Ross Gibson on Ian Fairweather

Part of a series of new perspectives on portraiture commissioned for Archie Plus

Ian Fairweather

Composition with figures

1969
synthetic polymer paint and gouache on cardboard on hardboard
Acquisition funded by Antoinette Albert & family 2020
© Ian Fairweather/DACS. Licensed by Copyright Agency

In this composition, painted late in his long life, Ian Fairweather is almost all memory. By now he has drifted far from his Scottish birthplace. Far from his moneyed birthright. He has survived world wars and prison. He has wandered poverty-struck through the 20th century, across vast tracts of Asia, absorbing the aesthetics of India, China and Bali. Indigenous Australia too.

Portraying his aged self here, the people and events in his life are thronging around him. His brush stirs a reminiscent hubbub. Bodies decompose and recompose. One man’s head morphs into another man’s haunch; hands are also haversacks and holes. No foreground, no background. His past is present all at once. The future doesn’t figure.

Ross Gibson is a writer, artist, professor and sometime museum director

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