Ian Westacott lives in Dornoch, Sutherland in the northern highlands of Scotland, with his partner the printmaker, Sue Jane Taylor and their two sons. He has been exploring the significant and heritage trees that grow around where he lives in a project that begin with him etching records of a local tree that had been used by village children for generations, before it was cleared to make an access road.
'Westacott carries his etching plates to the trees and works up close. "I always see human characteristics in the trees," he says, "some of them are theatrical, waving their arms at me, others are reflections of myself. I identify closely with their experience." Later, he works on his drawn etching plates in his studio: "I've discovered that the slow process of etching brings out aspects of an image that resonate with me, things that have significance. The slow building-up of lines on the plate and the careful inking and wiping of its surface helps me to know and understand the tree." He rarely uses photographs or preparatory sketches to make these works, preferring to rely on the image directly in front of him and on his memory. ...
Westacott's trees float on their own with little reference to the environment or even to the ground they sit on. There is no atmosphere of place, no human drama to distract us from the direct image of the tree. Westacott's prime interest is in getting to the heart of his subject's unique character. His trees are truly venerable beings; wonderful, distinctive personalities with their own stories and histories.'
- Extracted from Alison Munro's review of Ian Westacott's exhibition, Venerable Trees, 2011.
Ian Westacott was born in Victoria, Australia. He grew up in the foothills of the Victorian Alps, the son of a dry cleaner. Westacott was accustomed to noisy old machinery and rising steam in the back of his father's shop and in contrast to the ragged mountain bush outside.
These background influences, the contrasts between the interior and exterior of his daily life, began to reflect in his work later when he was an art student in Melbourne. Westacott created a series of large etchings based on imagery from a nearby sheet metal factory. This led to working in the Melbourne Stock Exchange, building sites, city streets, suburban houses and in 1988 as an artist in residence a the City Art Gallery, Aberdeen. This commission led to further residencies in Aberystwyth City Art Centre, Wales and at the Order of St John Musuem in Clerkenwell, London. Westacott has taugh printmaking in art colleges throughout Australia, the United Kingdom and Sweden. He has exhibited internationally since 1990 and his work is held in a number of public and private collections around the world.