From this island, we look out across the sea


‏Telling the Story of Australian Art

Your reimagined Australian Collection brings together art from different times and across cultures. After 120 years of building the Collection, there are many stories to tell of traversal and encounter, we focus on this theme as we continue with our series on Australian art.

Scottish-born artist Ian Fairweather’s Lights, Darwin Harbour 1957, generously on loan from a private collection, recalls the moment he left Australia in 1952 on a homemade raft. The journey — after 16 days on the open sea — ended on a beach on Indonesia’s Roti Island and inspired New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson to create The gift (from Argonauts of the Timor Sea) 2004–06, a ‘replica’ of the raft based on various accounts, including written descriptions.

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Michael Stevenson, New Zealand b.1964 / The gift (from ‘Argonauts of the Timor Sea’) 2004-06 / Aluminium, wood, rope, bamboo, synthetic polymer paint, World War Two parachute and National Geographic magazines / Purchased 2007. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

Fairweather’s goal was to return to Britain, which he eventually did, but in 1953 he came back to Australia, finally settling on Bribie Island. There, he completed some of his greatest works, including the religious painting Gethsemane 1958, recently gifted to the Collection by Philip Bacon AM. Stevenson’s raft is a touchstone for the many journeys and encounters in this display. It resonates not only with Fairweather’s singular mission, but also with Australia’s place in the world, and the complex, continuing history of those who have arrived on and departed from its shores.

Ian Fairweather, Gethsemane 1958
Ian Fairweather, Scotland/Australia 1891-1974 / Gethsemane 1958 / Gouache on cardboard on board / Gift of Philip Bacon, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2017. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Ian Fairweather 1958/DACS. Licensed by Viscopy, 2017
Sidney Nolan, Australia/England 1917-1992 / Mrs Fraser and convict 1962-64 / Oil and enamel on composition board / Purchased 1988 with the assistance of David Jones Australia (Queensland Division) and Sir Sidney Nolan to mark the company’s 150th anniversary, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Courtesy of the Artist’s Estate /

Connections across the water date back further than colonisation. For hundreds of years, Macassan traders from Sulawesi, Indonesia, travelled to Australia over the Timor Sea to trade and share knowledge with northern Australian Aboriginal people. The influence of this exchange can be seen in works such as Ngaymil/Dathiwuy artist Larrtjanga Ganambarr’s Balirlira and the Macassans c.1958, and Anindilyakwa artist Gulpitja’s Bara, the north-west wind 1948.

Dr Kyla McFarlane, Australian Art, QAGOMA

Larrtjanga Ganambarr, Australia b.c.1932-2000 / Balirlira and the Macassans c.1958 / Natural pigments on bark (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) / Purchased 2003 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Appeal and the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist
Gulpitja, Australia 1940-50 d.unknown / Bara, the north-west wind 1948 / Natural pigments on bark / Gift of the 1948 American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land 1956 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Estate of the artist/Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

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Feature image detail: Larrtjanga Ganambarr Balirlira and the Macassans c.1958