In The art that made me, artists discuss works in the Art Gallery of NSW collection that either inspire, influence or simply delight them. This selection by Ann Thomson first appeared in Look – the Gallery’s members magazine.
Ann Thomson was nine years old when she painted her first still life, an arrangement set up at a neighbour’s house in Brisbane. 'I was lucky that I found what I needed to do early,' she says of becoming an artist. 'But I had to fight my way to it. Art school wasn’t what my parents had in mind for me.'
In her twenties, she and her then husband, the photographer Robert Walker, frequently visited artist Ian Fairweather, who was living a hermit-like existence on Bribie Island. 'We would find this big curved log that was the entrance to where he lived,' she says. 'You’d stand there and make yourself known. Then he’d come out blinking in the daylight. There weren’t any windows in his abode. I think he did most of his painting at night by lamplight.'
Did she ever ask him about his work? 'Oh, goodness me, no!' she laughs. 'He just wasn’t interested in the things that we aspire to. That was a wonderful lesson, to know that, as an artist, it wasn’t about what people wanted to see, it’s a pursuit of something else.
'I don’t want to paint what I know. I want to paint what I don’t know. That’s why, to me, painting is like composing music. It’s that search for something else that’s not out there in the landscape in front of one.'