Friday, 9 July 2010

Ian Fairweather

The Australian artist, Ian Fairweather, who died in 1974, is usually described as difficult, reclusive and a genius. The British-born son of a distinguished surgeon-general,who grew up on Jersey in a large house with a butler, rejected his privileged background and ended up living as a hermit on Bribie Island, Queensland.

Fairweather is usually viewed as an an artist of exceptional talent who produced paintings that merged everything from cubism, aboriginal art and Chinese calligraphy. Art critic, Robert Hughes, believed that "the emotional range and sheer breathtaking beauty" of Fairweather's finest pieces, such as Epiphany (below) surpassed all other Australian paintings.

However, as this recent article from the Australian explains, Fairweather is also remembered for a crazy ocean adventure when in April 1952 he set out alone from Darwin for Timor on a flimsy raft. This was made from materials he scavenged from the detritus of post-war Darwin such as torpedo shaped aluminium aircraft fuel tanks, driftwood and square sails made from parachute silk. He landed 16 days later on the Indonesian island of Roti, from where he was shipped back to Britain. He barely survived the voyage but in a later interview he explained "I wanted to get to Portuguese Timor, as the next best thing to Bali where I had done the best painting of my life after coming out of China 20 years or so before."

The artist Michael Stevenson recreated the raft in 2004:

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