By Ted Snell

There is an urgency that drives artists to create, and making art becomes a vital and intrinsic part of their lives. This was certainly the case for Ross Seaton. He produced an extraordinary body of work over a half-century of creative endeavour. It filled his entire home and garden and the numerous sheds he constructed on his property in Nedlands.

For many Western Australians, Ross was the ‘Walking Man’, known for his perambulations along Stirling Highway collecting cardboard and other treasures left by the roadside. Bent double, always in shorts, his mahogany-brown legs wrapped in bandages, he undertook these daily research journeys to garner information and materials for his paintings.

Like many artists, Ross was compelled to document his complex and multi-layered worldview. Despite the lack of an informed and appreciative audience.

He was a fascinating character, mysterious, and uncommunicative who undertook a self-directed quest for truth and understanding. Ross was his own man, A Don Quixote figure with his wheelbarrow/pram Ross would set out daily to elicit meaning from the world. Whether he reached his beachside destination or was forced to return home by someone’s well-intentioned interruption was irrelevant. Everywhere Ross found evidence of a guiding intelligence that shapes our lives. He dutifully noted these down on A4 sheets folded into eights, small enough to be held in the palm of his hand. Each day was purposeful, each walk was essential, and he dedicated himself to this task for over five decades. In an increasingly controlled and externally directed world his quest seems presciently laudable.

Like so many artists before him, he was committed to sharing his discoveries with others through the artworks he made. Some were painted on large sheets of plastic carefully laid out over his front yard, others on scraps of board, on the back of the wallpaper, on that cardboard he gathered from the roadside, or on anything else that came to hand.

“Everything is connected to every other thing,” he explained to me as we prepared for an exhibition of his work that eventually took place at the Naval Stores in Fremantle in December 2020. Although reticent at first, Ross knew the value of his paintings and happily expounded on their meaning and described the catalyst for their creation.

Sadly, he died during the period of the exhibition’s planning. Unfortunately, for many artists, the recognition they deserve comes too late. Vincent Van Gogh is the oft’ quoted example, but there are many in our community right now who are providing insight and inspiration by responding to our world in their paintings, novels, dance works, music, and film, just like Ross.

Thanks to Brendan Hutchins from Fremantle based VAM Media and Director Luna Laure, some of the mystery and wonder of Ross’s life and work has been captured in a documentary that is now airing on ABC iview.

Without Ross, the story is told through his neighbours, friends, and family as we prepared his work for exhibition.

Ross was not welcoming to outsiders. However, his main aim was to make paintings that would engage an audience. He wanted them to consider the evidence of interconnectedness that he discovered on his daily Wheelbarrow walks. Through the Ross Seaton: The Master of Nedlands exhibition, the book, and this documentary, he now has that audience.

Now Showing: The Walking Man. On ABC TV and ABC iview

And here’s Ted Snell’s earlier story on the exhibition.

Look here for more Ted Snell articles on Fremantle Shipping News.

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