Camping by the Murray (2015)

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John Webb: Camping by the Murray (2015)

Camping by the Murray (2015)
1.7 x 1.5m**

Image details:

Camping by the Murray (2015) Detail 1

Camping by the Murray (2015) Detail 2

Camping by the Murray (2015) Detail 3

Camping by the Murray (2015)
(Detail 1) 
Camping by the Murray (2015)
(Detail 2) 
Camping by the Murray (2015)
(Detail 3) 

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** This work has an irregular perimeter

This work:

This is the first asymmetrical work I completed in what has now becomes a series of asymmetric works within the overall Australia series. This began as a conscious attempt to get away from the constraints of the traditional picture format, ie the square and the rectangle.

In this work I am using [what I consider to be] enduring Australian land forms: the marvellous, ancient, weathered rocks of the interior, while putting them together with more modern ideas about engaging with the outback - ie 'camping' in it as a leisure activity. (This is in contrast to the ways in which earlier post-Cook Australians might have lived - in a temporary way - in the outback, eg swaggies and jackaroos, and in even greater contrast with the ways in which indigenous Australians have engaged with the outback.)

While working with this vocabulary of landforms I'm always conscious of the enormous passage of time that has given us this landscape, and of the millennia in which aboriginal people have painted and created their own unique language from this country.


Australian context:

From the Parks Victoria Murray River Reserve:

"The headwaters of the Murray River flow from the river's source in the Australian Alps to Corowa for around 450 river kilometres and feature varied terrain, which extends from the gently undulating farming land of the Albury District, through rugged, timbered, hill and mountain country to the alpine grasslands of the Snowy Mountains.

The Murray River then meanders in a shallow channel across the Riverine Plains through gently undulating country, becoming flatter to the west. The Golden Rivers Region stretches northward, with the river running through long stretches of natural bushland, encircling the country's largest inland island, Gunbower and spilling into countless lakes and waterways. Fishing and birdwatching are very rewarding pursuits around this area.

The reserve continues, at intervals, all the way to the Malllee.The River Murray Reserve protects natural and cultural attractions of the area along the river. Linked by the majestic beauty of the Murray River, the reserve features towering River Red Gums, tranquil riverside settings with sandy beaches, wide expanses of water and colourful red cliffs. 

There are many excellent camping and picnic sites along the Murray and its sandy beaches are very popular over the summer and Easter holidays."

Not far away from this flat, green area with the river winding through it, is the Mungo National Park with its amazing lunettes. 

"The lunettes are major landforms of great importance to the ancient heritage of the area.[...] Over thousands of years, wind and water have carved the lunette into spectacular formations comprised of sand and clay. Rain washes away the soft sands and muds, creating the rilled ridges and residuals that characterise the Walls of China. The dislodged sand is then picked up by the wind and heaped into huge mobile dunes along the back of the lunette." (VisitMungo)

These lunettes are the basis for the stepped form in Camping by the Murray (2015), and are seen as a major element  in many of the large works, notably Near Mildura (2014) and Near Wagga (2013).   

 Near Robinvale
Photo: Geoffrey Rhodes
Asparagus field
ImageAndy Blackledge 


Lunettes in Mungo Park
Image: modezero

 Forever in the fields
Photo: Michael Coghlan