In their gold coats
spots you see;
Those be rubies,
In those freckles
live their savours.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (II.i).
The fleeting feeling of being able to recognise a figure twirling on the canvas soon gives way to the materiality of the painting itself. With the works exhibited in Cannes, painted between 2014 and 2021, Rae examines the imaginative possibilities and extent of abstraction. She explores the boundary between abstraction and figuration, but her choice is perfectly clear: abstraction is the heart of her work. Although they may be momentarily deceived by her insistence on suggesting representation, it is indeed back to the painting itself that viewers are sent.
In these series, Rae also examines her relationship with colour. While the Côte d'Azur has been the cradle of great colourists, the painter has no need to envy them. In 2014, for the Greyscale series, she abandoned the colours that had permeated her paintings until then. The bright, almost fluorescent pigments gave way to three tones: black, white and grey. The canvas is no less lively, the painter succeeding in making the restricted palette vibrant. Figure 1i is thus incredibly luminous, Rae's use of the greyscale giving it a vivid strength. In 2015 she reintroduced touches of colour, bringing them face to face with stormy skies as in Figure 2a and Figure 2e. Finally, black disappeared completely, the artist having eliminated it from her palette.
Let's go back to the magic that emanates from Rae's paintings. Her mastery of pictorial gestures creates a mirage of easy fluency. Like the prima ballerina or acrobat whose apparent effortlessness is a result of their technical skill and virtuosity. Each of Rae's brushstrokes is conceived by and for itself with the aim to convey an emotion. The artist is meticulous, she understands painting and knows that the creation of a canvas can be coloured by the unexpected and the uncertain. Thus, although it may seem that the Abstract series leaves much to chance, this is not the case. Gouache and watercolour sketches are used to broadly prepare the compositions. In Rae's work, painting is a language, an eminently personal language, and it is through it and through each mark of colour on the canvas that the artist reveals her questions, exclamations and states of mind. In the Word series, which comprises the most recent works, letters and words seem to appear on the canvas, attesting to the existence of two distinct languages. By bringing these two communication techniques together, Rae highlights the importance of the expressive dimension of the work, the canvas becoming an intermediary between the artist and the viewer.
"I spend my life making paintings because I think it's a reasonable and optimistic response to the difficulty of being," says Fiona Rae. Her paintings link the inner and outer worlds. The fairy tales she invents encounter contemporary society and allow us, for a while, to escape the real world.
Fiona Rae : the stuff of dreams