Two artist couples display together this summer

Displays of love

Published 19 June 2014

Two Academicians take the rare step of showing alongside their partners this summer, reports Richard Cork.

  • From the Summer 2014 issue of RA Magazine, issued quarterly to Friends of the RA.

    Before the 20th century, artist couples were rare indeed. But everything has changed since then. Ben Nicholson married Barbara Hepworth in 1938, and soon afterwards other artists followed suit. Over in New York, Jackson Pollock married the painter Lee Krasner in 1945, and during the postwar period an artist as emancipated as Mary Martin flourished alongside her husband Kenneth.

    But it is still unusual for artist couples to exhibit together, and Fiona Rae RA says that she feels “very privileged” (it will, she thinks, be “quite a leap into the unknown”) to share a show of “fresh and up-to-date work” with her husband Dan Perfect at Nottingham Castle this summer. They are both painters, and have studios in the same east London building. But the invitation to stage an exhibition together came as a big surprise. “We don’t want to merge and become a mushy conglomerate,” Rae explains, “so my paintings will go down one wall and Dan’s will be on another.”

  • Fiona Rae RA, See your world

    Fiona Rae RA, See your world, 2013.

    © Fiona Rae/ courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, London.

  • Perfect explains that he ‘plumbs the depths’ of his own psyche, searching in his big paintings for a “complexity and chaos” analogous to the phenomenon of experience. Rae’s work is more improvisational, defining dreamscapes with lyrical virtuosity. “For me it would be a disaster not to talk about my work with Dan,” says Rae. “I very much like input from a trusted person, and I know that Dan has my best interests at heart.” While Perfect points out that “Fiona is keener to get my input on her work than the other way round”, he has no hesitation in declaring, “I value her eye above all other eyes – she is a fantastic resource, such a great painter, and I love having an artist as my partner.” They talk a lot about each other’s work, and have lunch together every day. But they travel separately to and from their studios. “We’re both aware that what we do is deeply strange – it needs an enormous and inexhaustible appetite for solitude,” says Perfect.

  • Dan Perfect, Transporter

    Dan Perfect, Transporter, 2014.

    © Dan Perfect.

  • Nigel Hall RA, who is sharing an exhibition with his partner Manijeh Yadegar at Galerie Andres Thalmann in Zu?rich, is equally fascinated by this unusual opportunity. “She’s a painter and I’m a sculptor,” Hall says, “and she works where we live, while I travel all the way from Ladbroke Grove to my studio in Balham on the other side of London.” Hall is clear about the differences between his work and Yadegar’s: “Her work is more atmospheric, often monochrome, and more smoky and textural. She came over to England [from Iran] when a child, and loves Chinese painting. But we are both interested in abstraction, and underlying that is an interest in landscape. We travel a lot together, go on walks in Switzerland, and we’re interested in each other’s work. She gives me good advice, works steadily and I would like to show more with her. She hasn’t exhibited a great deal, and she’s quite modest – too modest. But she doesn’t want to feel that she gets opportunities because of me.”

  • Nigel Hall RA, Southern Shade III

    Nigel Hall RA, Southern Shade III, 2013.

    © Nigel Hall. Photo: Colin Mills.

  • For her part, Yadegar says: “We always talk together, but our approaches are totally different. Mine is very intuitive, whereas Nigel works a lot in his sketchbook. There’s a physical distance between us when we are in our studios. But it’s stimulating and very necessary, being oneself and alone. I didn’t start as an abstract artist, but Nigel helped me a lot to move on. And I’ve always longed to show in Zu?rich, because I am influenced by the Swiss landscape and colours.” How does she feel about the idea of showing with a partner? “I’m always fascinated to see other couples’ work presented together. There should be more of these exhibitions, because there’s so much give and take between partners.”

  • Manijeh Yadegar, C19

    Manijeh Yadegar, C19, 2013.

    © Manijeh Yadegar. Photo: Colin Mills..

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