|‘Maybe you can live on the moon in the next century’,|
Fiona Rae, 2009
© Fiona Rae;
Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
Fiona Rae received her first significant public attention in the late 1980s when she exhibited as part of Freeze, a group show organised in Docklands by Damien Hirst. She was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1991 and in 2011, became the first woman to be made Professor Of Painting at the Royal Academy Schools. I googled the school's history - it's the oldest art school in the country having been founded in 1768. So it's only taken them 245 years to appoint a woman to the role!
Maybe you can live on the moon in the next century includes, I think, sixteen large paintings dating from 2000 to 2012. Large expanses of colour and bold abstract swirls compete with lots of dripping paint to create eyecatching pictures. These are then detailed with cartoon-like images including pandas, Bambi deer, hearts, stars and teddy bears. There is a definite Japanese flavour to the works but I'm not sure if the juxtaposition of the 'girly' details on the big canvasses really worked for me. Much of the meaning of each painting must come from their lengthy titles. I managed to see how I need gentle conversations fitted with the baby blue of its canvas, but the almost sinister aspect of its dripping clouds then confused me. A small Bambi in a foreboding dark maybe-forest is entitled As I run and run, happiness comes closer. I totally agree with the title, but thought the Bambi of the painting had quite a distance still to cover to escape the darkness.
While I was in the gallery, I was interested to note other people's reactions too. No one ignored the paintings! One woman was absolutely fascinated by the details and spent several minutes carefully examing each painting closely before moving on to the next. And a man spent the whole time staring across the room towards As I run and run, happiness comes closer, perhaps engrossed but with an expression that appeared just baffled. Personally, I think I will let the exhibition rumble around the back of my head for a week or two and then go back and have another look. I wasn't immediately a fan of the work as I was with Kelly Richardson, but I think it's great that the Towner has this exhibition too and I am certainly intrigued.
Towner Gallery, Tue-Sun, 10:00-18:00.
Bank Holiday Mondays, 10:00-18:00.