The seed for this collaborative exhibition was planted in Winter 2017 when Ren and Mickey made the journey through Southwest Victoria to Ben’s Rosebrook property and studio.
The landscape was dark and moody, (just the way they like it) and the artistic collaboration fuelled a creative exploration. Using this beautiful scenery as inspiration and seeing different techniques being explored and expanded sparked new insights for each of the artists. “We talked art, walked, ate, drank, worked, laughed.”
This distinct yet complimentary collection of new artwork from three regional artists examines and responds to parts of the broad and diverse landscape between Geelong and Portland. Sou’ West Expeditions is a curation of recent art makings that has been made autonomously and separately by each artist. The exhibition does not have a central style, narrative or one fixed point of embarkation into the landscape, rather it provides three varied observations and reactions to the; light, weather, geology, forms and vastness of the pastoral geological terrain that is the Western District of Victoria.
These recent works on paper are a part of a continuous examination about journeying into parts of the Western district of South Eastern Australia. This journey or investigation is both an external and internal one. These drawings are a prelude toward a larger more ambitious study and body of work that is in progress. This particular series have resulted from visits to certain locations in the Moderwarre, Paraparap, Murdeduke & Corangamite areas on the eastern boundaries of the Western District. Certain locations evoke different responses pending on mood, light, landmarks, terrain and vegetation. I record certain natural phenomena either by sketching in situ, taking photos, video and notations in journals, I then return too the studio, archive, pin up ideas and begin to make compositions for further ideas for painting. My interest in the landscape is informed not just by what is seen on the surface but how it became to be what it is. The approach to research is augmented by historic and contemporary literature and a re examining of some colonial art from the 1850 60’s period, into this mix I may use other reference’s from art books of other nineteenth century European art. The motivation is not to illustrate a particular vista or landmark, in part the approach is to “re imagine” the landscape through informed means and study.
The western Victorian landscape has an ancient and unique volcanic geology, comprising of many lakes, craters, and rich deep soiled, pastoral plains. It is often a dramatically melancholic landscape that is mostly overcast and windswept. The climate, is cool and green in winter, dry to warm and golden brown in summer. Infact climate is an “isometric roller coaster ride” of “highs” and “lows” its effect is dramatic and some times formidable. Weather casts an emblematic atmosphere and mood to the region. Historically the district was populated on a continuous time line for 40 60,000 years by indigenous Australian’s whom seasonally and consciously shaped and managed the great western plains with “firestick farming” for tens of thousands of years. According to Prof. Bill Gammage, that landscape looked a lot different to what we see today, “early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England.” Gammage discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic harmonious and scientific fashion than what was originally realised. That harmonious management and continuity of habitation in the South Eastern Australian landscape was abruptly and often violently disrupted 180 years ago by the intrusion of European agrarian colonists. This intrusion later became known as the “great land grab” of 19th century Australia. It’s story of settlement, frontier wars, dispossession, displacement, re occupation and ultimately absence. These events have had a lasting effect on the landscape and shaped what we see and experience today. My concerns are not to merely just to observe and record aesthetics and then document what I’m seeing. More over it is an attempt to better understand the landscape, to reveal its beauty, its menace, it’s deep foreboding and melancholic complexity, and to try to better understand or re imagine how and why it became from a multiplicity of investigation. As much as these works are about figures journeying into the interior of a specific landscape they are also about journeying and reflecting into ones own personal interior or landscape.
In 1987 I began a degree course in Fine Art down at Warrnambool on the south west coast of Victoria. I was only 18 and the University experience, landscape and ocean down that way changed my life forever. They were very good days…Days that moulded and shaped who I am today. I often think, ponder and reflect about those times and in many ways this new body of work is a visual representation of my thoughts, memories and longings for a time in my life that has passed but still exists when I revisit the area or bump into people who experienced this time with me.
Veiled landscapes, foggy impressions, distant forms of something concrete but unreachable. My new work is not concerned with accurate portrayals of place but are rather paintings trying to allude to feelings of longing and strong memories. Being down in this area and looking at it from an artistic view point with Mickey and Ben was an incredible experience. Hopefully it’s just the start of many more trips, chats, studio sessions and red wine.
The paintings in the Sou’ West Expeditions show are from the south western plains of Victoria. Tower Hill is an awe inspiring, ancient environment that changes constantly, depending on where you you view it from and the weather conditions. The ever changing influences of mist, light, wind and rain are dramatic and impact the landscape and the viewer’s psyche.
Mount Elephant, Djerrinallum, Hill of Fire is like a beacon on the horizon until you get up close or climb it and realize it’s vastness and that you can see almost all the volcanoes of the western plain from the peak.
My Rosebrook backyard is a protected wetland leading down to the Belfast Lough and this view is particularly splendid in the early evening when the light turns golden. These local landscapes provide me with constant inspiration in their brooding beauty.
Sou’ West Expeditions runs from March 22 – April 15. To see a full exhibition listing click here.