Ian Westacott grew up in Myrtleford, Australia and completed a Diploma in Art and Design at Wangaratta Technical College in Northeast Victoria in 1975. Later he completed a Graduate Diploma in Fine Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1987. His first show was in Wangaratta in 1979 and since then he has exhibited in Australia, Scotland, France and England, including shows at the Australian Galleries and the William Mora Gallery in Melbourne, Brown's Gallery and The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh in Scotland. He has also exhibited the collection Double Vision, a collaboration with fellow print maker Raymond Arnold.
Westacott carries his etching plates to his subjects and works from life. He rarely uses photos or preparatory sketches preferring to rely on the image directly in front of him and on his memory. Back in the studio he slowly builds on the lines incorporating any marks already on the plate. “I'm obsessed with line” he says “it's the clarity and transparency of the etched line which makes drawing come alive for me”.
Etching is a form of printmaking which evolved in 15th century Germany and has changed little since. Dürer, Rembrandt. Goya and Degas were brilliant exponents of the technique and when Westacott makes a mark or carefully inks and wipes a plate before printing, he is historically connected to that long line of artists. He is a master printmaker of great technical ability, allowing his knowledge to free up the printed image so it appears effortless.
In these works it is the quality and uniqueness of his drawing which shines through. From his earlier interiors of now-demolished factories to his most recent studies of historic and ancient trees Westacott is often drawn to subjects which are on the edge of survival. Gentle and generous in nature, he has a delicate sensitivity to the vulnerabilities of the world. As his friend and collaborator Raymond Arnold says: “Ian's careful and deliberate line etchings of ancient natural objects, drawn with love and great skill, are ciphers of worlds on the point of disappearance. They have the aura of 19th century illustrations we see in natural history museums of now extinct plants and animals. This makes them a type of counter image at odds with the status quo and something rare and special”.