THE ARTS WITH GABRIELLE TURNBULL
Much has been written about the brilliant and unconventional artist, Ian Fairweather, who made Bribie Island his home for approximately the last 20 years of his turbulent life. It was during this period and through my family, that I became connected to the great artist. This Scottish born adventurer constantly wandered the globe learning about other cultures and beliefs, yet sadly, died without knowing how important and highly valued his artistic work would be regarded by the international art world.
As previously said, my connection to Fairweather exists through my relatives. In the 1950’s my Aunt Mary and Uncle Jack Easlea, moved from Warwick, settling on Bribie Island, where they ran a shop from the front of their home. To supplement their income, Uncle Jack also established a milk run for the Island. At this time there was no bridge, so Uncle Jack would catch the first early morning barge to the mainland to collect the milk supply. Ian Fairweather became a regular at the Easlea’s shop, purchasing his weekly provisions.
Jack and Mary became very fond of Ian, sometimes dropping off Mary’s tasty cooking to his shack. My older sisters, Polly and Kate occasionally holidayed on Bribie with our Aunt and Uncle. It was during these visits that they met Ian Fairweather and saw his paintings. Polly went on to study art and still has a letter from the great artist discussing his work.
A life filled with dramatic adventure and unexpected obstacles saw Ian, spend periods incarcerated in POW camps, travel impoverished through China, Japan, Borneo, and Bali and sail a small hand-made raft from Darwin to Timor where, upon his arrival, was locked up by Indonesian police, eventually being deported.
After being dumped into a home for derelicts, he returned aged sixty and built his thatched hut on Bribie, giving him the solace that his creative soul had sought. Living like a hermit he produced some of his most iconic work on scrap materials salvaged from a nearby rubbish dump. He passed in the Royal Brisbane Hospital in 1974. His art is displayed in London’s Tate Gallery and many of Australia’s premier Galleries. His work is now valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In 1963, he said of his work ‘Painting to me is something of a tightrope act; it is between representation and the other thing- whatever that is! It is difficult to keep one’s balance.’