Fred Williams – taming Cape York with a brush
Weipa as a travel destination mightn’t rank too highly on most people’s bucket list, especially if you’re not a frequent visitor to Far North Queensland, but thanks to a fantastic exhibition of acclaimed Artist, Fred Williams at the Cairns Regional Art Gallery, renewed interest in this extraordinary landscape may just ignite.
I’ve been a fan of Fred Williams since studying art at university. I was recently reacquainted with his work when I visited the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney, so I was a little excited when I was day tripping down from Port Douglas to my local gallery and realised that the “Weipa Series Cape York” exhibition was open, showcasing a stirring body of Williams work based on his time in Far North Queensland during the 1970’s.
The works are predominantly done in gouache on paper with the occasional work also using chalk, such as the above untitled work [Dry creek bed diptych, Cape York]. l found the portrait format used in the above work added to the viewing experience as it seemed to emphasise the reference to the aerial perspective. Williams flew over the region during a particular visit in 1977.
Working in the field, taking reference photographs and studies, Williams work seamlessly transitions from the subtle cool palette of “Bushfire Weipa 1”, to the stronger blue tones of “Weipa Coastline” and “Weipa Landscape”, through to the contrasting warmth and rich earthy tones of the untitled [Weipa lV], below.
This well curated exhibition reminded me of the mastery of Williams skill as a painter – to enter an unfamiliar and foreboding environment such as Far North Queensland and be able to extract the serenity… stuuuupendous!
When and where to go
The Cairns Regional Art Gallery is a fantastic space and a beautiful building right in the heart of Cairns. There’s plenty to see, do and sip in the area – you’re just a block from the sea front.
40 Abbott St, Cairns City QLD 4870
2 MARCH – 1 JULY ’18
Getting to Weipa
Weipa is a mining town (pop. 3,500) on the Gulf of Carpentaria coast of the Cape York Peninsula (the inside bit of the Cape). It’s the largest town on the Cape so if you’re doing the “trip to the tip” you’ll be passing through. It does have a couple of resorts and is known for it’s unspoilt wilderness, especially the coastline.
Cairns to Weipa – 800km, 20 Hours
*The road is only sealed to Laura, which leaves hundreds of kilometres of dirt between you and Weipa. You can get there in a two wheel drive but most car rentals will not allow you to go beyond Cooktown, this site has got some good info.
Publications on Fred Williams
If you’re looking to find out more about the Artist and his work, below is a lovely book on Fred Williams through Amazon. I’ve also popped in a book about using gouache whilst travelling and a starter kit that will get you off and running if it’s a new medium to you.