The beginning of a new body of work emerging after some frustration as to a clear direction for future work. I have been going back to basics, experimenting and exploring techniques, something I haven’t done for some time. Currently I am finishing four panels 150 cm x 50cm wide. This is an interesting format and quite a challenge to use for landscapes which is my focus.
Before time intervenes and my impressions became too fuzzy I wanted to put down my thoughts on the current Fred Williams exhibition at the National Gallery in Canberra. Williams is one of our greatest Australian landscape painters and from the crowds of appreciate viewers who recount an amazing viewing experience, he is even more firmly fixed in our art history. The beauty of the exhibition is that you can enter the designated space as often as you like in one day, and I took full advantage of that.
These were layered atmospheric paintings which grew on you more as you advanced through the exhibition, which I did a number of times. In all there were seven galleries. Right from the first gallery where the early landscapes were fledgling, showing the artists search for direction, there was an inherent strength, particularly in the portraits. Fred Williams was quoted as saying he had a fierce desire to paint colour.
As I progressed the work transpired from darker moody paintings to more sensuous use of line and space. I wasn’t attracted to the shaped or diagonal canvases in gallery three but on entering gallery four I suddenly found myself in a floating world of atmosphere. The minimal approach to composition was enhanced by William’s use of mark making, and small joyful dots of colour. Coming back several times had its advantages. In the end I had the whole gallery to myself. What joy!
This exhibition takes time to absorb. Stepping up close is like falling into a chasm of brush marks but as you step back the paintings come together in the most perfect way. My early favorite was Fire Burning on the Ridge, but then there were so many. If I had been allowed to keep one I wouldn’t have been able to choose. Fred Williams had a masterly use of paint. He was a prolific painter who had a focus and you didn’t sense him floundering. The paintings were spontaneous and rapid because he believed in what he was doing and there was one wall in the second last gallery I found mesmerizing. I think it was simply the way the lines moved me across the canvas.
I bought the exhibition catalogue and the DVD and loved the way the artist described how he often painted turning his canvas upside down and that it was the experience he was recreating. Fred Williams had an original vision that saw him became part of the landscape as he worked, making it all look so easy. Any painter will tell you that what looks easy comes at a price, with years and years of practice and dedication that will test the limits of artistic ability. I feel this painter did all of that but with peace, patience, resilience and perseverance, and a good dose of spirituality. The exhibition will finish on the 6th November and whatever you don’t miss it.
I am not able to add a Fred Williams painting here so I have added my own from the Hidden Dimensions exhibition at Toowoomba Regional Gallery showing from the 12th October – 6th November 2011. This painting reflects my memories of growing up on an island and the passage of sea that separated me from the mainland. More information on my exhibition on Art Clique
Passages 2, 122 x 122cm acrylic on canvas