Mac Betts once noted that “the crosses and clouds that appear regularly in my landscapes will continue to do so for some time to come.” And they did so throughout his artistic career “…There is no symbolism attached to these emblems – they are everywhere in the landscape and painting landscapes is what I do.”
He was born in London and trained there at an exciting time during the 1950’s, firstly at Kingston-on-Thames College of Art before Goldsmith’s School of Art. While most of his contemporaries stayed there, anchored to the familiar – many became famous – Bett’s chose to escape the dreary weather of London and opt for a road less travelled.
After graduating from Goldsmith’s in 1958 Betts accepted a position lecturing in Fine Art at Ahmadu Bello University in Northern Nigeria where he taught for eight years.
He spent the subsequent years travelling and painting through northern Africa, Morocco and Spain before arriving in Western Australia in 1970. It was then that Betts first saw the Australian North West through an experienced and unprejudiced eye.
Betts retained the memory of the places he travelled firmly in the mind. He is the link between formal English teachings of the fifties applied to the surreal landscapes he has absorbed, be they in Europe, Africa or Australia.
“Over the years I have drawn upon my experiences in Nigeria, Morocco, North Africa and Southern Europe and since arriving to teach in WA in 1970, have replaced these experiences with travelling to the North West of Australia. A region that has constantly enthralled and surprised me – it has been the catalyst for much of my work, whilst living in Perth.”
Painting landscapes for Betts was not a choice; it was instinctively what he responded to most. If he had been required at any time to paint cityscapes or still life or portraits in a realist or impressionist style, his skill, training and experience guaranteed that he could have. He was not one dimensional, just immersed in his subject.
During his later years Bett’s lived a peaceful and reclusive life with his partner Caroline in the orange growing region of Bindoon. In his home studio, under the shade of a Moreton Bay fig, he would paint interminably. Never plein air – like those of the Heidelberg school he quietly esteemed – but from memory.
He would invoke the many landscapes he traversed, especially those of the Australian North West, when painting. In many instances borrowing bits from here and bits from there to form the whole and jog the memory of a region or visual experience. It is only then that a title is applied.
His bold Fauvist brush strokes and attention to colour and composition have firmly perpetuated his place among his contemporaries in the Australian art market.
The sudden and unexpected loss of Betts on October 28th 2010 was a shock to the Western Australian public and a saddening blow to the Australian arts community.
One of Western Australia’s leading painters of landscape his works will ensure that his time among us will never be forgotten.
Exhibition from Sunday the 21st of February until Friday March 4th.
Sunday 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Tuesday to Friday 10:00am – 5:00pm