Past Exhibition: Sou’ West Expeditions
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 but 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.
Last winter Ren and Micky set out from Geelong and made the journey through southwest Victoria to stay and do some painting and drawing in my studio in Rosebrook.
The landscape was dark and moody (just the way I like it) but the artistic collaboration fuelled a creative exploration. Using this beautiful scenery as inspiration and seeing different techniques being explored and expanded sparked new insights into our own work, for all three of us. We talked art, walked, ate , drank, worked, laughed. This exhibition is what happened.