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Published on 28 September 2017

Ian Fairweather puzzle

Ian Fairweather (1891-1974) is one of Australia’s great modernist painters. Scottish-born, he served in the First World War, but was captured by the Germans, and spent four years as a prisoner of war. The experience was harrowing, but also offered opportunities to study Japanese language and art, while Fairweather also provided illustrations to POW magazines. Following the war he studied art in England, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Unsettled, but also adventurous, Fairweather travelled to Canada, China, Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Australia. At one stage Fairweather crafted his own raft and sailed from Darwin to Indonesia. Fairweather served with the British Army in India during the Second World War. In 1953 Fairweather settled on Bribie Island, off the Queensland coast, and lived the life of a hermit. It was on Bribie Island that Fairweather produced his renowned paintings that explored his life experiences, showed the influence of his travels, and understanding of Eastern philosophies.

Painting II was created on Bribie Island, and is one of the few instances where Fairweather worked in a purely abstract way. Subtle tonal variations in gray are a hallmark of Fairweather’s style, and so too are his layered, gestural compositions, which bear the influence of Chinese painting and calligraphy. In China, the colour vermillion represents life, and the touches used here in Painting II perhaps offer an insight into Fairweather’s philosophy of connecting the process of art making with the substance of life.

Painting II by Ian Fairweather presents a vital example of modernism not yet represented in Rockhampton Art Gallery’s collection. To continue building the ‘cream’ of our collection, Rockhampton Art Gallery has launched a fundraising campaign to purchase Painting II by Ian Fairweather. Public donations, large or small, will provide valuable support towards the purchase of Painting II, and contribute to Rockhampton’s cultural landscape. Donations can be made by contacting the Gallery on 07 4936 8248, or gallery@rrc.qld.gov.au or by completing the Ian Fairweather Donation Form.