Touch your world, 2013
Oil and acrylic on canvas
Original size: 84 x 69 in / 213.4 x 175.3 cm
Photographer: Copyright Fiona Rae, Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
Photo: Antony Makinson, Prudence Cuming Photography, London
Over the last 25 years Fiona Rae has developed a distinctive body of work, full of restless energy, humour and complexity, which has set out to challenge and expand the modern conventions of painting. Fonts, signs and symbols drawn from contemporary design and typography have appeared in her paintings, whilst abstract marks and spontaneous gestures worry at the autonomy, legibility and function of these graphic shapes, debating a new synthesis of painterly languages. In 2004, when Rae visited Tokyo and reconnected with visual aspects of her peripatetic childhood in Asia, her lexicon further broadened to include small figures or cartoons whose status is left intriguingly ambiguous. Like Caspar David Friedrich’s human presences in an overwhelming landscape, they serve to point up the metaphysical and artificial dimensions of abstract painting, whilst also providing an empathetic point of identification for the viewer that invokes a more personal reading.
In using elements from popular culture that might be considered inappropriate or unserious in the grand tradition of painting, Fiona Rae looks to re-examine their meaning and expressive possibilities. In more recent paintings, these ludicrous yet gnomic images might be thrust into passages of expressive brushwork, layered and dense, or caught in black calligraphic drawing inspired by Dürer’s Apocalypse woodcuts, to produce dramatic and emotive compositions. Her recent titles often purport to be exclamations or statements, but like her paintings, they elude definitive explanation and can appear simultaneously dark and charming, anxious and insouciant.
Painter, Painter: Dan Perfect, Fiona Rae opened at Nottingham Castle in May 2014 and toured to Southampton City Art Gallery in July 2014.