Ian Willding, a Wiradjuri man, developed his art while working for many years at the Suneden Special School in Adelaide. His inspiration however came from his childhood in Forbes, in rural NSW. From 1996 onwards he was associated with the Red House Group of community artists, and also curated exhibitions of works by gay and lesbian artists.
Ian Kenneth Willding was born at Forbes, NSW in 1954, the son of Kenneth Willding and Beryl (née McCarney). After initially training as a chef and working in Sydney, he moved to Adelaide in 1989. For the next sixteen years he worked as an artist in residence at the Suneden Special School. He also forged close links Nunga and gay communities, supplementing his income by working as a carer. Although he had left Forbes his art continued to reference memories of his childhood. His synaesthesia meant that these paintings, especially Dust of My Fathers (2008, have an immediacy in their evocation of times past. In 1996 he became involved in the Red House Group of community artists, an association that would last the rest of his life. His involvement in community arts led to his 2009 venture of curating Kumqwot, an exhibition of work by gay and lesbian artists. He held a number of solo exhibitions of his own work, notably Ceaseless Patterns of Being, which indicated his growing interest in Asian spiritual values, and Native Tongue III of 2009, which recalled the only time he ever heard Wiradjuri being spoken. In 2011 Tandanya Cultural Centre honoured him with a solo exhibition, Family Matters: A Wiradjuri Story in which he drew on his own research and his mother’s knowledge of their family history. He had always wanted to travel, but for most of his life such adventures had appeared to be impossible. Shortly before he died, he is friend Samuel Schmid travelled with him to Europe, going by train through Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Poland, seeing so much of the art that he had long admired in reproduction. In January 2017, just after he died, Adelaide’s Gallery M honoured him by showing Ian Willding, Retrospective.