press release

Timothy Taylor Gallery is delighted to announce its third solo exhibition by British artist Fiona Rae.

These new large paintings, all 2012, share multifarious and interwoven techniques, patterns and passages that ebb and flow across their surfaces, but have quite different visual outcomes. I need gentle conversations and I always wish you every happiness with my whole heart in the distance have a pared down aesthetic; the overall ground colour is threaded with motifs reminiscent of the hanging gardens found in classical Chinese landscape painting, and the effect is one of extraordinary lightness and delicacy. The sun throws my sorrow away and Present party for you are animated by painterly swirls and flourishes over veils of dripped and poured paint, while Something is about to happen! depicts the aftermath of a violent painterly battle as an electrifying form explodes on the canvas like a firework display. Close examination of the paintings reveals fascinating small details and incidents like conversational digressions, such as the mathematical and astronomical symbols that dance across these paintings, reminiscent of those found in Dürer’s star charts from the 16th century.

Running through this series of paintings is a leitmotif of cartoonish pandas. Articulated in various ways, they function as abstract compositional devices as well as having both an absurd and uncanny presence. The artist writes:

“These new paintings were kicked off when I bought a string of Chinese embroidered pandas from the Pearl River emporium in New York. The handmade stitching looks like colourful drawing on the black and white silk. The wobbliness of their facture gives them ambiguous expressions and status, so that they appear both ludicrous and ominous at the same time. Even more importantly, I could use them as a reason to make a painting. Sometimes it’s hard to justify the act of painting; its expressive and gestural marks can seem unwarranted and unconnected to anything much in the so-called real world, and even worse, the nightmare of painting’s history haunts the studio. With these pandas as mascots, amulets, protagonists, victims, observers, or whatever their role in each painting might be, I can make a painting that has an angle or an eye on itself, while simultaneously being a full-blooded, full-on manifestation of painterly possibility.

I’ve always been intrigued by what it’s possible to include in a painting; I have an iconoclastic approach to subject matter and formal concerns. If I’m told that you’re not supposed to disrupt the picture plane, then I very much wish to do so immediately. Hence alongside what one might identify as high modernist painterliness, I use graphic signs, symbols, recognizable images and cartoons, spray paint, glitter, whatever seems like a good idea at the time. It’s not that I want to question in a self-conscious way the act of painting, it’s just that I cannot pretend to the idealistic purity of a modernist artist. However I think it’s vital to forge ahead with all the energy and positivity and self-belief that one can muster.

Context and contingency are all: in these paintings the disparate elements are held in a suspension of disbelief. For the moment, a star shape is decorative and not decorative. A dotted line is informative and not informative. It all hangs together for a moment, and like a cartoon cell, everything might change in the next instant. The titles function in much the same way as the paintings; they are sad and funny bouquets of words that often don’t quite make sense in a literal way, but do communicate an intention. I think the beauty and excitement of painting is its potential to present a world for the viewer to inhabit, without instructions as to how to negotiate and understand it.”

Fiona Rae, November 2012

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Fiona Rae
New Paintings