Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1927 – Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1982
Collection Title: Upwey series
Place made: Upwey, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas
Upwey landscape reveals Fred Williams’ considerable strengths and sensitivities as a painter. This work is part of a series that Williams undertook after he moved to Upwey in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in 1963. Williams often liked to work in series as a way of clarifying and distilling what he was aiming for. Characteristically, Upwey landscape combines the artist’s feeling for place with his masterly control of pictorial structure that can be traced back to his interest in Paul Cézanne.
Indeed, the figurative and abstract elements in Upwey landscape are held in exquisite tension—the high horizon and compression of depth recalling the spatial structure of Japanese screens. The ground of the work, painted in layers of red-ochre and golden-brown, invests the composition with an internal glow. This surface is in turn animated by Williams’ distinctive painterly ‘touch’ in marks that are suggestive of plant life and bushfire.
Williams painted the Upwey series after a period of considerable innovation, followed by a struggle to consolidate his discoveries. The results were a revelation when they were first shown and confirmed Williams’ distinctive place in the story of Australian art.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008