David Fitts, Carlton Photos 1970s: aides-memoire for paintings
Australian artist David Fitts (1946–1980), born in Melbourne, lived and worked in the inner-city suburbs of Carlton and North Carlton during the 1960s and 1970s. Fitts developed an extensive series of paintings and monoprints referencing these localities: works appeared in solo exhibitions at Toorak Gallery 1976, Powell Street Gallery 1977 & 1979, and ‘Carlton Paintings’ was exhibited by the Ministry of the Arts, Victoria, in 1979.
These photographs from the David Fitts Archive were taken by Fitts around Carlton in the early 1970s, for use as studies and aides-memoire. This selection touches upon perspectives and iconography that recur throughout his works in various media.
Writing in ‘The Age’ (1979), on ‘Ideologies of an art revolution’, Mary Eagle commented, "Locality affects art more in its social aspect than in its physical aspect, although so far the physical locale has been more treated; the suburbs, for instance, in Jenny Watson's paintings of houses she has lived in, David Fitts' Carlton paintings, John Dunkley Smith's slide installation of cityscapes at Art Projects, Peter Booth's high-rise horror-scapes; and the country, in Rosalie Gascoigne's paper landscape, Marr Roy Grounds' clocks, John Davis' Hattah Lakes twiggery. . ."
As these photographs suggest, in this Carlton series of works Fitts’ vision was emphatically grounded in place, yet also metaphysical, and intensely charged.
At the opening of the 1979 ‘Carlton Paintings’ exhibition by the Ministry of the Arts, Fitts invited poet Vincent Buckley to read from his poetry series ‘Golden Builders’, which also draws upon imagery of Carlton and transfiguration: “The hammers of iron glow down Faraday./ Lygon and Drummond shift under their resonance./ Saws and hammers drawn across the bending air/ shuttling like a bow…”
In the 1979 exhibition catalogue, Patrick McCaughey wrote of Fitts’ vision of both city of fact and the civitae dei, a place of renewal and redemption: “The drab and blank facades of David Fitts’ cottages and street corners enforce the city of fact, its textures as well as its appearance. Yet the paintings also glow from within. Colour and light, richness and illumination, are perpetually promised. David Fitts’ Carlton is poised for renewal, awaits transformation.”
20 March 2013
© David Fitts Archive