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Fiona Rae:

Much has been made about Fiona Rae and her fellow British New-Wavers. Rae is both celebrated and criticized for her habit of copping the trademarks of American Abstractionists and Pop artists, but at the heart of her second-generation appropriation is an analytical concern for technique. Her canvases are compilations of the greatest technical hits of the twentieth century, but they have been dissected and reassembled to be new and, if not innovative, at least controversial. One critic who visited Rae in her studio noted that the room was scattered with open books on Basquiat, Twombly, and Rauschenberg, and littered with snapshots of graffiti and commercial typography. The heap of cultural detritus struck the critic as funny -- not odd, but “ha-ha” funny. The revered and the maligned mingle on Rae’s canvases to the same effect: the mix of audacity and genuine expression are as surprising as a punch line.

Rae’s paintings are serious, but not deep. They are expressive, but cool. A Pollock squiggle is simply a squiggle, not the symbolic torture of the artist’s soul. Just as it was in the 1960s, continual appropriation and juxtaposition works to flatten cultural elements out -- the targets, the Expressionist smears, the dribbles are all copies of copies. Rae’s work plays in this arena of the flat and empty signifier. The Miró-inspired biomorphic forms, the Twombly-esque scratches, and the Disney allusions that critics love to identify: all fly past in Rae’s conglomeration of cultural influences and adopted techniques. She admits that she shares the mockingbird aesthetic of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, borrowing motifs and moods from all genres to create her own work. She sees her painting process as a form of editing: “A whole painting is a series of edits. To edit is to shape something and adjust it and cut things out. To sound bite is to take it out and present it as a summing up moment. There may well be sound bites in painting as a consequence of skillful editing.”

Editing is important for an artist who describes her process as one of continual association. An idea never has a chance to reach fruition before another arises to supersede it. In her early work, her editing took the form of isolation, with cells of abstract paintings stopped at the hard edges of a white background. As her work matured, her canvases elongated into balanced compositions that traversed all modes of technique and color, capturing her thought processes. With an explanation that sums up well her content and technique, Rae has noted, “The improvisation is a permanent record of a series of transient moments.” The cultural allusions in her work can be read as a kind of social timeline, a two-dimensional representation of the transient moments in recent popular history. Which is why critics love to talk about her -- they love that they get it. Those who praise her are delighted that they’re in on the joke. Those who sneer when a painting looks like an early story board for “The Matrix” don’t like having their erudition rendered obsolete: they can’t unpack her latent obsessions or influences because everything is obvious. Either way, there’s no denying that Rae’s canvases play with the surface of our culture. -Source:
















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