Monastery | Ian Fairweather | 1961
Ian Fairweather, considered one of the most important artists of Australia, lived an adventurous life, characterized by a constant search for new experiences.
While living in France, he joined the allied army and was captured by the Germans during the First World War. He spent four years as a prisoner of war. When the conflict ended, he studied art in several institutions in the Netherlands and in England.
Later he began to wander the world: he travelled thorugh Canada, China, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. He established in Australia, the country in which he will develop the majority of his work and will become known as an artist.
In his old age, Fairweather went to Darwin, on the northern tip of the island, and decided to row across the Timor Sea with a canoe. After more than two weeks adrift, he reached the coast of Indonesia. Dehydrated, was immediately deported back to Australia. In Briebie Island, off the coast of Queensland, the artist built a hut with his own hands, and lived away from society for 20 years.
His experiences influenced his art. Although Fairweather may be considered an abstract artist; he was greatly influenced by Asian art, cubism and Australian primitive art.
His best known painting is Monastery. It is thought that this work illustrates his brief stay in a monastery near Beijing, China. According to the artist’s own words, at the moment he stayed in that place, he was impressed by the contrast between northern China’s cold, snowy winter; and the warm interior of the temple, where small candles burned at night. That’s why the tones of painting are white-grayish, combined by little strokes of yellow. In the canvas, circular figures appear in rectangular compartments, which resemble to people resting in their beds.
The artist, proud of his work, signs the canvas at the bottom-right corner with his initials, next to the Chinese ideogram “auspicious”.