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Fred Williams

How rare an experience it is to be in an exhibition where you feel you are in the presence of the artist at work. It is as if you are watching the artist’s hand and eye moving swiftly in perfect unison as he outlines the object of his intense looking, repeating contours, making corrections, starting afresh, appearing to breathe life into his subjects, and thinking all the while.

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The writers of two books about Fred Williams published in the 1980s, Patrick McCaughey and James Mollison, were friends of the artist, and involved with him in their roles as art critic/historian and gallery director. Their respect for Williams led them to write against the grain of their usual modes. Mollison, professionally always on the knife-edge of making judgement, held back, exploring with great precision within the factual boundaries of materials and processes, numbers, dates, and sequences. McCaughey, too, looked between art and artist rather than to mainstream contemporary art. In a new chapter written for the 2008 edition of his book, McCaughey endorsed the insights of younger writers, thereby providing a springboard for Deborah Hart.

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Fred Williams: An Australian vision by Irena Zdanowicz and Stephen Coppel

March 2004, no. 259

Things shimmer in the distance, as idiosyncrasies of air and light press in upon the eye, causing the terrain before one to wobble, smudge and dissolve. It was the singular achievement of Fred Williams to find an original pictorial syntax to poeticise such distance as it was experienced in the Australian landscape.

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