Australia 1927 – Australia 1982
Dry creek bed, Werribee Gorge I
oil on canvas
signed upper left
182.3 (h) x 152.2 (w) cm
Tate, London Presented by the artist's estate 2006
© estate of Fred Williams
Werribee Gorge State Park became one Williams’s favourite painting places in the mid-1970s. A photograph of the Werribee Gorge site in his diary reveals his ability to transform an unremarkable scene into a major motif in his paintings. In 1976 during the driest period experienced in the region in over half a century, he made numerous sketching trips to the Gorge. Over several weeks he completed around thirty-three paintings of the area that led to a number of studio oils. The arid nature of the country tempts us to think they depict some remote desert location. Williams often expressed his interest in parallels between the local and the general, indicating his feeling for the underlying unity of the environment.
Dry creek bed, Werribee Gorge I is a luminous, abstracted impression of the Gorge. A wiry dark line suggests an aerial view of the dry, ancient creek bed, deeply etched into the surface of the land. While the landscape appears parched, Williams conveys a sense of energy and renewal with signs of life blossoming in the scatter of naturalistic plants around the creek bed.