Ben Laycock

I grew up in the bush in a little place called Cottlesbridge, just north of Melbourne. After living in St.Kilda for many years I am now back in the bush, just outside Castlemaine. I have spent a lot of my time roaming around Australia, painting, drawing, looking and wondering. I have come to realise Australia is very old, very dry and very flat. This place of ours has been worn away over millions of years. Etched and carved and shaped by countless floods till it resembles a vast canvas, painted by the weather.

Because of this, I find myself painting more and more from a bird’s eye view, much as aboriginal people do. The only way to really see such a flat landscape.
I also find myself becoming quite obsessed with rivers. The river rushes headlong down the mountain. When it hits the plain it starts to wander. By the time it nears the coast it is meandering in all directions, searching blindly for an outlet to the sea. The pounding surf has built a bulwark of sand that blocks the way. The river turns in on its self, gathering in eddies and pools and billabongs, swamps, marshes, wetlands, bog. The river rises, breaches the wall and rushes out into the open sea. The tide floods in. The river and the sea dancing around each other in arabesques and curlicues.

And of course, the greatest river of them all. The Murray has been around since Australia left Gondwana Land about 50 million years ago. It is a very old river. In that time the river has wandered all across the western plains, leaving a trail behind like a snake in the sand. El Nino has ensured its life was never dull or predictable. In drought it could become nothing more than a series of muddy pools seething with dying fish. In a big flood it bursts its banks and becomes a vast moving wetland, spreading for miles, teaming with birds by the million.

Water, and the landscape it has created over millennia is my primary fascination.

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