Purling Brook escarpment 2005
oil on canvas
128.5 x 183.6 cm
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AO
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008, TarraWarra Museum of Art collectionContributors
Contact TarraWarra Museum of ArtCopyright
Whether painting his whimsical self-portraits, intimate domestic scenes, or spectacular vistas, William Robinson’s art has always been made in response to his subjective experience and his immediate surroundings.
Since the mid-1980s, when the artist and his family first moved to a property on the Beechmont Range in the Gold Coast hinterland of Queensland, Robinson has been creatively entangled with the dense rainforest environments of this region. As the following statement attests, his long term immersion in the landscape is vital to his process: ‘I did not paint these works as a visitor to the landscape, but as one who lived in it and experienced it every day’. In Robinson’s paintings the natural world appears to be in a state of constant metamorphosis,reflecting the artist’s continuing and changing observations of place.
One of the ground breaking developments of Robinson’s landscapes is their unconventional composition which depict multiple points of view simultaneously. In Purling Brook escarpment (2005), this multidimensional perspective confronts the viewer with a sense of both enclosure within a steep, plunging gully of abundant trees and foliage, and disorientation, as the sky and ground undergo multiple inversions. For the artist, this sense of fluctuation and instability is one that he has come to understand from living close to nature and witnessing its rhythms unfold both spatially and temporally:
Living in the country everything moves—the seasons, the clouds, nothing is set. There are things behind you, all around you and you are in it. … You begin to realise that you are in a landscape that is really the crust of the earth. It is air and ground. We’re all just spinning through space. There is something about the paintings that is indefinite, not solid. We don’t really have an orientation in this infinity. … You begin to question what time is ….
For Robinson, the landscape has not only profoundly transformed his understanding of the larger cycles of the cosmos, but also greatly enhanced his appreciation for its minutiae of forms, patterns and textures. With a rich palette of delicate impasto paint work, he treats each discrete tree fern frond and drooping eucalyptus leaf with the same intimate attention to detail, conveying his appreciation for their small but intrinsic presence within this complex ecology. Looking up and out to the revolving sky through the tangled foliage and towering canopy of this sprawling web of interacting lifeforms, the viewer is drawn to contemplate the grandeur of this ancient forest and is instilled with a sense of reverence for its numinous beauty.
- Quoted in Lou Klepac (ed.), William Robinson: Paintings 1987–2000, Sydney: The Beagle Press, 2001, p.40.
- Quoted in Deborah Hart, ‘William Robinson’s artistic development: An intimate and expansive journey’ in William Robinson: The Transfigured Landscape, Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology and Piper Press, 2011, p. 33.