Fascismo 1963 Synthetic polymer paint and gouache on cardboard on hardboard 106 x 70.5cm (41 3/4 x 27 3/4in).
PROVENANCE: G. Elsworthy, Sydney Private Collection Sydney Sale, Christies Australia, Sydney, 23 September 1985, lot 595 Private Collection, Brisbane Private Collection, Sydney
EXHIBITED: Ian Fairweather Retrospective, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1 October - 27 November 1994; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 17 December 1994 - 19 February 1995; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 March - 7 May 1995 Top Guns 2010, Richard Martin Art, Sydney, 3 - 21 July 2010
LITERATURE: Murray Bail, Ian Fairweather, Bay Books, Sydney, 1981, p. 194, fig. 88 (illus). Murray Bail, Fairweather, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1994, Craftsman House, p. 125, pl. 53 (illus). Murray Bail, Ian Fairweather, Murdoch Books, Sydney, 2009, p. 199, pl. 168 (illus).
Ian Fairweather painted Fascismo at Bribie Island, in 1963. It was an important year for Fairweather. Not only did he represent Australia in the VII Bienal de São Paulo, but three of his recent paintings, including the great Epiphany 1962 in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery, were selected for the exhibition, Australian Painting Today; a survey of the past ten years, touring the state galleries and on to Europe. In addition, that same year he completed the translation of The Drunken Buddha, a well-known Chinese novel based on the life of a Buddhist saint, Taochi who lived in the thirteenth century. When published by the Queensland University Press in 1965, it was richly illustrated with Fairweather's paintings, similar in style to Fascismo. Moreover, the first issue of Art and Australia in May1963 featured a cover story on Fairweather, written by Laurie Thomas, then director of the Queensland Art Gallery. The following year a major retrospective exhibition organized by Thomas opened in Brisbane and toured nationally until early 1966. They were vintage years - of achievement and recognition. Fairweather's 1962 exhibition at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, had led the way, Murray Bail acknowledging it as still being 'one of the high moments in Australian art.'1 It was critically acclaimed and more than half of the exhibited paintings went into public galleries. The Sydney Morning Herald hailed Fairweather as '... Australia's greatest living artist.'2 His exhibition at the Macquarie Galleries in the following of 1963 year also included a number of memorable paintings, the major work being Marriage at Cana 1963 in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. There was also Diogenes 1963 (private collection), the superimposed linear forms inspired by Oriental calligraphy worked across a field of abstraction. In the stylistically related Fascismo 1963, calligraphic freedom likewise gives way to a more austere interlocking of lines of white gestural paint drawn with the brush across a richly dark field of abstract vigour. Any hints of Aboriginal art are part of Fairweather's breadth of reference, touching the universal rather than exploiting locality. A work of great quality produced during a period of high achievement, Fascismo was wisely included in the 1994 retrospective exhibition organized by the Queensland Art Gallery, toured to Melbourne and Sydney. Of his paintings at this time, Fairweather said, 'There was about them a serenity, a chaste beauty ... It was done with a few strokes of the brush, dramatic, delicate and with a tremendous power of suggestion and imagination.'3
David Thomas 1 Bail 2009 p. 194 2 Ibid 3 Ibid, quoted in Nourma Abbott-Smith, Ian Fairweather: Profile of a Painter, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1978, pp. 63 - 64