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Outback, Up Close

By Jessica Dawson
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, November 18, 2004; Page C05

"Last Light," one of Australian Ben Shearer's richly detailed watercolors. (Embassy Of Australia)

• If only this page were in color. Then you could see for yourself the acid red and turquoise of Ben Shearer's remarkable watercolors depicting the Australian Outback. His pictures are so rich in pigment and precise detail that from afar they might pass for photographs. Nearly all were generated during Shearer's travels in a light aircraft over vast stretches of Australia's toughest terrain. Images alternately register as hallucinogenic and spiritual, making this inhospitable land look like a place you want to visit -- and soon. Just don't go expecting to track the exact vistas Shearer did. The artist admits to embellishing the compositions just a bit, grafting one view onto another to arrive at landscapes a Mars rover would love.

"Outback Landscapes: Watercolours by Ben Shearer" at the Embassy of Australia, 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., by appointment, call 202-797-3383, to Dec. 1.

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