The Artist/Explorer

Greg Weight's Portrait of Lloyd Rees

Greg Weight (1946- ) has been photographing artists since he joined Martin Sharp, Brett Whiteley, George Gittoes, and Peter Kingston at the artist-run Yellow House in Sydney in 1970. There, he met people who fascinated him for the ways in which they interpreted ‘the mystery and phenomena of the real world.’

For Weight, taking photographs of artists is a way of meeting and communicating with people that he describes as explorers: ‘They don’t take reality for granted. They interrogate their own existence and they interrogate their own ability to define that existence. In so doing they create an explanation for everybody to witness. This is what I find fascinating.’

Weight’s portrait of Lloyd Rees (1895 – 1988) was photographed in the venerable painter’s studio at his house in Northwood, Sydney. Rees’ paint-encrusted coat is a living testament to his 70-year career as an artist. He lightly holds his brushes like a divining rod, seeking the next source of inspiration. The landscapes that Rees painted and drew throughout his life – harbour foreshores, Bathurst fields, and the hills of the South Coast – were places he had a deep affection and reverence for. He returned to them again and again throughout his long life, exploring and defining his sense of belonging through the fine line of a pencil or the saturated colour of a brush.

As a painter, draughtsman and teacher, Rees mentored and taught generations of artists. Weight described meeting him as ‘like being in the presence of a wise old sage, the unofficial elder of a tribe of artists … On the few times I photographed him I came away with some of my most treasured images of an artist’. Rees explored his reality through paint and pencil until the end of his long life. He lectured in drawing at University of Sydney until he was 91, two years before his death, and gently led the way for a generation of artists, photographers and architects who were his students and friends.