‘I think that there’s always going to be something that a painting can do, that a movie can’t do, that a computer can’t do, that the poster in the street can’t do. I’m not quite sure how to characterise it, maybe it comes back to the personal or individual touch or moment, its success or failure. Painting is a romantic, magical thing although I never thought I’d say that!’
Painted in 1991 and submitted for that year’s Turner Prize – the same year Fiona Rae had her debut London solo show with Waddington Galleries – Untitled (triptych I) is a monumental example of the artist’s protean painterly aesthetic. Ecstatically transcending the traditional boundaries of a triptych, its swathes and scrawls of black, ochre, teal, lilac and off-white sprawl across three panels. Flat, cubist planes of hue contend with shimmering veils of chromatic layering, exuberant Twombly-esque glyphs, and forms that verge on floral figuration. The viewer is made witness to a vast, joyful drama of paint unfolding. Rae’s practice emerged at a time when painting was considered outmoded. Her headlong energy and pleasure in the medium revitalised its force; her palimpsestic work, synthesising the gestural romanticism of the Abstract Expressionists with a Pop sensibility indebted to the commercial and quotidian image, speaks an unmistakably contemporary language. Flirting formally and visually with pastiche, breakdown and disorder, this post-painting painting plunders the past and present with a scintillating compound eye, bringing forth a brave new world that revels in breaking the rules.