After 30 years devoted to composing music, I have returned to image making which I studied after leaving school. Over the last 3 years, I have produced a collection of images that show a strange mix of a novice’s rawness and energy combined with developed artistic sensibilities that are part of my music making. As the images evolved I noticed that my concerns for musical transformation, rhythm and form guided the way I went about making images. It was exciting to apply my skills in a new way. My work in computer music has involved a great deal of code writing that while powerful and interesting, is several steps removed from the final artistic result. The scope for direct physical expression was limited whereas the visual work I’ve been doing connected back to my body. Although our industrialised culture has (wrongly) lead us to think and behave like machines, at a fundamental level we think with our bodies. I rediscovered that my muscles know stuff and they where overjoyed that I started listening to them once more. I hope some of this joy rubs off on you.

Peter Mcilwain


My development as an artist started about 40 years ago when I trained and worked as a layout artist for a publishing house in Adelaide. At the same time I was performing as a musician writing my own songs. During the late 80’s and 90’s I commenced studying music composition at The Elder Conservatorium under the pioneer of electronic music Tristram Cary and the composer Graeme Koehne. I composed works for ensembles and orchestras at the same time developing unique approaches to electronic music and computer music. I became increasingly drawn to the use of multichannel sound that can envelope and audience and spend many years working on techniques and aesthetic approaches that created sound worlds for audiences.
Around the turn of the millennium I became lecturer in music composition and technology at Monash university and soon after became a founding member of the innovative Centre for Electronic Media Arts. During this period we did research into generative art as well as creating many artistic projects including the large scale multimedia project VRoom which was in conjunction with Museums Victoria.  This project involved 3D back projection on 8 screens together with a 32 channel sound system. I was commissioned to create sound/music works for the exhibit at Melbourne Museum and another one for Scienceworks Museum. I worked in close collaboration with my colleagues exploring ways to write code to generate and manipulate sound for these kinds of environments. This led to a collaboration between myself and Jon McCormack in which we created software creatures that evolved both their shape and their generative sonic gestures based on the ticket code of the audiences attending the exhibition. This was presented at Ars Electonica, in Linz Austria.  In addition to this creative work we also collaborated on a project called Nodal which became a commercial music software application. My role in this project was as a lead researcher and creative designer. We made a significant contribution to extending musical theory and practice through a new form of visual representation and conceptualisation of music. In 2012 our work was awarded a Eureka Prize for contributions to computer science. Nodal is recognized around the world and is still used by composers and sound designers.  

Since my time at university I have continued to work as a freelance artist and have worked on a number of multimedia installation projects including “Imaginary Ornithology” for the Burrinja Cultural Centre in Upwey Victoria and for Circus Oz for the Melbourne Arts Festival. Both of these projects required significant technical development and coordination with multiple stakeholders.

In recent years I have been recovering from illness and focused my attention on visual mediums seeking a return to more direct means of expression with my hands.  I have encompassed both digital mediums as well as paint and printmaking and have steadily developed a skill set in design and technique. During this time I have had a number of group and solo exhibitions of my work.  I have recovered my health to a large extent and have started looking for more ambitious projects in which I can make use of my full range of abilities. I am currently working in the Aerie Studios at Burrinja focusing on public art.