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William Robinson: Elixir of Light

Home > Brisbane > Art | Art and Craft Centres | Exhibitions | Historic Houses
by Marina Marangos (subscribe)
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A master of colours
When curators look for a title to an exhibition, they inevitably draw from what is on display. In this case, "Elixir of Light" could not be more fitting of William Robinson's work, which is currently being exhibited on the upper floor of Old Government House until the 14th of June 2020. It is a magical potion of the everlasting.

The curator is Maureen Hansen, who was taught art by William Robinson and knows him well. It is a wonderful exhibition and we are so privileged to have such a fine artist on our doorstep. William Robinson - Bill to his mates - is the only Australian artist who has an art gallery dedicated to his work. Now in his 80s, he is as prolific as ever and this exhibition offers a selection of his work; there are many more in storage, which shows what a fine artist he is.

I suggest you start in the room to the right of the staircase as you walk up. Sit in one of the comfortable chairs and watch the video of the artist in his garden, talking about his inspirations and his daily life. It is charming. Then look over to the colour wheel that Maureen has so cleverly put up for us to note so that we can have a better understanding of how BiIll uses colour. Very often he contrasts the colours to add light - so yellow next to blue, red next to green.

If you are familiar with some of Bill's earlier work, you will know that he paints what is around him. In the days he lived on a farm, it was many farm animals and landscapes of where he lived. Now he has moved to Springbrook, where he is surrounded by stunning country side and a beautiful garden. He has recreated the garden for us in his huge work "Garden from the Verandah" in 2013. While we note that perhaps not all the flowers are in bloom at the same time in real life, as we see here, we pick up all the purple shadows, the glimmering light and the detailed depiction of well-known plants.

The Garden 2013
The Garden 2013

Small brushes of colour, often contrasted create the beautiful forms that become so recognisable on the canvas.

The effects of the way he uses contrasting colours is nothing less than dramatic and we see this on other big canvases on display like "Creation Landscape Earth" (1995). Looking at this canvas, we have this enormous scene unfolding before our eyes, there are imposing mountains, the moon in the left corner, then a sea with cascading waves which almost seem to fall off the edge of the world and that mesmerising light which suffuses it all. Is it dawn, is it dusk? Is what I see what you see?

Creation Landscape. 1995
Creation Landscape. 1995

There are many paintings on display here, pastels and lithographs and watercolours, all displaying Robinson's extraordinary ability to use paints and contrasting colours to give us perceptions of light. As he himself observes in the video, painting is a sensation created by the painter and the observer who observes them.

Still life
Still life

The sea in yellow light
The sea in yellow light

"The Sea in Yellow Light" (1998) is another good example of the yellows next to the blues and greens, which immediately give the glimmer and light that you pick up as you see the canvas in its entirety.

There are so many examples of his craftsmanship and alchemy with colours but these are best enjoyed by being there. I was disappointed even with my new super iPhone 11 to note that the depth and subtlety of the colours were simply not conveyed.

There is so much that this exhibition offers and of course, in the beautiful surrounds of Old Government House. Do go along and take your time over this magical master of colour. As the curator said "Robinson's works are filled with violets and deep ultramarine blues. The eyes are bathed in Light that William Robinson has seen. He has studied light and it moved him to make this wonderful work for us all."

Cook Island at Night 1998
Cook Island at Night 1998

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Why? A master of colour on display
Phone: 07 3138 8005
Where: William Robinson Gallery, Old Government House 2 George Street Brisbane QLD 4000 Australia
Cost: Free
Your Comment
What a perfect location for an exhibition. thanks for sharing Marina
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|1366) 207 days ago
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by Lizzie Higgins on 21/09/2019
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