"Mark making" is the pretentious but appropriately descriptive word we used for it at art college. It describes the act of drawing and was regarded as very old-fashioned and many times declared to be "dead"! Well drawing will never be dead. Even in these days of electronic communication making marks is an ancient impulse, from the time when our chubby little fingers can grasp, even if it is a medium as soft and difficult to control as mashed banana, humans want to make marks.I saw an exhibition of Australian artist Ian Fairweather's work the other day. Fairweather has become a bit of a legend as, after the WW2 he sailed a raft from Timor to Bribie Island in Queensland and famously lived there in a humpy on the beach in dire poverty until his death in 1974.Fairweather's paintings are magnificent. He plays with the pictorial depth, the calligraphic lines push and pull the flat patches of paint. His works recall medieval stained glass windows in their division of the pictorial plane and the way that they seem to draw light into the surface creating volume where there are only two dimensions. Close up these works are beautiful patterns emerging and disappearing, as you move further away the lines resolve to form children on a donkey, women's heads, scenes of domestic life celebrated and elevated to become spiritual.
This forest floor is from Stradbroke Island. The she-oaks and banksia leaves fall in this pattern. Fairweather would have looked at patterns like this every day. The brilliance of his work is that it connects these quiet, natural patterns with Asian village life and the meditative practice of calligraphy as practiced by the masters of Chinese calligraphy in their monasteries. Fairweather's materials were meagre, his colours could be described as dull yet his paintings transcend the material limitations and become tributes to the human condition. The computer screen does not do justice to the stark, rhythmic beauty of these works.