The first ever woman to be made a Professor of Painting at the RA, Hong Kong-born British artist Fiona Rae rose to prominence in the 1990s as one of the Young British Artists (alongside figures such as Tracy Emin, Rachel Whiteread, Jenny Saville, and Damien Hirst). Since then she has exhibited her work internationally, developing a portfolio the Royal Academy termed ‘full of restless energy, humour and complexity, which has set out to challenge and expand the modern conventions of painting’. Rae works on large canvasses, painting in collections that explore colour or its lack, moving deftly between defined shapes and riotous abstraction.
Each of Rae’s collections have a different feel to them, and this image, part of her 2001-2004 Font Sticker Pour collection, is a spot of riotous joy among a lyrical set of viscerally emotive canvasses. The influence of Hong Kong, where Rae was brought up, is evident in the ‘stickers’ that peek out from behind ethereal brushstrokes and carefully outlined shapes. The brightly feathered figure in the top left corner is perhaps reminiscent of a Chinese dragon.
As another favourite of ours, Fiona Rae’s Predator is an enigma. The use of blank space, so open in its darkness, is arresting, and one might start a guessing-game about what exactly it is we’re supposed to be afraid of. Depending how you look, it is possible to discern a man’s face in the top right corner, and a lion on the left. But perhaps it is nothing so concrete. Perhaps it is in the blooming shadows which lie, stainlike, behind the pale fraying colours, or the crisp black-on-black echo of the rust coloured rectangle that melts into white. Part of her 1998-9’s BLACK series, this image shows early signs of what has developed into Rae’s freely expressive movement across a canvas.
by Clara Foster