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Sun, Moon, Venus & Miscellaneous





Welcome to my "new" website, finally...even though it's still a work in progress!

You can skip all of the following if you just want to look at my art or our astro-images (mainly planets) or you can read some of the following "Background" or "Biography" if you're a bit more interested in the human aspects & some personal & cultural perspectives - the internet does allow you to take what you want & disregard the rest, but I hope that at least some visitors find the following sections interesting...

During the "development stage" of the site I have had to constantly ask myself "why am I doing this?" and "is it worth the effort..?"

Some of this is probably any artist's tendency to question the reasons for displaying their work in public -  but there is a strong cultural element or context to all my work.

One special reason for wanting to create a website displaying both my art & astronomy is to help dispel any misperception that Australians from an Indigenous background aren't accomplished in wider fields than just sporting achievements: sure, football codes; athletics, basketball, tennis & cricket etc & even lesser-publicised sports such as surfing, horse racing, hockey etc, are areas where Indigenous Australians have & do shine.....but there are many high achievers in a variety of professional & other "specialist" arenas: law & advocacy, health & medicine, politics, education, administration, literature; drama  & performance from contemporary to classical, architecture, visual art, etc...the list goes on & on!

My art practice has always been slightly unconventional or "left-field" but it has never been seen by my peers as lacking in strong connection to both the traditional tenets of Western Desert art & culture, nor in affirming Indigenous Australian integrity or intention: for this I am justly proud!


My astro-imaging is of course very much in the vein of modern "science & technology" but my desire as an Aboriginal person to display a certain set of skills, even prowess in these matters is, I believe, important to assert in public forums such as this website. Hopefully this will not only dispel any afore-mentioned misperceptions - but will also help encourage young Indigenous Australians* to expand their horizons & have no fears nor hesitation in pursuing their dreams, whatever they might be!

This is a good place to state that I received no "traditional" Indigenous education or lore in general from an Aboriginal perspective as a child: one of the aspects (especially) of urban upbringings for many of my generation & beyond has been the loss of real connection to "country": yet another of the tragedies of colonisation similar to the loss of family connections & languages also, to name just a couple...

My interest now in these matters is another story: suffice to say that like much of Aboriginal lore & knowledge this is another area where much has been lost although much still remains in certain places; & like many other subjects the degree of understanding & sophistication of traditional knowledge far out-weighs generally-disseminated (non-Aboriginal) appraisals: one such understanding being the varying tidal influence of the Moon phases, notwithstanding it being an explanation within the milieu of (Yolgnu) lore.

An adjunct to the preceding is that although (possibly) a Greek/Chaldean (Seleucus) first proposed the connection of Lunar phases to tidal movement around 150BC, it was not until the 17th Century that this idea became generally disseminated throughout Europe...although the great Galileo Galilei got the explanation for this phenomenon utterly wrong in his "Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo - Dialogue on the Ebb and Flow of the Sea" in  1632!

This (Australian Indigenous astronomy) is an area that I would whole-heartedly encourage any interested persons to investigate further...at the end I provide a number of links on Australian Indigenous Astronomy for people to check out - they are by no means exhaustive nor necessarily the best, but I will edit these as time goes on & as I continue my own referencing of available information etc.

As the site develops I also intend loading more images & animations into the astro-sections: at present you will find very few mono (black & white) images there although they are important from a scientific perspective, often showing certain phenomena invisible in full-colour images...these will be part of the expanding site content.

Also, like the mono images there are numerous earlier images of the planets we captured that I feel deserve a place here: at present I am only selecting those that I can readily access amongst the plethora of disconnected hard-drives that form my astro-library...over time more will be added.

And of course, as I create more art I will document & post this also..! J


Further Background

Planetary imaging has increasingly taken "front stage" in recent years although I sometimes combine both pursuits, some images in the gallery links displaying this playful combining of my "conventional" artwork with more "technical" imagery.

With my art I regularly juxtapose patterns & imagery in what can be broad narratives set in "minimalist" compositions - sometimes using humour for what might otherwise be serious subject matter, but from a personal perspective I often fail in my quests & probably count my successful outcomes on not much more than my fingers & toes in nearly 30 years of striving...

I humorously consider myself to have a combined David Unaipon & Leonardo da Vinci complex: the former that outstanding Indigenous Australian whose portrait graces the Australian $50 note & the latter one of art's most (if not "the most") acclaimed in all of history...and whilst I say (of my contemporary Indigenous art) that "to some I'm a maverick, as much lunatic fringe as cutting edge" David himself was viewed as an enigma by many in his time...and though it would be delusional to make many comparisons between his remarkable life & my own, perhaps some day after I've gone critics might view me in a  slightly kinder light!?! As for the Leonardo reference...well, I carry work around for years making & remaking it...and like him I'm not a prolific creator, but that's probably the extent of any comparisons there! J


Although my work as an "amateur astronomer" is not based on any professional qualifications the work my partner & I have done in this field has been used frequently by professionals over the last few years...

Some of our achievements over the last few years are as follows: in early 2013 we produced the first Earth-based images of a bizarre hexagonal feature surrounding Saturn's North Pole since the (professional) Pic du Midi observatory first imaged this (crudely) in 1990/91: this "feature" was first observed by the Voyager spacecraft in the 1980's, only becoming visible again as Saturn tilted towards us after years during which this perspective was hidden from Earth's view. Our first images of this feature created huge debate in the amateur astronomy world (as well as amongst professionals!) & quite a lot of incredulity was expressed initially until we used the WinJupos software program to create a clear map of the North Polar region from our images - subsequent to this event many images have now appeared of said feature - but nonetheless our's was an international "first." J

Earlier, in July 2011 our's & other amateurs' images were used as data in an article published in "Nature" journal (considered by many as the most prestigious international science publication) regarding the gigantic "Dragon Storm" raging on Saturn at the time. More recent articles using or based upon select amateur planetary work (including our own) have been for the American Geophysical Union, the University of Leicester's Department of Physics & Astronomy's Saturn magneto-spheric studies & the personal honour of our images being used on the cover of the British Astronomical Association's Journal on 2 separate occasions (Saturn, June 2013 & Mars, June 2014) plus the 2014 European Astrofest, images published in the US “Sky & Telescope” publication along with regular planetary imaging contributions to the BAA, PVOL & other organisations for on-going recording, research & educational purposes... it should be noted here that amateurs' work in astronomy has a long history of complementing professional work

In 2012 we were the first people (outside of Mainland China) to test a new advance in cmos-based astro-cameras, the ZWOptical ASI120MM

We played an integral role in getting this camera fully-functional & the images we produced with it in late 2012, early 2013 were probably significant in making this the most popular planetary camera currently used by amateurs world-wide: we have continued to receive new models for testing & development since then in an ongoing relationship with ZWO....

I have mentioned my partner (Pat Nicholas) but I should make special mention of her in our planetary imaging: her IT knowledge plus her active assistance & advice whilst imaging are invaluable... it can be amazing but also quite lonely sitting in remote places out under the stars - along with her invaluable assistance her company is also most appreciated! J



On my mother's side I am the great-grandson of a Western Desert/Kokatha woman who began her life as a tribal girl in an area of South Australia's West Coast where the white man had only just begun to arrive; the subsequent spread of colonisation caused massive dislocation of the Indigenous population & resulted in both my Great Grandmother & Grandmother becoming unpaid "servants" for the local station owners (the Hawson family) for most of their lives...this is a common story for Aboriginal people in the colonisation of Australia.

My Grandmother was fathered by one of the Hawsons although never formally acknowledged: again common for Aboriginal people - & it can quite literally be said that we were inextricably linked to the fallout from the often bloody conflicts that marked the so-called "settlement" of that region: the violent events termed "punitive expeditions" - actually massacres following the spearing death of a young Hawson & the ensuing heightened divide between black & white that cast shadows over our particular family: still lingering in some ways, some 150 years later...

Brought to Adelaide in the early part of the 20th Century to continue serving the Hawson family, my Grandmother finally found herself alone & pregnant in a hostile world when the last of this Hawson clan passed away – she was almost 41 years old at the time as well: how she managed to care for & bring up her only daughter displayed great courage & determination, worthy of a modern television drama: she always maintained her dignity despite the travails she encountered, although it should never be forgotten that strong & loyal friendships from “special” people amongst White Australians played important roles in her & my family’s lives, a “surrogate” extended family whose only judgements of others was based upon mutual respect!

It is not my intention to dwell much more on the preceding: suffice to say my early formative years growing up in the 1950's & 60's when racism was much more rife in Australian society created problems for myself in many ways: with hindsight it was quite likely my interest in the night sky & passion for knowledge about it that delayed some of the personal conflict that later came to a head during my teenage years & into early adulthood, just as the discovery of art helped re-orientate me in later years…

It has been many years now since I began working as an artist, finding it gave meaning to my cultural heritage in a positive manner following a troubled youth where racist attitudes created great self-doubt & poor esteem in me – this (new-found) artistic capability allowing me to present myself publicly & engage in social discourse, with my artwork as the catalyst.


My "conventional" art output (if you could ever call it such!) has slowed somewhat of late - I was never a prolific producer, always viewing the experience of life as an essential element to any creative interpretations. And age slows everyone somewhat, although my ever-increasing pre-occupation with the planets & night sky is very much a re-awakening of a "first love" that burnt brightly within me as a young boy...

Back then I often slept outdoors with my older brother & sister in the summertime & at some point my father allowed me to use some broken binoculars he had, a good quality Zeiss pair - although it was probably because you could only look through one side that I got to use them at all, such was his strict nature with all of his belongings!

After looking at the stars through them (the good side!) I was hooked & wanted to see & know more...I began reading all that I could anywhere I could, & I can still recall the sheer sense of wonder as I looked at pictures in books & read explanations  that rivalled the most magical of mythological stories...

And to me it was exciting that as a small boy I could easily identify & learn many of the star patterns & their associations with human lore - to the point where I could identify  many of the stars' names also. Perhaps easy from a love & affinity for patterns & their associations that I have come to realise is at the heart of art, story & the human psyche - as well as at the core of all the world's many different cultural consciousnesses...

But any dreams of "becoming an astronomer" remained just that: as life became more complicated I found it difficult to maintain a balance; the dream was forgotten & replaced with a desperate need for something intangible in an era when it appeared to me that there was little of value or relevance in my surroundings...

But for the assistance & encouragement of those within Adelaide's Aboriginal community  (much later, but many years ago now) who helped reinforce my sense of identity & give greater meaning to my life, the essential self-belief & confidence to pursue goals might quite possibly not have occurred... eventually leading me back to my first love.

I can look back over my arts career with some sense of satisfaction now: awards, national & international touring exhibitions, significant public artworks & my own (small) contribution to Indigenous arts & culture through involvement over the years, including presentations & discussions I still occasionally conduct...always looking for the "broader picture" that affirms our humanity as paramount in any dialogues, viewing art as a social "tool" as much as a work of aesthetic effort.

Both in my art & astronomy that innate tendency to make sense of patterns & images is still the driving force - as is my quest for what the limits of possibility are - this is to me all part of what it is to be human in the first place.


I hope at the least that the viewer finds some interest or enjoyment in the various images presented herein: for those interested in "art" perhaps some intrigue, appreciation or humour... for those interested in the heavens some awareness of what can be achieved through passionate endeavour; or if this is all new to you some of the sense of sheer wonder the heavens constantly imbues me with...

Finally, this website is really a chronicle or aspect of my life's journey & the efforts to correlate those aforementioned patterns & images as much as anything else - regardless of whether I am sketching to realise the beginnings of an artwork from what might hitherto have been only fleeting notions...or trying to discern something tangible amongst all the noise & dross in a digital image coming via my telescope through billions of kilometres of space - so that whatever is captured is most revealing in its' circumstances: I'm always tracking something down & hoping to understand & appreciate it better each time than I have before...refining a sense of familiarity, awareness & intricacy - hopefully in the pursuit of wisdom as well as knowledge: & perhaps this is a fitting place to end here by including the full text of the quote I used earlier, something I wrote about 20 years ago now & way before the love of the sky was rekindled in me.


“To some I’m a maverick, as much lunatic fringe as cutting edge. I’m both traditional and radical, out there mapping the boundaries; I refuse to be assimilated or appropriated, allocated or intimidated; to have my intellectual or emotional faculties severed from my physical and spiritual being: my Aboriginality (and ultimately my humanity) will always seek a campsite around which to share warmth, stories, laughter & camaraderie.”

* The term "Indigenous Australians" refers to both Aboriginal Australians & Torres Strait Islanders.

Links to Australian Indigenous Astronomy websites
















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