Nimbin Rocks in Fog 1996 signed and dated 'William Robinson 96' lower left oil on canvas 137.5 x 183cm (54 1/8 x 72 1/16in).
PROVENANCE: Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney Private Collection, Sydney
EXHIBITED: William Robinson, Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, 28 June - 24 July 1996, cat.5 (illus). William Robinson: A Retospective, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 31 August - 11 November 2001, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 14 December 2001 - 10 March 2002
LITERATURE: L Seear, Darkness & Light: the Art of William Robinson, p. 127 (illus).
William Robinson is a very singular artist whose upside-down view of Australia is full of antipodean whimsy and romance. Traditional one point perspective is abandoned for the multi view, his sights fixed firmly on the heavens as the wonders of nature, especially the anthropomorphic gums, raise their elongated and contorted shapes pleadingly heavenwards, and in glorious praise. There is something awe inspiring about his landscapes, not only in the star-filled arching heavens, grand mountain ranges and gullies, but also in the feeling with which he invests them. In Nimbin Rocks in Fog 1996 and countless other works cast in the picturesque, there is a romantic sense of the immensity and timelessness of nature. This is contrasted with the transient, as in passing mists, of light rain, the rising light of 'pink fingered' dawn, and the settling shadows of dusk. He is a master of the panoramic and ephemeral effects, of the changing seasons and times of day as metaphors of life and experience. In Nimbin Rocks in Fog the majestic landscape is revealed through the mists of time. To say his landscapes are highly original and his imagery inventive is an understatement, for they are deeply spiritual, exploring the relation of man to the creation and its universe. Moreover, there is a familiarity with the land that comes from his many years as a farmer. His paintings speak of the ancient brought to the wonderment of the present, as found in our geologically ancient land.
The unusual worm's eye view of Nimbin Rocks in Fog, as distinct from the bird's eye view of, say, Morning Springbrook and West 1995, is devised so that the viewer feels closer to the landscape itself. This is furthered by the absence of human figures, the viewers to put themselves where they might have been. A time primordial, before Adam and Eve walked the earth, pervades Nimbin Rocks in Fog. Writing about his Mountain Series of paintings, which he considered to be among his 'most important works', Robinson, opened the door to a fuller understanding of his art 'I want to move away from observing the picture as some sort of representation. I want to sweep the observer down the gullies and up into the sky. The observer is drawn into the landscape not physically but as a sort of connection with memory........ These works are the outcome of my own experience and they are totally to do with feeling and walking over the landscape. Such pictures cannot be understood if they are not felt physically...'.1 The tragic loss of two daughters in the early1990s influenced Robinson's work, touching it with introspection and heroic acceptance. He uses the transience seen in nature, the uncertainty found in the landscape shadows, as a metaphor of life. 'My paintings', Robinson said, ' are an inner vision of the day.'2
Nimbin Rocks in Fog was shown in Robinson's 1996 exhibition at Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, with other such paintings as, Below Springbrook with light rain, Clearing storm to Fingal, Just before dark Kingscliff. Each of these extraordinarily moving landscapes evokes and celebrates the power and majesty of nature, the terror and glory of the elements, and fills one with the awe felt by the artist before his motif. The Nimbin Rocks in northern New South Wales are volcanic extrusions millions of years old, jutting skywards. The early white settlers named the three most prominent 'Timble', Cathedral', and 'Needle' It is no surprise to learn that they are of deep cultural importance to the local Bundjalung tribe.
David Thomas 1 Seear, L. (ed.), Darkness and Light: The Art of William Robinson, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2001, p. 118 2 Murdoch, A.K., 'Outsider at peace amid the ethereal and sublime', Age, Melbourne, 19 September 2005