Born in Scotland in 1891, Ian Fairweather spent his formative years in England and studied at the Slade school. Early in his adult life art was not considered a suitable vocation by his parents, who sent him off to Canada—to the colonies—to earn his keep. What followed was a life lived rough in diverse locations with an ongoing dedication to his art and self-education. Fairweather lived in numerous countries, including China, Bali, Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines.
By the time he painted Shalimar, Fairweather was living on Bribie Island off the Queensland coast. For many years he was a keen student of Mandarin and became a proficient translator. The act of translation from one language to another is a delicate matter, particularly in the case of poetic ideas, where nuances can elude literal interpretation. There is something akin to this act of translation in Fairweather’s Shalimar.
While he apparently was not referring in the title to the Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir (which he thought was in China), the work nevertheless suggests aspects of a garden—a garden of mind and imagination. This is evoked and abstracted in nuances of vivid deep pink plants in bloom, in the black-brown ground holding the parts in balance, in touches of bright red, in a world that appears to be continually growing and re-forming.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008