59. WILLIAM ROBINSON
Within the tradition of Australian landscape painting there have been few painters, who through their unique vision, have expressed our relationship to the world with such exceptional originality as William Robinson.
As Lou Klepac explains:
Much Australian landscape painting was inspired by physical exploration of the land. The early European visitors set out to explore the continent. By the nineteenth century it was developed by Roberts and Streeton, continued by Hans Heysen, and then by Drysdale, Nolan, Fred Williams and others. Robinson’s is the result of something different and it came when another Australia was evolving.1
The landscape wasn’t ahead of him as it was for Drysdale and Nolan, who both gazed at a distant horizon. Robinson’s landscape was all around him. In order to see it, to get to terms with it, and observe it closely he had to swivel his body, turn his head, make physical contortions. Whereas in Drysdale, Nolan and even Fred Williams one looks forward or back, in Robinson one looks up and down. It is this change in physical attitude before a landscape which has produced these highly original paintings. These multi-view experiences gathered while walking in the rainforest, were eventually transformed into paintings which contained all sensations at once. And in doing so they absorbed the viewer and made him a participant in the landscape.2
Botan Creek, Rainforest 1989 was painted at an important period in the artist’s career. In 1989 Robinson, who had been a successful art teacher for over 30 years, decided to become a full-time painter and as a result devoted extended continuous periods to the creation of his paintings. One year later he would be awarded the first of two Wynne Prizes for landscape painting at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, for The Rainforest 1990, which was acquired as part of the collection of the Gold Coast City Art Gallery.
As within The Rainforest, Robinson develops a similar pictorial device in Botan Creek, Rainforest by immersing the viewer in a space of darkness and light, air and water. It is a painting that not only expresses our relationship to a place, but also of our relationship to the cycle of life. Light breaks through the canopy and touches the mist sent into the air from the flow of the creek, directing our journey through an ancient cycle. Small touches of paint activate the entire surface of the picture giving it a vibration as if it is never at rest; the natural grandeur is balanced by the importance of the minutiae.
Creating a life across the whole picture surface forms a constant search for me.’ So commented William Robinson in 1979 and, with the arrival of the ‘big pictures’ almost a decade later, the search to create a life across the surface had taken on a new imperative. At that time the artist and his family had embarked on a venture in which they would have to adapt to the sublimely exotic, spectacularly dramatic, and potentially hazardous landscape. Within this environment the artist was to realize a profound and truly innovative dimension to his art.3
1. Klepac, L.,William Robinson Paintings 1987-2000, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2001, p.23
2. ibid p.22
3. Cummings, F., ‘Observations on the Rainforest’ in; Seer, L.,(ed.), Darkness & Light: The Art of William Robinson, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2001, p.104