On the 9th of December “Extended Vision” ventured forth to perform a duet composition simultaneously performed in Canberra and Melbourne. The Canberra site was the legal Graffiti practice wall on the McCulloch St storm water underpass down from the Cotter road in Curtin, and in Melbourne the famous Hosier lane.
New Epoch Notation Painting uses a written score to separate the act of image composition from the process of making a painting. The score acts as the subject and not only contains instructions on what to paint, it enables the composer to add meaning to the chronological progress of the paintings. The score coordinates the act of painting, but allows performers to contribute their own mannerisms, so no two performances can ever be the same. Until now, most visual art was a solo affair, now visual symphonies are conceivable. The notation system used in the score is the world’s first high level conceptual language for pure visual imagery. It takes half an hour to learn and a life time to master.
Being painted today is “Parade”, a New Epoch Notation trio performed by “Extended Vision” in support of marriage equality for the LGBTQ community. The simple themes derived from gender symbols move through a succession of transitions before their final embellishment with the colours of the rainbow flag.
Development of the score
“Parade” First complete performance November 2017
Performance of “Parade” at the “Not Fair Art Fair” 11-11-2017
In all artists lies the need to be appreciated. We don’t create in a vacuum, so to not have an audience to bounce off and give feed-back, makes the creative process rather maddening. After all, is not recognition the measure of success? Or at least that is what we are led to believe. I find success an elusive concept as well as attribute. Something the young are primed with, that wry “when I’m famous” sentiment, that can be laughed away. Now that I’m older, and seemingly no closer to any kind of measurable success, it just isn’t funny anymore. I have bills to pay and mouths to feed and I spend all this time creating art works only for them to accumulate in my studio/garage. I am guilty of not networking, of not making the most of my opportunities when they arrive and so the pattern is perpetuated and self doubt swamps self belief. I kid myself that there is some nobility in being a failed artist, but it is the sting of rejection that represents the ultimate road block.
Despite a positive reception at The Belconnen show, it concluded with my feeling somewhat disillusioned. It seemed like traditional avenues were no longer what I wanted to pursue and I began researching street art, finding much cross over with the purpose and intent of early Extended Vision performances.
Street art has emerged in recent decades as a significant force in contemporary art expression. A movement defined by its embrace of hybridism rather than by its adherence to prescribed boundaries. The urban environment then becomes integrated in the conception, purpose and display of the art works – it becomes the new canvas. Museum and gallery art has become largely about preservation of the art object and adoration of the anointed ones. Street art attacks this idea, born of a need for artists to engage with the emotions of the audience in a direct and powerful way, uncluttered by art theory and esoteric conceptual frameworks and wearisome middlemen. It is this desire for accessibility that drives its conception. While street art is identified as being ephemeral with scant consideration for the durability and longevity of the piece, it still relies on the artefact to carry its message.
When I first came to Canberra in 2005, the bus shelters with their unique circular design were one of the signature features of the place – one of the things that helped distinguish the city from others I had lived in, Melbourne and Brisbane. I was told to expect manicured lawns, white picket fences and lots of round-abouts, apparently indicative of the political machinations in our seat of power. The thing that struck me was how small the city is. I remember passing a five-story apartment block and thinking “wow, that’s the tallest building in Canberra! Of course there is Black Mountain Tower, another land mark and veritable light house for those of us who are directionally challenged. It was quite a relief really to think that I could navigate from one side to the other in 45 minutes, half the time it took me to make it home from work in a Brisbane evening amongst the traffic crawl on Gympie road at peak hour. As for the picket fences, well there weren’t too many of those, but with a shortage of housing came rows and rows of identical display homes huddled together in new estates slowly eroding the nature reserves and remnant farm land. Every place you live in gets under your skin eventually, if only through association with significant events in life, and I’ve had four of those since residing here – four beautiful children. I guess they are genuine Canberra kids, despite my feeling of misplacement.
I continued to experiment with stencils, not so much as a means of delivering the image directly to walls, but as a way of generating large quantities of work that could then be used as paste-up street art. Although what I soon called my “Canberra Bus Stop Exhibition” featured a variety of imagery, significantly those relating to Asylum Seekers, many of the works also had a thematic basis.
“Flowers” Sray enamel on paper 60 x 50 cm. Most of these were pasted up in bus shelters around Canberra in 2012,
“Flower” 2012 Acrylic on canvas 30 x 30 cm each
“Nexus” performance 1 of a duet score composed by Baden Johnson and Euan Graham 2006.
The first “tag team” score emerged in 2006. Baden and I sending 4 turns at a time by post until 4 complete scores were realised. The first of these was adapted to become a performance ready duet composition. Baden conducted a number of public performances around Melbourne of this score which marked the beginning of the “reunion” of Extended Vision.
“Nexus” was performed by Baden Johnson in a number of locations including the “Bannock Burn Show” in 2009 and in the “Off The Curb” Gallery Melbourne 2010.
By the end of 1993, Baden Johnson returned to painting the landscape, utilizing aspects of thematic form and merging it to greater and lessor degrees with more traditional depictions. He also kept exploring performance art and developed a show incorporating New Epoch Art as well as physical theatre comedy. Baden had a passion for performing and after appearing in school plays had determined that he was either going to pursue an acting career or painting. That was the great appeal of New Epoch Art performance, being a platform where he could engage with both simultaneously. Toward the end of 1993 he became involved with Saint Martins Youth Arts Centre in South Yarra and work shopped some performance ideas with a young dancer looking to combine large scale NEA compositions with physical movement – constructing the paintings on stage incorporating painting, dance and assembling a stage set. It never got beyond about early planning stages but it had opened the door for Baden to look beyond “Extended Vision” in combining painting and theatre. His work at that time was exhibited at St Martin’s as “Recent Themes” works he described as inspired by Peter Graham’s Western Port era Notation paintings.
In 1994 Baden used New Epoch paintings as props in a comedy act he developed for the Melbourne Fringe Festival performing at the National Theatre in St Kilda. In the 600 seat venue his 15 minute act used paintings as props to help tell the story of the tribulations of a starving artist. I didn’t get to see the show but Baden played me a video that impressed. In a short space of time he had honed his stagecraft and held the audience at attention. When he introduced his painting “Search” and then proceeded to place it against his face hand out in front as if above his eyes in the manner of a search, the audience responded with hearty laughter. In this way he managed to take his painting to a larger audience in a most unique fashion.
This experience in turn drew him toward participating in the stand up comedy circuit around Melbourne where he got paid gigs alongside the likes of Dave Hughes; Elliot Goblett and Merrick Watts culminating in an appearance at the 1995 Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the Melbourne Town Hall in a show called “Mixed Bag”. He worked night shift as a cleaner to afford the time during the day to develop his stage act. This endeavor came to an abrupt end on the eave of the 1996 Comedy festival with the death of his grandfather, an event that triggered another change in direction and he once again returned to the studio to develop new landscape paintings again incorporating thematic line and a series inspired by the John Lennon song “Across The Universe”.
In 2000, Baden and I exhibited at the Charles Smith gallery in a show titled “woodlands and Wastelands” combining Baden’s lush green plain air paintings with my “hungry country” landscapes of central Victorian sheep paddocks. The show was well received and pointed once again to future collaborations. Personal loss of significant family members once again disrupted Baden’s course, but with his late mothers encouragement to keep painting, he once again embraced images of the landscape, but now with a broader focus on themes surrounding globalisation and our exploitation of natural resources.