Iain the Person
As seen by friends and colleagues
Russell Craig, who had been one of Iain's tutors at Queensland College of Art and who later became a great friend, had these words to say about Iain when he delivered a eulogy at the celebration of Iain's life, just a week after his death : –
I met Iain whilst he was completing an undergraduate degree at the Queensland College of Art. I had the good fortune to teach him during his QCA studies. What was apparent from the outset was his willingness to extend a helping hand to anyone. This ‘generosity of spirit’ was a trademark of Iain’s personality during all the time I knew him.
He worked conscientiously during his 3 year degree as well as his honour’s year. The honour’s year provided an excellent arena for him to fashion a unique brand of aesthetics. His choice of visual elements and means of expression was not unlike his persona. Humble, highly intelligent and always willing to explore a new direction.
During the last stages of his honour’s studies an opportunity arose for a well-known French artist, Jacques Pasquier to review a number of students in the fine art course. Jacques quickly identified Iain as a champion artist and stated to me he recognised immediately the high quality of Iain’s work. This message was conveyed to Iain and of course he would have told no one. However, I always remember this accolade to Iain and thought it was as worthy as the first class honours he finally achieved in his studies at QCA.
I have thought for many years Iain had found contentment through his QCA and Brisbane experience. He not only happened upon the love of his life Jen, but also connected with numerous artists who became his dear friends. I was informed recently, by his brother Matthew, that he engendered a love for the arts well back in his childhood. I guess it was a major attribute having a mother who practiced art. However it came as no surprise to discover that Iain was an averred collector particularly of first edition books. His love of collecting books and reading would explain why his knowledge and expertise when discussing art was so extensive.
I would assume this kind of breadth of experience was further embellished through his family’s unique overseas travel experience when he was young. This background could also explain his addiction for visiting and collecting from galleries from a very early age. His modest and unpretentious manner was often reflected in the materials, application and selection processes in his art practice. Shaped wooden blocks, odd shaped sticks were lovingly sculptured and placed with great care within an assemblage. His prints contained soft transparent and opaque combinations of colours that hold the poetry of the calligraphic mark. These works do not scream out. They are quiet, strong, beautiful works and display a connoisseur’s touch in bringing the fineness of life to our eyes and hearts.
The stoic and courageous way Iain faced his destiny will always be with me. Iain was deeply loved by all. His passion for art, handsome stature and modest demeanour are there for us to cherish.
Following the celebration a number of friends and colleagues left comments in a guest book. Among them : –
‘As a person almost 20 years older than Iain, I felt from the first time I met him at Crase Street (New Farm) in 1984, and at every later meeting, that he was one of the most genuine people I’d ever met, one to whom age made no difference, one whose affection was honest and lasting. I also love his art. A true gift to our shared time on this planet.’
‘Iain was a great friend, a wonderful intellect, a calming influence and a man of grace.’
‘Iain made all of us a better person. I feel blessed having known him.’
‘Such a gentle soul - memories of you always Iain - in our hearts and on our bookshelf.’)
‘The world was lucky to see your beautiful work and your gentle ways.’
‘Iain, … you fought a huge fight. You will be missed greatly.
‘Who is going to recommend our books now?’
‘A generous fellow-artist, a connoisseur, a natural intellect and true friend, Iain is, and will continue to be, sorely missed by those that knew him well.’
“Iain was a feature of our early adulthood and I'll remember him with great fondness. He was a willing collaborator, a sharp wit and (importantly for us as fairly typical young Australian adults in the 80s) a much needed arbiter of good taste.”
“ The stoic and courageous way Iain faced his destiny will always be with me. Iain was deeply loved by all.”
There were many more who expressed similar feelings verbally – folk who had been long-time workmates at Myers, the booksellers with whom Iain had dealt over the years and who became close friends, so many of the nurses and doctors at the Mater Hospital, in fact virtually anyone who had met him.
In fact to us as his parents, the obvious depth of love and affection that so many people felt for Iain, many of them people we had never met, was both deeply comforting and at times overwhelming – a glowing testament to the impact that a simple life graciously lived can have on the world around it.
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© elizabeth turnbull 2013