Peopleʼs choice – Arts Wodonga HBS Contemporary Art Award.

Ground swell I

Victoria Valley | Gariwerd / Grampians National Park | Victoria | Australia

Ground swell: Graecum est; non legitur | Scott Bennett | 2011 | watercolour, charcoal, pastel & graphite, on paper | 120 x 92cm | Collection the artist

Click here to view a zoomable image of the drawing.

Graecum est; non legitur (It is Greek, it canʼt be read)

Standing there in the landscape, I kept repeating to myself, how strange, I don’t understand this. Geologically, it made sense and I had spent the last year as artist in residence in very similar country. Living in it and experiencing its seasons, I thought I should know it. My father’s father was born in sight of these mountains which gave me comfort but didn’t enable me to penetrate the mystery. I was reminded of the Zen saying, that the mountains and waters aren’t mountains and waters. The feeling of estrangement was like the sound of a common word repeated until it becomes unfamiliar.

I’d been traveling the last few years, living and painting in the bush and yet the more I saw, the stranger it became. Symbols stand for things, I wondered if I wasn’t experiencing the thingness of symbols.

The land is old, grey, wrinkled and lined. It is paper thin and spotted like my father’s skin at the age of 93.

Detail is its very nature
Everything is dust-like

The grass
the leaves
the tiny flowers

Earth to earth
trees to ash
rocks to dust

Blowing away
it was disappearing while I watched.

I had been looking very hard but only found a continuum of phenomena.
There are no landscapes out there, they only exist in Art.


Meditating on this scene, I began to see it as stopped motion. Perceiving the landscape as fleeting, in the continuum of geological time, has enabled me to view it with a renewed compassion. The knowledge of its impermanence acts as an antidote to the feeling of alienation, its seeming immutability had produced in me.

Seeming so easy to grasp, landscape grows more and more problematic the closer one looks at it, or tries to look at it. It keeps escaping.
Chris Wallace-Crabbe

Ultimately, landscape art is vilified because landscapes are insentient, because they carry in them more that is irredeemably alien than we are comfortable with.
– Martin Langford

Because mountains and waters have been active since before the Empty Eon, they are alive at this moment. Because they have been the self since before form arose they are emancipation realization.  Eihei Dogen Zenji Mountains and Waters Sutra

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