; in this endeavour he is arguably the most postmodern of artists, unafraid of the figurative language he explores.”(see website).

To summarise; I think that artists have their own language, a visual language that is uniquely their own. How they perceive their reality can affect how they read into and interpret current events to give them greater meaning, relevance and understanding.

Quote Source: Bradbeer,Goodwin- Steve Lopes: Artist Profile, issue 12, 83-86