Fiona Rae was among the generation of artists who rose to prominence after studying at Goldsmiths in the mid-1980s. In 1991 Rae was nominated for the Turner Prize and her work – described as “challenging and expanding the modern conventions of painting” – is now exhibited across the world. On Thursday 10 September 2015 she will be named an Honorary Fellow of Goldsmiths, University of London.
Fiona Rae was born in Hong Kong in 1963 and lived in Hong Kong and Indonesia as a child before moving to the UK in 1971. She took a foundation course at Croydon College of Art from 1983-1984, then enrolled on the BA Fine Art course at Goldsmiths from 1984-1987.
In a recent conversation with one of our current Fine Art students, Rae recalled her memories of Goldsmiths: “I remember first arriving and feeling quite lost, because it’s very unstructured. Then I suddenly really started to enjoy it, and made use of every facility there was. At Goldsmiths you don’t choose a medium, you try everything — that’s totally fundamental to it being so unique and special.
“It wasn’t about arriving and knowing what you wanted to do, but finding out what you wanted to do, and at the same time being really challenged by the fellow students and the tutors about what you were doing. If you’re making a painting, but you’re next to someone who is making a video, then you’re very aware of what you’ve chosen to do; I think that makes for a very critical intelligence.”
In 1988 Rae’s work appeared at Freeze, the show curated by Rae’s fellow student Damien Hirst in London’s Docklands that is widely credited as a turning point for a generation of British artists. Featuring work by Rae, Hirst, Angus Fairhurst, Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume et al, the event was attended by notable curators and collectors including Charles Saatchi, who went on to buy Rae’s work.
Over the last 25 years, Rae’s abstract paintings have been included in numerous exhibitions in museums, and galleries worldwide, with recent shows including 2014’s Painter, Painter at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery; Fiona Rae: New Paintings, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris (2013); Fiona Rae, Buchmann Galerie, Berlin (2011); and 2006’s You are the Young and the Hopeless, PaceWildenstein, New York.
She served as a Tate Artist Trustee from 2005-2009 and in 2011 was appointed Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy, one of the first two female professors since the Academy was founded in 1768.
Earlier this year the Timothy Taylor Gallery in Mayfair hosted its fourth solo exhibition by Rae, comprised of a new series of greyscale paintings accompanied by smaller charcoal drawings – a new medium for the artist. She donated one of her greyscale works to an auction at Christie’s, contributing toward the £1.4m raised by the sale of Goldsmiths alumni art to build an art gallery on campus.
Head of the Department of Art at Goldsmiths, Dr Richard Noble, says: “Fiona has done a great deal of work to support our fundraising drive for the gallery. In addition to her significant donation, she helped us recruit the support of other artists and helped with publicity. She’s been a brilliant ambassador for the university and a more-than worthy recipient of the title of Honorary Fellow.”