Ben Shearer was born in 1941 in Adelaide, South Australia. Initially, Ben studied textiles at the Gordon Institute of Technology in Geelong and went onto study weaving and fabric design in Scotland in 1964.Shearer then became a designer on his return working in Melbourne and Sydney. Ben Shearer started painting in watercolour towards the end of the 1970s and rapidly established himself as a leading contemporary watercolourist. He is particularly well known for his interpretations of the Australian landscape, in all its harsh beauty.
The Work of Art
Ben Shearer’s works are a celebration of the Australian landscape – the huge open expanse of a mysterious and ancient land.
Dusty tracks and seasonal waterways wind their way through the landscape like ancient serpents, as the detailed foreground fades into subtle studies of colour and abstraction.
These paintings are also very much about light and colour – long shadows or the shade from passing clouds are the focus for some of the works while in others the artist’s palette has been turned up to accentuate the redness of the earth or the unforgettable vivid skies.
As a source of inspiration for his paintings, Shearer makes regular trips to the Australian outback, including joining the world’s longest mail run – a two-day, 2,600km plane hop from cattle ranch to cattle ranch, from Port Augusta on South Australia’s coast to Boulia in Western Queensland. In November 2003, Shearer took to the skies in a light aircraft to retrace the route taken by ill-fated explorers Burke and Wills who, in the 1860s, were the first Europeans to cross the Australian continent from north to south. Unlike Lewis and Clarke’s successful expedition across the United States, Burke and Wills died of starvation at Cooper’s Creek, Queensland.
Shearer has also depicted some of Australia’s major geological features and sites sacred to Indigenous Australians, particularly Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in Central Australia. Rather than painting them close up, as often seen in promotional posters, these paintings show a broad flat landscape divided only by the sharp line of a track which leads to the rock formation in the distance.
Lake Lonsdale was painted by Shearer in 1982. It is quite an elegant watercolour that depicts the lake shore with a line of trees in the distance. Lake Lonsdale is situated to the northwest of Melbourne close by Stawell and Mount Dryden.