Yes, I know Fairweather is an important artist in Australian abstraction. Yes, I do like his work. Yes, I would go out of my way to see an exhibition of his work…and I did. But he has never been one of my great influences, not on the list of draw-card artists. So I was curious whether a roomful of works might change my view of his oeuvre. It did.
Queensland Art Gallery was host to an exhibition by Ian Fairweather – Late Works 1953-1974. My trip to Brisbane was primarily to see this exhibition it was just a bonus that the APT7 was on at the same time. Following the vibrancy and colour of the Asia Pacific Triennial at first the paintings seemed flat and muted. The longer I looked the more subtle they became.
A lot of Fairweather’s works were painted on cardboard. His gallery would send canvas or linen to his remote home on Bribie Island and he would use the canvas on his make-shift home and paint on the cardboard it arrived in. I wonder how different these works would be on canvas.
Their appeal to me has always been the dryness of the paint. There was also a letter from an art supplier giving Fairweather student paints to trial. Perhaps the intensity of pigment also is an added attraction. I love colour but these muted earthy colours exaggerate the feel of the arid surfaces.
I came away feeling greater admiration for his work. I feel I understand his work better, I think I was caught up in his fascinating personal story but seeing his works all together changed the focus rightfully back to his painting.
It has made me feel like squeezing the wet from the oil maybe that’s why I love gouache, that opaque dryness.