Essay written by Alexander ‘Pug’ Williams for Contextualising Practice


My mother is an artist and a natural dyer. My grandfather was a naturalist, and an engineer. Their passion and curiosity for the world flows through my blood and was gently nurtured. I dedicate this piece of writing to them.


I grew up on the unceded lands of the Wathaurung Clans where my family taught me the names of native birds, the trees and the flowers. I snorkelled and spearfished along the coastal reaches of the Bellarine Peninsula, marvelling at the alien seascape that responded to my presence, engulfing me in its salty embrace. Immersion in nature. Immersion in materiality, I just didn’t know it yet.

In the midst of a chaotic second decade of living I discovered the emerging peripheries of my art practice, protruding from trauma and malcontent. In tattoo and drawing I began to speak in my own voice. I stumbled through my mistakes, and I learned. As I learned I began to compose the world I perceived.

Composure led me into my studies. First at TAFE and then into higher education. A great teacher introduced me to the idea of radical play and within it I thrived after years of being ground down by my meagre attempts to conform to societal expectations. These constraints never appealed to me, so I spent years living and travelling abroad. I moved from city to country, observing, absorbing and marvelling at the complexity of what I witnessed.

I gradually refined my sensitivity, which I refer to as my cosmic antenna. I allowed the antenna to guide me to what drew me in and safeguard me from what pushes away. It was a constant reminder to listen to the rhythms of reality and embrace the life of an eternal student.

I will always choose to learn.

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Dystopolation, 2023 (Fig 1.)

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1. Dystopomonolith: styrofoam, found rebar steel, rust, found wood, found steel, plaster,

calligraphy ink (Fig 2–3.)

2. Dystoposcape: found wood, found steel, clay,  plaster (Fig 4.)

3. Vibroscape: sound work. Duration 9’07”

Experience generates meaning (O’Sullivan 2001).

I entered a darkened space lit like a gauntlet and was confronted with the Dysto-monolith, resting heavy and unapologetic in the centre of the room. My ears pricked and I heard vibrous tones and metallic scratching. Clanking of old steel, bereft of human presence, the mournful strikes sounded so alone. A subtle sense of unease began to drift around me like a storm cloud. I noticed long shadows, evoking images of distorted city skylines from a long-abandoned metropolis. My gaze rested on the -0m;o-}n\=ol-_]i”t[h. The cuboid sculpture in front of me was blackened like an oil slick. There were Glyphs that I didn’t understand. Deep channels cut into the material, which at first glance resembled marble or concrete. I investigated further, I walked around the object, and discovered a vertical plane embedded with strange objects. These objects were made from wood and metal and they were trapped, ensnared in a rigid bed of plaster. There were apertures and cavities, with traces of some unknown previous occupant. A thin line of black ink ran along the third side, my eyes trailing it to the base of the sculpture. An intersecting line ran horizontally across, forming an inverted crucifix. The rear of the sculpture looked like a shattered iceberg, torn and tipped on its side by some raging giant. This texture exposed the internal structure of the .>m[/o\}]n=o–_[l|\i-_t]}_{h, I could see that it was made from styrofoam. The polystyrene visage faced towards the wall and sat in conversation with the dysto-scape.

I stood to take in the ]dysto/-\scape[, thin and tall, rested gently against the wall. Twisted metal and wood combined together with a snowy plaster ground to suspend a satisfyingly harmonious composition. My eyes returned to the cast shadows, splayed across the wall behind the ]dysto\-/scape[, and across its surface, puncturing the framed confines of the artwork. All of sudden the softly clanking metal sped up in intensity, a rhythmic drumming filled the room. I bore witness to a ritual. I thought of strange cults, unknown rites and the incomprehensible passing of deep time.

Experience generates meaning (O’Sullivan 2001).

Dystopolation is a result of prolific cycles of iterative art practice I conducted in Semester One of my third year of study. These cycles were led by my creative intuition. Creative intuition gives voice to my perceived experiences, which have shaped my psyche over my lifetime. They have been absorbed into my unconscious mind, and time, space and causality no longer control their manifestation (Jung 1964). Ultimately my creative impulses are drawn from this internal well of experience, triggered by sensory phenomenon and outside stimuli (Hardman 2021).

Doubtless we think with only a small part of our past, but it is with our entire past, including the original bent of our soul, that we desire, will and act. Our past, then, as a whole, is made manifest to us in its impulse; it is felt in the form of tendency, although a small part is known only in the form of idea – Bergson 2008

I cycle to the studio almost every day, peripherally observing the detritus left by people on the side of the road. I have a milk crate on my fixie, and straps that allow me to secure the objects I deem worthy to join me on the trip. Collection is a practice of engaging with my creative intuition. I identify, inspect, collect and veto my way through the streets of Naarm/Melbourne. I find all manner of strange and useful items, and I believe that this process represents an important aspect of the synergy between what Rubin describes as conscious and unconscious perception (Rubin 2023). I do not know exactly why an object appeals to me or not, but my cosmic antenna can sense it.

The great contemporary composer Phillip Glass speaks of an ‘underground river of music, always flowing, but only perceptible when you’re listening’ (Hessell 2023). Greek philosopher Plato calls upon the muses for divine creative inspiration (Plato 2008) and a friend once enlightened me about their cosmic telephone, how they ‘dial up’ to the mothership for inspiration. These examples can be understood as an artist’s conceptualisation of their creative intuition.

Cycles of making. Cycles of gathering. Cycles of collecting. Cycles of discarding. Cycles of time, time time and again I wander the halls of temporality. My depth bores downwards, my heights soar upwards. Time passes, I set my plaster, in the meantime I set to work. I cut and I grind. Tick tock tick tock let the plaster dry.

I collect and elevate found materials in the lineage of the Art Povera movement, whose most recognisable trait was their use of repurposed commonplace materials (The Art Story 2023). In Dysto-monolith the materiality of the styrofoam is obscured by light, shadow, ink, plaster and embedded wood and metal. It is only upon closer inspection that one can identify what the base material is.

Materiality dictates form, and to work collaboratively I rely on each material’s distinct agency to guide my process. It is uncommon for me to have a preconceived idea about what the work is going to look like at the start of a cycle of making. In these early stages I am not particularly interested in prescribing a set of concepts around the work as I am confident that my iterative methodologies will allow revelatory and emergent phenomena to occur. There is always something to be discovered when the work is approached with openness and vulnerability (Hardman 2021). A reciprocal and reflexive relationship with each cycle of making allows for sedimentary layers of meaning to stratify (Koselleck et al 2018).

These stratified layers of meaning are wielded through expanded states of consciousness. When in a cycle of making I am able to easily slip into flow, characterised by a productive calmness and focus. As Hardman has articulated this expanded state makes use of the fields of memory, bodily sensation, emotion and intuition (2021).

I strive to maintain empathy with my materials, to the point of anthropomorphising them while still in their raw, un-altered form. Material empathy blends smoothly with sensitivity to material agency, and when making art with this in mind observation can feel like a voyeuristic act. In this act I may introduce ink to wet plaster, and watch them dance and dry, rippling and eroding as the water evaporates. Their dance follows the same mind-blowing fractal phenomenon described by maverick mathematician Benoit B. Mandelbrot. Fractals occur in river deltas, galaxy clusters and low tidal plains, and all I need to do is watch (Mandelbrot 1983). Belcove has argued that these actions border on pseudoscience and pseudo-alchemy (2018). I observe as I make, revelling joyously in the unexpected outcomes. There is a great, Camusian absurdity in the emergence that allows moments of magnificence to materially manifest in front of your eyes. Sometimes I’ve just gotta laugh! (Camus 1955).

In the following cycles I revisited previously investigated materials and was able to easily choose which emergent phenomena to invoke. I rarely physically note down these material qualities instead trusting that the emergent material phenomena have been coded into my unconscious, and thus made available by creative intuition.

I do not claim ownership over the techniques I develop as I learn them through material collaboration; however, I do recognise that without my intervention and art practise the final work would never come to be. There is a beautiful interconnectedness with me, the materials and the artwork. I look deeply into my artworks and I bear witness to their becoming. (Hanh 1991). 

Journal Entry 2nd of May 2023:

It was a solemn day, I was feeling detached but I knew I had work to do. I sucked it up and cycled to Brunswick RMIT campus to print some tattoo stencils and potter about. I knew that because it was a Saturday the campus would be essentially deserted, and I would have a lot of space to myself. It’s almost like a park, that campus.

I did the work I needed to do and noticed that the sun had broken through the cloud, blasting warmth out over the grassy knoll ahead of me. I sat, feeling the sun on my skin and began to meditate.

Some time passed and I blinked my eyelids open, due to the low angle that I was sitting at and the sun’s placement in the sky I was able to clearly identify a swarming tornado of insects just ahead of me. I tend to lean into interactions with nature when they arise, so I stood up and wandered through the vortex. The bugs broke formation and spun into a new spiral, a few metres away. I followed again, curious at this fractal behaviour manifesting in living form (Mandelbrot 1983). Again, I stepped into the vortex and the same thing happened, but this time the swarm re-spiraled around a tree.

The insects drew my attention to the tree and I inspected it. I noticed a crimson substance, crusted along the outside of the tree. As I got closer I recognised the substance as resin, although I did not know the tree. Immediately I began to harvest the hardened sap, placing it in my beanie. I didn’t know exactly what I would use it for, but my antenna was tingling. I spent about half an hour investigating this tree, and eventually the RMIT security guard on shift approached me. He asked me if I was okay, and I gleefully showed him the magnificent bounty of resin I had collected in my beanie. He was impressed, and left with a thoughtful look on his face. My collection methodologies have the ability to bring small amounts of joy to those that notice them, and I find great solace in that. I have returned to this tree several times since, harvesting and thanking nature for its beauty.

My art practice is linked to my meditation practice. I recognise when I am distracted, or when a valuable emergence is revealed in the work. There are qualities in my artworks that are distinctly mine, a signature style. A subtle reference to heavy metal, or an uncanny ancientness in something fresh and new. These happenings act as grounding points, and they usually emerge when my work is being led by flowing emotion. Once a signature stylistic gesture has been achieved it is absorbed into my unconscious mind in the same way that emergent material information gets absorbed. These forms eventually re-emerge in future cycles of making.

As I am studying within the walls of an institution, I am obliged to fulfil the rules of assessment. Assignments, deadlines and finished products act as markers to signify success, however when viewed in the context of my extended creative practice they often tend to appear absurd. How rigid! How structured! Their usefulness is clear however, and their artificiality is countered by the freedom that I get from the privileged experience of studying at art school.

Through practice-based research, I have experienced fleeting, holistic and direct ways of human knowing that have given rise to new threads of discourse and discovery. I have discovered that there is still much more to learn about myself, my practice and art making as an essential culture generating tool for society (O’Sullivan 2001). Theresa Hardman’s PhD study, who I have used as a central reference in this paper, was a response to a 1995 article written by Emma Policastro. Policasta calls out a plea to study the field of creative intuition, which according to Hardman is under-researched (Hardman 2021). At the end of Hardman’s (2021:5) study she says, ‘It is my hope that my research will form the basis for further investigation into the area of creative intuition’. Her hope has been actualised in this paper and has revealed that there is much work to be done.

Fig 1. Alexander ‘Pug’ Williams, ‘Dystopolation’, 2023 [installation view]


Fig 2. Alexander ‘Pug’ Williams, ‘Dystomonolith’, 2023 [front view] 


Fig 3. Alexander ‘Pug’ Williams, ‘Dystomonolith’, 2023 [front view] 


Fig 4. Alexander ‘Pug’ Williams, ‘Dystoscape’, 2023


Reference List

Belcove J (10 August 2018) ‘How Tara Donovan finds beauty in the banal’, accessed 4 May 2023,

Bergson H (2007) Creative Evolution: With an introduction by Keith Ansell Pearson, PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire

Brown A M (2017) Emergent Strategy: shaping change, changing worlds, Chico, CA

Camus A (1955), The Myth of Sisyphus, Hamish Hamilton Ltd., London

Hanh T N (1991) ‘Peace is in every step: the path of mindfulness in everyday life’ Bantam Books, New York

Hardman T J (2021) ‘Understanding Creative Intuition’, Journal of Creativity, Vol 31,

Hessel K (17 April 2023) ‘Like an exploded iPhone’: why Sarah Sze is the perfect artist for the age of information overload, The Guardian, access 1 May 2023,

Jung C (1964), Man and his Symbols, Aldus Books, London

Koselleck R, Franzal S, Hoffman S (2018), Sediments of Time: On Possible Histories, Redwood City: Stanford University Press, Redwood City

Mandelbrot B B (1983) The Fractal Geometry of Nature, W.H. Freeman, New York

O’ Sullivan S (2001), THE AESTHETICS OF AFFECT: Thinking art beyond representation, Journal of theoretical humanities, vol 6(3), p125-135

Plato (2008) Phaedrus,, online

Rubin R (2023) ‘The Creative Act: A Way of Being’, Canongate Books Ltd, Edinburgh





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Essay – Intuition and the Creative Act
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