Menzies Art Brands



There are certain landscapes that appeal to an individuals sensibility. In the case of Jason Benjamin (born 1971), that region stretches from the Hay Plain to the Monaro in the south-east of New South Wales. Love Goes On! 2013, is a work that had its origins in the austere expanse of these regions. Lengthy field trips beginning in 2008 toughened the artist both physically and mentally. While he may have been unaware of it at the time, Benjamin was about to embark on some of the most difficult and rewarding work of his career.

Nights spent camping under the firmament followed by days traversing the austere terrain provided the opportunity to observe vast space on an intimate level. The intense sense of being alone with the earth and the heavens in that elemental environment sparked a sustained poetic reverie, producing a series of works that embody the scope and intensity of Benjamins vision: a vision that exists in the reality that surrounded him. What he discovered is that natural elements are symbolic of spiritual states: all appearances in nature correspond to certain states of mind. Inspired by this inimical terrain, the artist searched for a symbol on which to anchor his imagination. What he seized upon was the constant perception of a shifting sky over solid, ancient ground. This concept was to culminate in the vast format of Love Goes On! where the artist appears unrestrained in his apprehension of light and space.

Significantly, the romantic impulse is never far from the surface in Benjamins work. He recently described the atmosphere and mood in the painting:  Love Goes On! is a euphoric ode, not just to a lover lets say, but the feeling itself. All is in flux ... the cirrus clouds whir, the cumulus gather or are receding. The fence line stretches infinitely like holding a treasured persons hand, but there is a kink in the front part of fence. As always in life. But Love Goes On! 1

There is also a melancholic tone imbued in the work that has its origins in the history of the region. Physical access into country may lead into concentrated psychological spaces. Benjamin is no stranger to this experience: he is aware of the regions dark history that was once home to the Wiradjuri nation. In the 1830s, the rich grasslands of south-eastern New South Wales were of particular interest to land-hungry pastoralists. The Indigenous population were seen as out of time. While the first wave of pastoralists met with stiff opposition from tribes-people, superior weaponry prevailed, and the Wiradjuri were swept aside. With the vanquished silenced, the invaders re-shaped the landscape along Anglo-European lines: the industrial clock began to tick. The emotionally-charged clouds rising above the horizon symbolise the menacing reality of the bush. This is the generation that will be forced off the land, as the effect of dry-land salinity and erosion grip the environment compounded by the inexorable vice of climate change. Symbolically, the black crow soaring above the plain in Love Goes On! bears witness to a country in a state of flux.

Through his poetic instincts and acute observations, Benjamin has re-imagined the landscape. He looks into country and sees the truth of what is there and what is absent; a reminder of our vexed history and its consequences.
Love Goes On! 2013, is a culmination of deep-felt encounters around particular landscape sites, where the artist has concentrated his energy and talent on shaping a pared-back vision of light and space. In a sense, this is the artists reaffirmation of a landscape tradition that lies at the heart of the Australian experience.  

1. Benjamin, J. artist statement, 20 August 2015

Gavin Wilson


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