Why paint mountains? After all, anyone can visit them in situ and enjoy their physical presence.
That’s a question that many people may ask as they view my work. On a general level, my interest in mountains is both visual and philosophical. Visually, I find mountains endlessly fascinating with their intricate patterns of snow and ice, sharp ridges and serrated skylines. On a more thoughtful note it must be remembered that the highest mountains, particularly the Himalaya, attract extreme weather which results in snow and rain that helps to sustain human life elsewhere, so that they help replenish the earth. However, I also speculate on the future for them with the effects of climate change.
Mountains used to be considered the ‘abode of the gods’ and many people in olden times were fearful of going there. Although this is largely not the case now, “as the highest and most dramatic features of the natural landscape, mountains have an extraordinary ability to evoke the sacred.”* Mountains can both attract and repel us with intense feelings of wonder and awe. “Floating above the clouds, materialising out of the mist, mountains appear to belong to a world, utterly different to the one we know.”* It is this ‘otherness’ that attracts me to them.
Mountains, and more specifically Mt. Everest, have been an interest of mine for some time. I have always been attracted to them from my youth and have camped and walked on them for many years. Over the last thirty years, where I have travelled outside of Australia more extensively, my attraction in particular has been to the Himalayan range of mountains.
I have travelled to Nepal for trekking purposes six times in the last 18 years, and in 1999 I walked to just above Mt. Everest base camp. This is where my preoccupation started with documenting the highest peak in the world. Reading about mountaineers attempting peaks like Mt. Everest has given me an insight into the deprivations one must face in order to reach the summit. These are symbols of extreme effort, but along with the courage of climbers, it is inevitable that climbers’ tales also contain stories of greed and selfishness. Mt. Everest has a chequered history in this regard.
Using photography and my imagination, I wanted to specifically focus on Mt. Everest. My wish, when you view these images, is for you to imagine what it might be like to be there, to appreciate how compelling Mt. Everest can be and to enjoy its aesthetic beauty. Colour is important to me and I will not hesitate to augment or alter colours for varying moods.
*Sacred Mountains of the World – Edwin Bernbaum
How would you describe your creative practice?
I’ve been an artist for about 40 years and particularly like painting, especially oil painting but also working with non-traditional media such as bitumen and poster paint.
What do you enjoy about living in the Dandenong Ranges, and is the environment you live in important to your making?
Having lived in the Melbourne suburbs, I’m so glad to live in the Dandenongs (have done for the last 30 years). I’m drawn to the open spaces and the forests. I find this gives me the peaceful background I find necessary to paint.
How did you get into making art?
I enjoyed doing Year 12 Art and soon after I got married I concentrated on my painting for about 18 months. Finding I wasn’t progressing further, I later completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at Monash University. I then became aa art teacher, whilst still practising my craft.
What motivates you as an artist?
Lately, my specific focus has been on Mount Everest but I have been drawn to the Himalaya for a long time. I’ve visited and walked in the Himalaya six times over a period of 18 years and am continually drawn back to it.
In what ways, if any, do you engage with the hills community?
I am about to have a show at Arvy’s Gallery in Olinda. I also showed my work at Morrison’s in Mt. Evelyn about 5 years ago. On a different front, I’ve been involved with the No Maccas in Tecoma protest since it started.
Do you have any strange obsessions or bad habits that you care to share with out readers?
I am a bit of a bicycle tragic and used to record and keep a tally of the number of times I rode to work (almost 2000). I also love buying obscure books from overseas about mountaineers attempting to climb Mt. Everest.
What do you wish you knew about being an artist before you got started?
Good question. I already knew it would be hard to make any sort of living from it. I think that I would have liked to have known how much time was needed to fully commit to being an artist and how you have be prepared to work on your own. Painting is a very solitary existence in some ways, and there may not be many people to help you work through your ideas.
Who are your creative hero’s?
They are all painters. Growing up, I liked Andrew Wyeth. When I was studying, the colour of Bonnard and Matisse and the Impressionists really appealed to me. Lately, I’ve become more eclectic but I have enjoyed the work of some Australian painters: Peter Booth, George Gittoes, Rick Amor and Philip Wolfhagen.
Where can people find more information on your work and upcoming projects?
Some of my work is shown at the Redbubble website. The details for my art show are on the Facebook page for Arvy’s gallery.
“Chomolungma” Mt. Everest Paintings 2010-2015 by Murray Lancaster
September 18 – October 14, 2015Arvy’s Gallery – 540 Mt Dandenong Tourist Road Olinda.