Over the last 25 years Fiona Rae has developed a distinctive body of work, full of restless energy, humour and complexity, which has set out to challenge and expand the modern conventions of painting. In the 1990s her early polyglottal inventions, arranged serially across the blank page of the canvas, gave way to dense paintings that depicted a world of interdependencies fractured by cubism, with all the hustle and energy of a metropolis. Rae rapidly moved through the playbook of abstraction in the 1990s, devouring and re-presenting the tropes and fixations of modernism through the lens of movie and televisual culture, quick to grasp the rapid changes in contemporary visual culture, and insert her painting practice into the present.
In 2000 Rae’s paintings began to reference a world keyed to the computer screen, echoing in painterly analogues many of the new visual conventions familiar to a post-Photoshop generation. Fonts, signs and symbols drawn from contemporary design and typography appeared, whilst more familiar abstract marks and spontaneous gestures worried the autonomy, legibility and function of these graphic shapes, debating a new synthesis of painterly languages. In 2004, her lexicon further broadened to include small figures or cartoons whose status was left intriguingly ambiguous. They served to point up the metaphysical and artificial dimensions of abstract painting, whilst also providing an empathetic point of identification for the viewer that invoked a more personal reading. Her recent titles often purport to be exclamations or statements, but like her paintings, they elude definitive explanation and can appear simultaneously dark and charming, anxious and insouciant.
Rae studied Foundation at Croydon College of Art from 1983-1984, and a BA Hons in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College from 1984-1987. She participated in Freeze, the group show curated by Damien Hirst in London’s Docklands in 1988, and Sensation at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1997. Rae was shortlisted for the Turner Prize at the Tate in 1991. She served as a Tate Artist Trustee from 2005-2009, and was appointed the first female Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy Schools in 2011. Rae has exhibited extensively in museums and galleries internationally, and her work is held in prestigious public and private collections worldwide.
Born: 1963 in Hong Kong
Elected RA: 28 May 2002
Professor of Painting: 2011 - 2015
Preferred media: Painting
Fiona Rae RA