Updated: Feb 8
1. You call yourself a creative activist" and not an artist. Why?
My creative expressions are all founded upon sending out important messages. The state of the world is central to my purpose for living, and so everything I do relates to the big picture, to support the movement of consciousness towards a more aligned state of being in harmony with the biosphere.
2. Explain Mergings. How do they work? What is their purpose?
Mergings are ceremonial art immersion sessions that allow people to connect with their true nature through the earth itself. These ceremonies highlight our ‘metaphoric’ and ‘metaphysic' existence in this world.Through intention, stamina, paint and photography we harness the energy of unity by embodying our connection to nature through this creative process.
How does it work: We begin with a conversation. Why would someone want to be painted into the world? Intention is key and so we focus on this aspect in two pre-production sessions before venturing into the territory of logistics. Through the discussion of intention, the significance of the elements begin o reveal themselves and we can move the conversation towards what location would best suit the intentions of this experience. After we have an idea of what kind of landscape we are merging with we begin the location assessment process, which entails a day of visiting different special spots and working out lighting, direction, positions etc. After we know exactly where and what time we are going to carry out the production, we set the date (often the following day) and prepare for the ceremony that will precede the painting production. In this ceremony we bring in elements of significance, symbols, things, letters, words to declare into existence and that which to let go of. The ceremony process includes many difference ceremonial practices I have learnt from spirit workers around the world, that aid in the cleansing and permissions required from the spirits and elements of the earth. We complete the ceremony with a short silent breathing meditation to connect us to each other and the environment around us. Once this is complete, eyes open and we begin the Merging Production. The painting itself takes approximately 1-2 hours depending upon the needs of the people who are merging. I jump back and forth from one point of perspective and paint what I see until they are completely disappeared. People can go into and out of various realms, experiencing physical sensations that can even cause them to have to sit down at times. we work through all sensations with trust and focus on the goal. Upon completion of the painting I take photos of the final product. When all is complete, we rest, drink tea, and if there is a body of water close by, I invite my clients to submerge as a natural way of rebirthing and cleansing. Paints are all non-toxic and non disruptive to the nature.
3. You cite indigenous traditions and principles as inspiration for your work- which ones specifically do you pull from and how do they manifest in your process?
During Ceremony prior to painting, I use various traditions such as smoke ceremony using herbs such as sage and wood such as palo santo. This is sometimes known as smudging and is a way of cleaning the energy of the person and the space. Another process we honour is ceremonial use of aqua de flores, literally translated and water of the flowers, aqua de flores is a special alcohol used to clean the person the space and the energy. Placed inside the cupped hands, placed first on top of head and then rubbed all over the arms the stomach the legs and then cupped hands are placed over the mouth and nose for three deep breathes. Another cross-cultural aspect of Indigenous ceremony is the use of instruments and sound to call in the spirits to hold space and protect the exchange. Through the use of singing bowls and drums, we are able to drop into an instant state of connection with spirit, breath and nature.
4. In college, you went from studying law to anthropology. What did the two disciplines have in common? What did anthropology offer that law didn’t?
Anthropology offered me the opportunity to learn about the expasiveness of being a human. Both from the perspective of what we have in common and how we differ. Anthropology kept me thirsty to learn more about life and humanity and guided me into studies of environmental awareness and fuelled my passion to understand the purpose of or existence here on earth.
Law is an imposed paradigm guided by the interests of those in power, both consciously and culturally. The more I learnt about the system the less I was interested in dedicating my life to the enforcement of it.
5. It sounds like you're something of a nomad- where have you lived, and what are the conditions when you travel (hotels, van camping, 5 star hotels, etc.)?
I have definitely done my fair share of living on the road, four years jumping around India, painting walls of guesthouses, spinning fire in exchange for a meal and growing a sense of gratitude for the minimum one needs to be happy. I spent three years living in share houses around tel aviv as I set up my circus business. I have lived in a van whilst travelling around south and central america and up and down the east coast of Australia - painting people into the world. Its amazing how 15 years of travel can fly by. I am now based in Byron Bay Region of NSW Australia, with Tasmania, Africa and the US on the cards for 2018.
6. How do you select sites? How long does a painting session last?
The sites are selected organically, via the pre-merge process of exploring what aspects of ‘self’ we are merging with what elements of the earth. Often people have special spots they wish to merge with to mark an important chapter of life. Otherwise, based upon the location of the client and the directions of the sun, we explore possibilities by driving from one gorgeous possible location to the next.
7. Why did people volunteer for this? What were they hoping to get out of it, and did they?
4 years ago, in the beginning, I set out to respond to visions that had come through medicinal journeys with a special shamana of 80yrs that I had the honour of working with in Peru, Madam Adela. When I originally put the call out, I invited people to be part of the creation of an ‘art collection’ as I was aspiring to ‘make it’ as an artist and have my first exhibition. I was inundated with people who wanted to be painted into the world, because people resonated with the message of merging with the planet and the potential healing both of the personal and universal realms that this could facilitate. For the last 2 years all my work has been commissioned. I no longer aspire to exhibit works per se as I have understood the depth of this experience for everyday people and have responded to the demand for the experience. I offer people an opportunity to EXPERIENCE themselves as one with the earth in a very unique way - and be able to forever reflect on this essential truth through their own personal artwork of themselves merged with the earth. Its quite an incredible experience, and the images remain available for the world to see because my ultimate intention of this process is to continuing presenting humanity with a direct visual connection to the message - we are ONE with the earth.
8. Do your subjects react even before they see the final image? If so, why might this be?
Yes there are lots of reactions that come through this process and everything that comes through is a perfect reflection of what there is to work through. This can coe through in the form of an emotional, physical or psychological purge. My role is to ‘hold space’ for whatever needs to come through to clean the spirit and reground into a state of integrity, as a human from the earth.
9. What special skills and materials are required for body painting?
I never really thought much about the skill that i involved to do what I do, because it came naturally and I learnt intuitively. But if I am to take a step back I can see that physical fitness is important as I carry all my equipment table paints and camera onsite. A deep sense of inner connectivity to myself is important in order to hold space for peoples therapeutic experience. Eyes are important but perhaps not in the same way people might imagine. The practice of merging someone into the earth is a ‘ one eyed’ technique so being able to work through one eye only is essential. I am very short sighted and visually impaired in one eye. This has given me the ability to see the world ‘impressionistically’ and not get caught up in the details. It is the blurring of foreground and background that in fact leads to a blurring of time and space, allowing people to literally merge with the eternal truth of our human existence.
10. Your first experiment with painting someone into the landscape was your sister, who promptly had her first ever seizure. How does she describe the experience now?
Amazingly, I have actually landed in the same part of the world as this ‘sister’ and we have had the opportunity to debrief about this experience 4 yrs later. To this day she recounts this experience as being one of the most profound moments of connection to the planet, it was a moment in time that we shared with only the earth as our witness and the extremity of that moment will live within us forever.
11. How does your work intersect with "mimesis”?
My work is mimetic. I copy the world upon the skin of people.
12. What differentiates your work from that of better-known body painters like Craig Tracy and Bella Volen?
Great question! I had no idea that there were people in this world who also practised this technique until Craig discovered me and my wrk and invited me to the states. From there I met him, Bella, Johannes Stoetter and Trina Merry, all who are masters of mimetism. My work differs significantly because my work is therapeutic and process based as opposed ‘art’ focused. The intention is to reconnect with our essential nature with a bi-product of final artwork. This has lead me to many awesome collaborations with environmental organisations and humanitarian projects.
13. How do you respond to people who dismiss this as "hippy nonsense”?
My work is an opportunity for people to dive deep into experiential art therapy. For me, the aspect of science and spirituality in this matter are very synergetic, our thoughts and intentions are vibrational waves, measurable by scientific devices. art therapy has a long standing history of success, being able to dissolve belief patterns and create cathartic release through creative practice is an ancient technique. i work with all types of people, those familiar with these concepts and those who are new to these ideas. It doesn’t bother me what people think, I am satisfied with the fact that people have the opportunity to think at all about new ideas and important truths such as the message within all my work, which is that we are part of the planet and have a responsibility to connect with the issue of sustainability and environmental respect. For me this is all an issue of self love, loving ourselves as part of the beautiful planet we were born out of and recognising that our actions and ways of being have an impact upon the whole world.
14. What do your parents do? What do they think of the path you're on?
My mother is psychotherapist and author and my father ran a pale beating garage. They have always encouraged me to follow my heart and have been incredibly supportive of my unconventional journey.
15. You took on your first body-painting job (for the WWF) after a breakup. How did that emotional experience connect you with body painting?
Sadness and Grief are incredibly powerful spaces of transformation. The depression I experienced that ensued after my break up gave me the opportunity to let go of all my plans and surrender to the unknown. As many artists know, sadness is one of the most powerful portals for expression. Being able to focus on my art was central to my healing journey and set the foundations for being able to support others through their own hardships through my work.