Tea Set c.1962 PVA on pulpboard on hardboard 69.0 x 89.0cm (27 3/16 x 35 1/16in).
PROVENANCE Macquarie Gallery, Sydney (label attached verso) Estate of the artist Australian Paintings, Christies, Melbourne 28 April 1976, lot 507 Private collection, Melbourne
EXHIBITED Ian Fairweather, A Posthumous Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 3-15 September 1975, no. 9
In the late 1950s, Ian Fairweather had gradually resolved to total abstraction and from his retreat in Bribie Island, he sent regular packages of what he referred to as 'soliloquie's' paintings, down to the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney. These early abstractions were almost fully grey in constitution, albeit revealing integral elements of black, brown, turquoise or vibrant pink. However, from 1960, Fairweather's expression began to shift between abstraction and near-abstraction. The artist though, preferred to use the term 'unrealistic,' when describing his work of this period. In an interview with John Hetherington on Bribie Island in 1962, Fairweather commented, 'I started as a traditional painter, but I was always interested in abstract, and for a long time I worked on abstract lines. But I've decided that pure abstract doesn't suit me, and I'm trying to get back in my work some representation. Not that I'm concerned with other people when I paint, or feel the need to communicate. To me, painting is a personal thing. It gives me the same kind of satisfaction that religion, I imagine, gives to some people.'
Tea Set, c 1962 displays no dominant central point of focus, which is typical of much of Fairweather's work of this period. It does, however, possess an inherent representative subject of the tea set a group of china dishes, used for serving tea. The persistence of Fairweather's particular interest in Chinese culture is evident in his work of the 1960s, most particularly in his paintings for the translated Chinese book, 'The Drunken Buddha'. Thence, it is possible the theme of this work originated from the artist's memories of the period in which he lived in China between 1929 and 1932 and later in the mid to late 1930s, where he regularly visited Tea Gardens in Peking (now Beijing) and Hangchow. It may also have been derived, perhaps, from objects associated with serving tea, which the artist kept in the thatched hut he built and resided in on Bribie Island.
Whatever the inspiration, there is no doubt that this work is representative of Fairweather's influences, experiences, persona and individual spirit which was a culmination of seventy years of work, travel and exploration. Woven into the tapestry of the painting, with decisive brushstrokes and a dominant palette of blue, white, black, brown, an overriding sense of stillness and contemplation lingers. Tea Set circa 1962 reflects his complex treatment of a personal and reflective subject and the tranquillity of his surroundings on Bribie Island.
1 Bail, Murray. (2009) Ian Fairweather. Australia: Murdoch Books, p 158. 2 Ibid, p 165. 3 Ibid, p 268.