Ian Fairweather: Late works 1953-74

The Drunken Buddha 1965. Published by the University of Queensland Press, Brisbane; translation and illustrations by Ian Fairweather

Ian Fairweather’s interest in Chinese art, language and culture, manifested in works that evoke the simplicity and strength of Chinese characters. Fairweather painted a series of twelve illustrations for his 1965 translation of The Drunken Buddha, a well-known Chinese novel based on the life of Tao-chi, also known as Chi-tien (1148–1209), a sage well-known for his misadventures. Two of there are Chi-tien stands on his head 1964 and Chi-tien drunk – carried home 1964.

Chi-tien stands on his head 1964 accompanies the episode in which Tao-chi, after repeatedly falling off the prayer seats in the cloud hall, stands on his head on one of the seats. He does this, he explains, because ‘With the head on the ground one cannot fall on it’. After this, the monks stop calling him Tao-chi (way of salvation), and change his name to Chi-tien (salvation by overturning).

]Ian Fairweather, Scotland/Australia 1891–1974 | Chi-tien stands on his head (from the series ‘The Drunken Buddha’) 1964 | Synthetic polymer paint and gouache on cardboard on hardboard | Collection: The University of Queensland | Photograph: Carl Warner | © Ian Fairweather, 1964/DACS. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney, 2012

Chi-tien drunk – carried home 1964 shows the crowd watching Shen-wan carrying the drunken priest back to the monastery. After leaving the house of Mrs Shen and feeling tired, Chi-tien lay down by the Chun-ching Gate. Passers-by found him and gathered around; when his friend Shen-wan heard of it, he hurried to where Chi-tien was lying in a drunken stupor. Shen-wan, bent like a camel, then carried the drunken priest back to the monastery.

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Ian Fairweather, Scotland/Australia 1891–1974 | Chi-tien drunk – carried home (from the series ‘The Drunken Buddha’) 1964 | Synthetic polymer paint (polyvinyl acetate) and gouache on cardboard on hardboard | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © Ian Fairweather, 1964/DACS. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney, 2012

According to Fairweather, the publication proved a lengthy and challenging task; he painstakingly translated the text using a dictionary, and the subsequent transcription and editing was completed with the assistance of a number of typists.

If you’re very lucky, you can still come across this publication in second hand book stores.

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Rebecca Joyce is Curatorial Volunteer, and Angela Goddard is Curator, Australian Art to 1975, QAGOMA

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  1. Message for Angela Goddard, Curator

    My wife and I we love the few works of Fairweather we have seen when we visit Australia from Hong Kong. I have just learnt about your Fairweather exhibition and would like to come except I might not be able to get away, because I am a Board member and Endowment Trustee of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum which is opening in its new premises in late February.
    Is there any chance that this exhibition will travel to another museum or that it might be extended beyond 3rd March. Studying the catalogue is not quite the same thing. This will be a once in a lifetime experience and at my age, likely to be my last.

    William Waung
    sent from Email: waung.william@gmail.com

  2. Hello William. Unfortunately our current exhibition ‘Ian Fairweather: Late Works 1953–74’ must close 3 March 2013 and is also not scheduled to tour. We do however have a wonderful group of Fairweather’s earlier figurative works that will be available to view when the exhibition finishes, a very substantial group exhibited in our permanent Collection galleries at the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG). Perhaps you might like to contact us when you next plan to visit Brisbane and we could arrange to meet. Thank you for making contact. Regards QAGOMA