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Fiona Rae RA, Untitled (six on brown)

Untitled (six on brown), 1989

Fiona Rae RA (b. 1963)

RA Collection: Art

On free display in Collection Gallery

This is one of Rae’s earliest paintings, painted before her first solo exhibition, and is from her ‘Row’ series, consisting of ordered sets of abstract forms, in which the artist investigates varieties of mark-making.

Ideas are carried across from one shape to the next in a sequence of variations, but within this deliberate mapping exercise, the artist also embraces the playful effects of chance: drips and splashes of paint, as well as the unpredictable colour effects of paint mixed directly by brush onto the canvas.

A number of the paintings were shown in Rae’s 1992 exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel, in the catalogue essay for which Thomas Kellein wrote that ‘the first impression created by one of the canvases is of a calligraphic technique, with which a plethora of basically conceivable motifs is applied in shorthand form using various painting methods.’

These paintings are often discussed in terms of a set of exercises—likened either to an ‘imaginary pictogram language’ (as in the press release for the group show 'Ventriloquist' in which this painting was included), to a musician’s riffs, or as a way of mapping. They can be seen both as a form of mapping or something more anarchic. Nicolas Bourriaud in a text for Rae’s 2009 exhibition at Galerie Nathalie Obadia wrote that an ‘encyclopaedic quality has been a hallmark of Rae’s work ever since the start of her career … when she embarked on a formal alphabet juxtaposing archetypal figures on a canvas divided into invisible squares’. Bourriaud emphasizes the order in Rae’s early work whereas Kellein sees its more playful qualities, describing a 1990 artist’s book by Rae containing more than a hundred black-and-white scribbles as ‘a sort of comic with no plot, or an abstract rebus with no solution’.

As Rae’s career has progressed her paintings have become denser, often incorporating figurative imagery or text. She is also renowned for her use of colour, particularly for the exuberant range of bright colours although she has also recently made a series of pictures in a range of greys.

Object details

Untitled (six on brown)
Fiona Rae RA (b. 1963)
Object type
Copyright owner
Oil on canvas

2130 mm x 1980 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by Fiona Rae RA accepted 3 November 2009
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