Reviews | Castaway finds creative shore

The Advertiser, Adelaide, January, 1996

Neville Weston an expressionist! Well, in this life you either transform yourself or die and Neville has chosen the former and more difficult.

Cast up on the inhospitable coast of Western Australia; and discovering the loneliness of command ( as Dean of the WA School of visual Arts). Neville has identified himself with another wretched castaway – the French mariner , Vasse , who was swept overboard in Geograph Bay in 1801. Western Australian myth insists that Vasse survived, to live with Aborigines.

Weston’s suite of Acrylics, watercolours and collages begins with the style of his painting for which he is well known : an academic landscape of the cliffs at Etretat- which refers to the well know 19th century French painters who also painted the view. The cliffs were Vasse’s last sight of France. They also represent Weston’s departure from his own sense of “home”.

As the voyage continues Weston’s style becomes looser and more emotional. When Vasse is swept overboard Weston also plunges into deep water. His watercolours of Vasse “ drowning” have a lovely ambiguity. The mariner might also be flying – or discovering the “ rapture of the deep”.

Weston imagines himself into Vasse’s psyche- and assumes that the mariner did crawl ashore on Wonnerup beach. Vasse now assumes the kind of heroic status which Nolan gave Ned Kelly, though Weston’s more obvious visual model is William Blake’s Nebuchadnezzar – man transforming into animal.

The suite extends into our own time with Weston’s collages depicting Vasse crawling through the French rage at Australia’s arrogance” in opposing its Pacific policies.

Weston has always engaged art history in his work. Now he engages politics, philosophy and , more importantly , his emotions. The result is powerfully dramatic and thought – provoking.

© 2014 Neville Weston