Ian Friend 
By Lucy Stranger

Queensland-based artist Ian Friend is not your typical Australian artist. Born and raised in East Sussex, England, his works on paper hark back to the soft light and chalky landscape that washes across time, space and place. Fluid and tonal, they invite you to look from the micro of geology to the macro of metaphysics. ARTIST PROFILE spoke to him in his Ipswich studio.

What role does music play in your work?

I have always been interested in music; we had a piano in the house and my mother was quite a good pianist. Sometimes you just sit and listen, or you sit and look and let that permeate your consciousness. That big box behind you is full of Mozart. I always felt Bach was the greatest composer, then I thought I should really listen to Mozart, and I have this box set of the complete works of Mozart – 225 CDs – and I’m half-way through it.

Do you see your works as marking points in time in your life?
Yes they refer to things I’ve read. Joy At Death Itself refers to The Oval Window by JH Prynne, a poet who has been a real touchstone for me. Some of the titles are taken from what I have read or have listened to a particular musical piece. Angel Song is from a jazz CD by Lee Konitz and Kenny Wheeler – the way that it flowed was like washes moving through space.

In your recent survey exhibition at Andrew Baker, ‘Musæum – Fragments of Former Worlds (Works from 1983–2016)’, what was the significance of the title?
It was a label in the Victoria and Albert Museum in the display of meteorites that referred to former worlds as told by Jacquetta Hawkes in her 1951 publication A Land. It’s like digging back into the past, which is what geology and archaeology are. The work that I am doing now is really some sort of resolution of younger experiences transformed by the dislocation of time and geographical distance.

How conscious are you of time in your work?
I am a slow worker. I don’t want to sound morbid but this year I have had so many friends and two close relatives die that I don’t know if I am subconsciously speeding up. You become more aware of your mortality. I am coming up to 67 and I still don’t really know anything, I just know a bit. I am reading a lot more, I get up in the morning at about five o’clock, and I just start working and reading and I might be going until night. I have eliminated the protestant guilt of taking time off to read.

I’ve just read a really good biography by James Stourton of Sir Kenneth Clark, and one of the things that Clark says about older artists is that some of them ‘live in a state of isolation, holy rage and transcendental pessimism’ (laughs) and I thought that’s me …

Ian Friend | Blue Silence
26 July – 1 September
Gallerysmith, Melbourne