Geoffrey Stapleton

THE Geoffrey Stapleton GALLERY

August 6 - September 4 - 2011




Desert Symphony

My studio in Nailsworth wasn’t large and there came a time when I felt that painting a desert required some modicum of actual vastness, some real physical space. I had a canvas made up at Pimlotts that was as big as it could be and still fit into my studio. The first thing I painted was the string or cord pulled tight across the canvas. I thought that if it were struck we would feel the deep sound of the desert (in the key of “D” apparently) and all would vibrate with it. From sound waves to sand waves. Ebb and flow. Life and death. Watch out little mouse.
250 cm x 110 cm - acrylic on canvas




The Mine

It was only after I had completed a number of the “desert” paintings that I realised that most of them depict some sort of western exploitation or at least intrusion on the land, which is of course a very recent developement in the big scheme of things. But the mine is not without it’s own stories and its own music and poetry.
40cm x 30cm - acrylic on canvas - framed






Desert 1

“Desert 1” was the first of the “desert” paintings from the ”Oceans and Deserts” series exhibited in 2011. In the same way that the “Ocean 1” painting kept me cool in summer, working with the reds and oranges on “Desert 1” in the winter of 2000 seemed to keep me warm. With all of the bones and broken compasses I was becoming a bit concerned, so I was very relieved when the lizard stuck his head out of the hole in the background.
90cm x 120cm - acrylic on board





The history of Australia is littered with skulls. The skulls in the "desert" pictures seem to represent people who have not managed to adapt well to a new and seemingly harsh environment or even perhaps those who have been removed from their traditional and safe environment.
30cm x 22cm - acrylic on canvas - framed




Exhibit 1

Ironically this painting started it’s life as an ice painting. Glacial in fact. Paul Stapleton and I had been discussing doing a series of ice pieces, and that’s where I went with it - sharp peaks and crystalline facets. As if mimicking the thawing of the ice age, over the next half dozen years it slowly turned into a sandy, albeit mountainous, desert piece. Perhaps it was global warming as I can’t really recall working on it!
90cm x 120cm - acrylic on board





Flying Fish

Every now and then I see a dead bird on the foot path. It always strikes me as a particularly sad thing being as how it had the miraculous gift of flight but is now forever earth bound. It somehow makes the loss seem that much greater. And there’s nothing you can do to help. It’s gone. And life just keeps going on...and off. You can mock death or romanticise it but you can’t defy it ... apparently!
60cm x 30cm - acrylic on canvas






At a friend’s farm just out of Victor Harbour in South Australia there was a mess of old mangled farm equipment. There was something tragic yet heroic about it. It made me think about tenacity, faith and entropy. I used to love playing with the bright coloured electrical wires and transistors when I was a child. They always remind me of my dad’s workshop, now long gone.
90cm x 120cm - acrylic on board





I began the sketch for this painting back in the late eighties, forgot about it, then discovered it again while putting the "deserts" exhibition together. Australia has so many incredible outcrops of rock that rise unexpectedly out of the landscape and it's not hard to see why so many indigenous stories and indeed spirits are attached to them. I heard the story of the "Rainbow Serpent" as a child and it has stayed with me ever since. It always sounded like such a beautiful yet awesome creature.


50cm x 40cm - acrylic on canvas - (framed) x 2
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Yakka With Feathers

These Yakka trees, all such individuals, always seem to me to be imbued with some kind of spirit dimension. It’s like they have a soul. I thought I would attempt to enhance that aspect. The black and white feathers facilitate the ability of the spirit to fly.
45cm x 35cm - acrylic on canvas





Stone and String

"Stone And String” was the last of the “Desert ” paintings and is probably my favourite. It was like after all the years of painting these themes, some of them very complex indeed, I’d finally got to the nub of it. The vibration, the waves, the resonance... the essence. I liked the idea that you can almost hear how the painting would sound if you plucked the string. In a way it feels like this is where I should start the series ... or end it.
100cm x 75cm - acrylic on canvas





Queen And Country

I fly in and out of Adelaide quite often and have become familiar with some of the markings on the land between Adelaide and Sydney when viewed from very high up in the air. As I scrawled some of these familiar markings on a canvas, I was quite astonished to see the Queen's head begin to appear. Something about the arrogance of the British monarchy over the centuries and the fact that Elizabeth is still the Queen of Australia made me embellish her a little more, for example, sharpen her teeth.
40cm x 50cm - acrylic on canvas


Four More Hearts

“Four Hearts” was a painting I did for the “Ocean” series and this painting, “Four More Hearts” is really the companion to that piece. The “Ocean” painting has fish swimming by where the lizards are in this piece. I’d originally tried fish skeletons instead but exchanged them for the blue lizards. I‘ve always enjoyed seeing the effect of this particular blue and red together.
30cm x 25cm - acrylic on canvas





Slingerland Drum Kit

I was 19 when I imported my Slingerland drum kit from the U.S.A. and it took me a long time to pay mum and dad back. It was worth it though as it provided me with the beginning of a means to an end, that is, becoming a professional musician (not to mention the interesting, often hair-raising journey that went with it.) On the way the kit was befriended by two other drummers in the family, both nephews. Firstly Simon Stapleton and then J.J. Peters. I still have it and I still love it but it’s getting old like me.
100cm x 75cm - acrylic on canvas





There used to be a great shop in Oxford St, Darlinghurst in Sydney called Remo and they carried a seemingly endless supply of retro knick-knacks and things that looked futuristic as viewed from the 1950's. This rocket feels a bit like that.
10cm x 10cm - acrylic on canvas





Cities come and go. Cultures come and go. Music for the times comes and goes. Time is the constant. Time is the enemy.
40cm x 120cm - acrylic on canvas




The arrogance of a handful of big companies to strip the earth of it's so called "natural resources" with such recklessness for purely personal gain regardless of the cost to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society not to mention the future generations, is all part of Australia's rich tapestry.
100cm x 75cm - acrylic on canvas




Dirt Music 2

I found the canvas I used for “Dirt Music 2 “ lying in the gutter a few doors down from my studio in Nailsworth, South Australia. It was a bit grubby but otherwise in pretty good nick. It inspired a looser and more reckless approach to the painting. I’d loved the sound of the words since I’d read Tim Winton’s wonderful novel... so I stole the title...twice.
90cm x 120cm - acrylic on canvas





Heart With Sun

I painted this small picture in warm Rockhampton, Queensland where I was giving some music workshops and being paid quite well. All of the relevant details seem to be in the painting.
12.5cm x 12.5cm - acrylic on canvas



Smiley Face

I started this picture as a big smiley face and as the years went by and various personal and world events unfolded I added bits and pieces to it. At the time Australia was being viewed (or viewing itself) as "the deputy" to America's "sheriff" on the world stage. I don’t usually do protest pictures as they inevitably come across as a bit phoney and more from the head than the heart, but with the unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not to mention Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, I think a little osmosis must have come in to play.
100cm x 100cm - acrylic on canvas




Bourke and Wills and Camel

European settlement is so recent, just over two hundred years as opposed to the 60,000 years the aboriginal people have been the custodians and indeed a part of the land. The stories of explorers "conquering" the outback are actually stories of great tragedy on so many levels, and the tragedy carries through to the present.
40cm x 30cm - acrylic on canvas - framed




Yakka With Lizards

Coming from South Australia, we call the grass plant Xanthorrhoea, a “yakka”, but in my childhood I heard them referred to as “blackboys”, the idea being that they were supposed to resemble aboriginal people carrying spears. Anyway, they always seemed very significant to me, spiritual even, and are just about my favourite plant.
100cm x 75cm - acrylic on canvas




House Music

I painted this in a classic Aussie motel in outback Queensland after we had been playing some music back at the hotel post gig. The instruments blended in with the hotel as I painted it.
15cm x 10cm - acrylic on canvas






After disasters strike, often all that’s left are the memories. Those memories may find a voice between those directly affected or through journalism or perhaps even literature, music, film, poetry and art. Its these expressions of a shared adversity and an acknowleged empathy that are often the very things required to build the hope and belief neccessary to face the task of putting it all back together.
100cm x 75cm - acrylic on canvas



Dirt Music 1

Natural musicians can find whatever is at hand and figure out a way for it to make music. It might be an old ice cream tin or a comb or some spoons, a gum leaf perhaps or a found plastic toy ... then they figure out a way to make it talk and walk and sing and raise the spirits of those around them.
40cm x 30cm - acrylic on canvas




Flying In To Kintore

Thanks to Graham “Buzz” Bidstrup and his work with the Jimmy Little Foundation I had the privilege of painting and doing workshops with the indigenous people of Kintore (Wullungurra) in the Western Desert. When we were flying in, there seemed to be what looked like great sheets of silver shimmering across the land. It was a beautiful sight but as we landed and got closer it turned out to be thousands of plastic bags caught in the undergrowth and blowing in the wind. It wasn’t so pretty close up.
100cm x 75cm - acrylic on canvas







We usually think of the sun as a distant thing, something removed and acting from afar, but I like to see it embedded in the landscape where its power, heat and energy are a physical presence and part of (and inside) everthing. With the “Oceans And Deserts” series, many of the paintings have a corresponding opposite and a good example is “Sun” and “Moon”. Also, I really enjoy painting spheres.
45cm x 45cm - acrylic on canvas




Precious Things

To be honest, I rarely think about what any of the paintings actually mean until pressed, because for me it’s mainly about solving a myriad of problems on the canvas to my own personal (omnipotent!) satisfaction (something that can’t be done in real life). I think that’s the point of it sometimes. But if pushed, and looking at the image now, I’d say it looks to me like modern commercial interests cutting a swathe through ancient land and culture. Not an unfamiliar scene.
100cm x 75cm - acrylic on canvas
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Desert Crash

In another case of life imitating art, not long after I started this painting my nephew, Jimmy Gardiner, had a car crash on the highway out in the middle of nowhere. The Australian outback is not a friendly place to be if you’re alone and unprepared and he was fortunate to have survived it virtually unscathed, managing to get a ride into the nearest town fairly promptly, but it shook him up. He said it happened so quickly but in slow motion and then the stillness.
75cm x 40cm - acrylic on canvas





Sun With Manuscript And Pins

Sometimes small canvases take longer than large ones to complete and you don't see the work that has gone into it trying to come up with the right ingredients. Sometimes there are many layers of paint under the final layer all with their own images and paralell universes.
20cm x 25cm - acrylic on canvas



Bee Rock

When our daughter Sienna was four, our local playground was at Blair Park, Croyden, N.S.W. There were a number of large boulders placed in the park that we would climb. One day I lifted her up onto to the highest rock but we didn’t see the bee already there and it stung her on the leg. She’d never been stung before so I raced her the kilometre home in case she was allergic. Fortunately she wasn’t! The picture is actually a self portrait. The little guy is me thinking back to the good times when I was quite comfortable being a story book-like character come to life.
50cm x 40cm - acrylic on canvas
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I did the first rough outline on canvas for this painting when I was introducing, via anecdote, the GANGgajang film clip for the song "Trust" on "The Complete GANGgajang" DVD. It started as a big yellow pin, but then I got to thinking, just like the Medieval scholars did and later Paul Kelly "How many angels are there on a pin?" and it went from there.
60cm x 50cm - acrylic on canvas




While trying to put into words what was not designed to be put in to words I notice the yakka, with what I perceive to be its spiritual dimension, again taking centre stage. Perhaps a suggestion of Christian ritual enhances the sacred nature of the connections that appear to be being made.
45cm x 60cm - acrylic on canvas




Another Four More Hearts

I actually painted “Another Four More Hearts” as the companion piece to the “Ocean” painting “ Four Hearts” but later realised it was a slightly smaller canvas so decided to paint one the correct size which I called “Four More Hearts”. I was happy to do it though as it was a lot fun to paint and the lizards make me think of Mr. Escher (hallowed be his name.)
28cm x 24cm - acrylic on canvas




Golden Pins

When we were children we would occasionally visit Victor Harbour in South Australia where my dad spent some of his childhood . We would collect the little fluffy ended plants we called "pussy willows". Mum would buy coloured crepe paper which we would soak in water until the dye came out at which time we would dunk the pussy willows in the water and they would come out coloured. It was like magic and they looked so beautiful.
30cm x 15cm - acrylic on canvas

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“Oceans and Deserts” represents a unique collection of work by artist Geoffrey Stapleton. This is a video of Stapleton previewing the exhibition from his Nailsworth studio.