Welcome to Utopia: Australia Votes 2007

It's the morning after the Australian Federal election and people all over the country are waking up to the realization that they've just kicked themselves (or been kicked by others) out of their eleven year comfort zone into a brave new era of Utopian Idealism.

Better the devil you know?

A new government means a new coat of paint, new carpets, new furniture and probably even a new corporate logo or name for every government department that is accessed by the public. Symbolic change, known as the 'transitional' period before the new government really gives us something to complain about.

Cynical?

Kevin Rudd replaces John Howard as our new Prime Minister. In his victory speech I heard him say that it was time to "write a new page in our nation's history". He said this again, later in the speech so that's at least two pages of writing just for starters. Well two pages and a signature on the Kyoto Protocol.

What I hadn't heard Kevin articulate before was this 'Utopian Idealism' that he would be a 'Prime Minister for ALL Australians' in which he listed everyone from Indigenous Australians to those serving in the Armed Forces on foreign soil. Kevin talked about putting 'all the old battles behind us', listing examples such as the fight between Unions and business, Public and Private, Federal and State, Growth and Environment. Finally he extended his reach to working with all the great nations of the world. Spoken like a new Prime Minister. John Howard was probably thinking 'yeah, good luck with all that.'

Personally I was quite excited about stealing the new laptop computer from my kids when, during his campaign, Kevin would hold up a computer and wax lyrical about his 'education revolution'. Unfortunately I don't have kids so that kind of curbed my enthusiasm.

You might think that I'm a disgruntled Howard supporter but, through my understanding of Australia's preferential voting system, my vote ultimately became a vote for Labor and Kevin Rudd. I have a thing about voting for minor parties like the Greens and The Australian Democrats first, in the slim hope that enough people will think like me. Then we could put a party into government that would be stunned into dumbfound silence should that ever happen... "pinch me, I think I'm dreaming... do we even have a plan for the whole nation?". That would sober a few people up very quickly the day after!

There are few occasions where you can get me to agree that something should be compulsory and voting is one of them. I'm pro-choice on just about everything but because people have to vote it at least gets them thinking about politics and who should run the country once every few years. I would hate to be in the USA situation where apathy allows anyone with a powerful minority in with a real chance if they can mobilize enough of their supporters into action on election day.

In this country people argue that we should choose whether we wish to vote like we can't choose not to vote. In actual fact, we still can choose not to vote. The cheap way is to turn up to a polling booth and lodge a blank form. The expensive way is to just not turn up and pay a fine for being too slack to get our name crossed off a list.

One thing I loathe about going out to vote is those people lined up, out front of every polling booth, handing out how to vote fliers. I know I pretty much ignored at least one person I know quite well (sorry to that person on the off chance you're reading this) because I just don't like having to wade through you all that much. Blinkers on, eyes on the door and go! That's me.

You could be my own mother (who will probably read this) handing out fliers for the party I'm going to vote 1 for and I wouldn't even see you until I'm out of the polling booth, mission accomplished. Don't believe me? The person I ignored was handing out how to vote fliers for the Greens party whom I voted for as first choice on both forms. I only recognised this person after I came out of the polling booth and noticed they were supporting the Greens.

I watched how the election panned out on the ABC (that's Australian Broadcasting Corporation, affectionately known as 'Aunty' in this country), because they don't 'spit on your mind', to quote Henry Rollins referring to TV network programming. I briefly tuned in to the commercial networks, who started earlier, where Channel Seven wins the Award for dumbing down the coverage for the 'Home and Away' generation, please... 'Tower of Power' and cartoon graphics of Kevin and John in a literal tug-of-war? Big, Hollywood star graphics? The whole thing reminded me of a pro-wrestling match.

For the first time there was at least one seat that had the whole nation intrigued. The Prime Minister's seat of Bennelong, where he was up against ex-Aunty journalist, reporter, and Labor party candidate Maxine McKew. At the time of writing this the seat was still too close to call. It will probably go right down to postal votes. However John Howard, in his concession speech, indicated that he thought the seat was probably lost, making him not only the countries second most successful Prime Minister but also the second Prime Minister to lose his seat at an election.

Maxine will be a legend if she wins it. She partly demonstrates a point I made to my partner on election day that, for an independent candidate to even have a glimmer of hope of becoming Prime Minister, they would need to be a high profile media celebrity. (Now that I've thought more about it they'd also need a really good, rock solid deal with a major party to work as a coalition. An independent leading a major party with a majority? Pigs would have to fly. Better the independents stick to 'balance of power politics').

So all this is becoming a bit long and a little off point. However I couldn't let the election pass without writing something about it. Politics does interest me a lot more than I let on, even if I don't consider myself to be that well informed of each parties policies.

Today we have a new government in Australia. One that I can only hope will do more good than bad for the country. John Howard did a pretty good job of things in many areas but now we have Kevin Rudd. Welcome to Utopian Idealism. Day 1.

The Da Vinci Code(s)?


When Dan Brown released his novel The Da Vinci Code he renewed interest in the artwork of Leonardo Da Vinci and opened much speculation on whether there was more to his work than meets the eye? Specifically that Leonardo was an artist who hid complex codes and hidden secrets within his art.

There is much evidence to support this idea as it is well known that many artists over the centuries have used symbolism to embed deeper meaning into their works than what can be seen at face value. Given that Leonardo was a 'thinker' on so many levels, including his complex ideas as an inventor, there is every chance that his art is filled with hidden meaning.

Whilst Dan Brown's book mentions more than one of Da Vinci's artworks it is The Last Supper, located in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy, that gets most of the attention. Largely, I think, because Dan Brown ties it to one of the great mysteries of human legend, the search for the Holy Grail.

I have read The Da Vinci Code and it is a great read. Even though it sources real artworks, societies and research facts I don't think Dan has ever said that his story is anything other than a work of, at best, hypothetical fiction.

Thanks to The Phoenix and the Harley, who wrote in her blog a post titled, De-Coding Leonardo, I was made aware of Italian musician, Giovanni Maria Pala, who claims to have found a musical code within The Last Supper. Giovanni's find was reported on the Discovery Channel web site as a prelude to the launch of his new book, "La Musica Celata" (which translates to "The Hidden Music"), documenting his findings.

If you're interested to know more about Giovanni's musical code then follow the link above to the Discovery Channel article but for my money there's just too much rearranging of elements for me to say the code was intentional. It's almost like saying, if you write 'Leonardo was here' across the face of the painting and then stand back you'll see a previously hidden message that wasn't there. Which is to say you're seeing things of your creation rather than by any intent from Leonardo.

I'm not convinced.

All this leads to what inspired me to write this article and that is a mystery that I'd wondered about for a time in relation to a certain dagger holding hand within The Last Supper. It may have been the movie of The Da Vinci Code that started the rumor or it could have been something else but either way it was suggested that the dagger holding hand in the artwork could not be attributed to any of the Apostles surrounding it. A 'phantom' hand if you like.

Thanks to an extremely useful site, appropriately titled, The Last Supper in detail, I was able to take a closer look at this hand and, as you can see in the screen shots, it clearly can be attributed to one Apostle , Peter. Consistent with other similar depictions of the Last Supper during the same period.

For those of us that can't see the artwork in person but would like to find hidden meanings, codes or just gain a better understanding of this exceptional piece of history then The Last Supper in Detail is the best site for extreme close up detail unrivaled by any other site online.

The site also references some of the source material, notes etc. that Leonardo created in preparation for the painting. If there is a code to be found then surely some strong hint of it would appear in this information?

TET's Comedy Art Video a Winner!


Blank Canvas IV - Art Critic
Video by TET

The above video is my first and only post on the Video, Photo and Music site, View Bug. Given that I only signed up to the site just over a week ago it's very nice to have been selected by View bug's staff as a weekly winner and a recipient of a US$30.00 cash prize. Instantly this video has just become my highest earning video - earning more than my entire collection across nine sites collectively (there's money in online video... apparently?). Screen shot of my win featured on View Bugs home page posted below (click to see larger version).


The video its self pokes more of my humor at the wonderful world of 'conceptual minimalism' - a phrase that I've coined for art that only barely skims the surface of creative potential. It's also a dig at art critics who elevate this work from obscurity, where it should remain.

Whilst I'd like to believe I was selected over thousands of entries, in some pretty stiff competition, going by the views most people seem to get on View Bug, I'd say it's early days for this competition. However a thirty dollar weekly prize is nothing to be sneezed at, especially in the world of online video where many of us are competing for pennies from advertising dollars.

If you're an online video creator, photographer or maker of original music I'd highly recommend you sign up and participate in View Bug before the big names of You Tube, Revver or Metacafe discover it.

At least we can be thankful that the winning video is selected by the sites staff and not by the number of views or viewer ratings. Once a big name discovers the site you won't have to compete with an established audience.

Three tips for developing artwork ideas.

If you're an artist struggling with 'artist's block' then here are three tips that may help you get an idea or two out of your sketch book.

Keep it simple.

Many artists fall into the trap of thinking that art needs to be complex and thought provoking. Don't get me wrong it's great when it is but don't try to be complex when you're struggling just to get one idea (save the complex work for when you're on a roll).

Don't over think it.

Just like my first point but even over thinking a simple idea can cause you to abandon it. An idea doesn't need to be perfect it just needs potential. If you look at my previous post, The Creativity of Imagining Dragons, the Blue Dragon artwork may not have happened if I'd spent hours refining my sketch. To complete that artwork I did one partially resolved sketch and worked out the rest as I painted it onto the canvas.

Choose a recurring theme.

If there is one theme that really interests you then keep revisiting and reinterpreting it in new ways. Sticking with a theme narrows your choices down from 'everything' to just the parameters of that theme. Since I started painting cats as a recurring theme (more than 50 paintings and still going) I've almost never been stuck for new paintings. Use your recurring theme when nothing else comes to mind.


These three simple tips are intended to remind you that curing artists block usually means going back to basics. Starting again and working towards the more complex themes and ideas that you can really flow your creativity into.

The Creativity of Imagining Dragons

What does a dragon look like? Depending on where you live your description may vary. For example the European idea of a dragon is a fairly large, dinosaur like creature with a longish neck and huge wings that allow it to fly. Where as the oriental, Chinese style of dragon tends to be more serpent like in the body, retaining lizard like legs, but often does not include wings. The point being, you would still recognize both as being a dragon.

If you're ever stuck for something to get your creative juices flowing then imagining a dragon can be a useful exercise to pass the time. Think about everything you know about what a dragon looks like and then try to draw it. It's not as easy as you might think.

We all know the broad features that make a dragon recognizable to us but when it comes to filling in the details it can be quite a challenge. What does the mouth look like? Should a dragon have horns? What about the wings - could they be bat like or should they be more like pterodactyl wings? What type of dragon is it? Will it be land based or does it live in the water? Would a dragon that lives in the water need wings?

Whilst I haven't painted a lot of dragons through out my career I certainly have drawn many in numerous sketch pads. Dragons are interesting creatures and imagining one can really be a creative challenge.

Pictured artwork:

Blue Dragon, by TET
Acrylic on Canvas Stretcher
40 x 80cm (15" x 31"), November 2007

Student finds valuable art inside sofa bed!

In one of my previous blog posts, titled Art in your couch, I humorously suggested the idea of looking down the back of your couch to see if you could find any 'art'. Today, in a Reuters news feed, I came across this story Student finds baroque painting inside old sofa, which gives serious credibility to the idea that looking down the back of your couch for art may not be such a silly idea after all.

The story relates how a German Student bought a sofa bed at a flea market and, some usage time later, discovered a rather valuable painting hidden inside.

Titled "Preparations for the flight to Egypt," the artwork is believed, by experts, to have been painted between 1605 and 1610 by an unknown artist thought to have ties to Venetian painter Carlo Saraceni.

The student, who discovered the painting between the folds of the sofa bed, sold the painting at auction in Hamburg for 19,200 euros (US$27,660). A tidy profit on the 150 euros she paid for the sofa.

As a footnote to this story, for those unknown artists who may be reading this, there's hope that your art may have real investment value nearly four centuries after you painted it.

Come to think of it, there is a sofa bed in my living room... I think I'll discreetly slip one of my artworks between the folds when nobody is looking!
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