From 1963 until 1969 Fred Williams lived with his family at Upwey, a suburb close to the city of Melbourne located in the bush landscape. His works of the late 1960s often reveal a minimalist approach, at one with the implied spaciousness of the Australian continent. This corresponded with his ongoing interest in painting the sparsely inhabited Lysterfield landscape a short distance from his Upwey home. The spare beauty, delicacy and minimalism of his works at this time have an affinity with aspects of a Chinese and Japanese aesthetic.
In 1968 Williams and his family saw the landscape around them drastically transformed by raging bushfires. Even though their house was spared, it was a terrifying experience. The transition from bushfire to burnt landscape to regeneration became the subjects of many striking paintings and gouaches of the period.
Eight years later bushfires again informed the work when Williams flew across the north of Australia and saw what he described as ‘an unforgettable sight’ of lines of fire burning across the dark ground below. He made thumbnail sketches of these fires in his China sketchbook that subsequently became filled with an array of marvellous images in the course of a trip to China in 1976.