Fiona Rae – ‘I Never Think of Painting as Old Fashioned’ | Artist Interview | TateShots

Fiona Rae – ‘I Never Think of Painting as Old Fashioned’ | Artist Interview | TateShots

This is my studio in Hackney. I’ve been here
about ten years, and for the last year or so I’ve been working towards my exhibition
in London. I work on my own. I prefer to be on my own because I can concentrate better
that way. In the past I’ve had assistants come in and help with stencils or background
colours, things like that, but I prefer to be on my own. This is my oil paint table.
I love having a really long, big palate, eight foot long, so I can mix up as many different
colours as I might need for a particular painting, and keep it quite clear and kind of business-like.
This is my trusty plastic pot thing, and I put some stand oil in it with this German
stuff called Shellsol, which is less poisonous than turpentine, but a similar kind of thing.
For years I used turpentine, which is just really appalling for your health. And you
swish it around a bit, and it makes a slightly viscous solution that you can mix oil paint
with to stiffer or more kind of watery effect. Oil paint is fantastically versatile. You
can just do almost anything with it. You can make it look like plastic, you can make it
look like chalk, you can make it go into thick mountains or thin pores. Occasionally I put
one or two other kinds of things in, but on the whole I just stick with this very simple
formula that actually someone at the Tate told me about when I first left college. This
is my brush collection, and again it s on a table with wheels on it, because actually
it’s really handy to be able to shove it out the way. This is my dinosaur mascot that I’ve
had for a very long time. And again, I like to lay things out so that I can see what I’ve
got. Sometimes I want a very particular type of brush, and I can see where it is and that
I have it. Unfortunately they do get damaged, brushes, because I don t use them entirely
how you re supposed to. I think you re only supposed to let the paint go up to there,
and do all careful things, but in fact I give them some pretty heavy abuse sometimes. In
the bottom tray as well, these are brushes I use less of, like strange kind of super-long
ones, or draught-excluders just in case, or very big glue brushes. But I’m not doing this
kind of thing so much at the moment. I’m keeping it pretty much within a range of quite painterly
brushes. I never think of painting as old-fashioned. I mean, in a way TV is old-fashioned, and
video is old-fashioned, and installation is old-fashioned. Everything is old-fashioned
the minute it has been around a year or two. So I think it s as valid as any other art
form, and has as much possibility in it as any other art form. It’s really what you bring
to these art forms that matters, not necessarily the form that you choose to express your ideas
in. So for me it’s completely alive and kicking, and up for wrestling with. Okay, so these
are palates that I have used, and I’ve just chucked them on the floor rather than put
them in the bin just yet, because sometimes I need to pick up a colour again and know
exactly which colour it was. And sometimes it has even been useful to have all this dried,
congealed stuff, because it gave me an idea. You see on this painting, I had one of these
old palates kicking around, and it seemed obvious to me that I should scrape it up and
put it there, so I’ve got this thick impastoey stuff that I wouldn’t have done if I had just
had a clear, delicious, clean palate. I’ve got a drawer full of things that I printed
out and cut up. In this box, this source imagery is kind of cartoony, childlike stuff, I guess.
I think it’s got a playful quality. I found these things on the internet which – I’ve
got no way of using it, but I just printed it out anyway just in case. It seems to me
amazing that there are all of these different things you can do with paints, and to my mind,
why restrict yourself? I don t mind how people look at my paintings. I don’t mind if they
just like the colours. It s great if they even look at them, so if they like the colours,
that’s great, if they like the shapes, the way the paint walks and talks, is great. But
I wouldn’t want to prescribe what people should or shouldn’t think about them. I mean, if
they want to think about something post-modern that’s fine. If they want to think about something
old-fashioned and poetic, that’s fine too. Is poetic always old-fashioned? I hope not.


  • Tate says:

    Thanks – we love Fiona Rae too!

  • Tate says:

    None on display right now I'm afraid – sorry 🙁

  • Tate says:

    Hi pues13,

    Our conservation department tells us that 'Shellsol' (a proprietory product made by the Shell oil company), is a manufactured Turpentine substitute derived from petroleum. Because it is manufactured it is a lot purer than Turps, which can sometimes leave an oily residue.
    Importantly, if you are thinking of using any Shellsol product in your work, be sure to check the MSDF sheet which will give you information on health and safety.

    Best wishes,


  • winksie says:

    i like fiona rae but i don't really believe in what she has say about painting and poetics, to me its kitch romantism which is so far removed from the roots of poetry and romanticism. a painter who considers this cant possibly go on to speak about painting as an equal contempory force in a post modernist age. again i like her but i don't believe her to be a great comtempory with the recognition of the tate

  • Richard Clark says:

    that is inspirational, i needed to see that, i edit my own films and i am challenged. this inspires me to simply make another splice 🙂 thank you Fiona.

  • Lytton333 says:

    Well.. refreshingly free of cant and art-speak..

    She just loves painting, you can tell… to get mucky with it and dive in..

    Good luck to her..

  • TheAmericanManualCom says:

    This is the first female artist that .. I….oh, forget it…I'll get myself in trouble.

    I will just say…WoW.
    wow, wow, wow

  • TheAmericanManualCom says:

    @Lytton333 ….YES! That is what I was trying to say above……

  • misternylon says:

    This is just great. Thoroughly enjoyed that.

  • andrewnorris2 says:

    I have just been watching a bunch of these Tate shorts and have really enjoyed them. Thaty are beautifully put together and each has had something quite unexpected. Great series. Have just subscribed… to look at a few more. Thanks

  • thiszooisofflimits says:

    magnificent access to an artist of the highest caliber

  • SpacedTime says:

    The more I see of Fiona Rae's work the more I love it. More more

  • Jerry Lynn says:

    love her work.  I'm feeling her style.

  • tin mantis says:

    O, we scum can but only dream of having a oil-tube roller, let alone a decent brush

  • paul ashton says:

    shellz oil?   schelz oil? what is that .i know im spelling it wrong.sorry

  • patoises says:

    but why are you doing the same paintings all the time? you can do better, be brave and try something else

  • ralph34570 says:

    These works owe more to graphics than painting. She does not consider the main aspect of painting, that of the integrity of the surface. Her work will therefor remain weak in comparison to real painting. Its basically gallery fodder work with a high price tag attached. Well done Fiona, I am jealous; never in the field of artistic endeavour has so much been paid for so little.

  • Chris Waddington says:

    Saw Fiona Rai's work at a show in the nineties alongside Gary humes door paintings it was a strong show,two totally different approaches to painting,her work in this show was stronger,I feel to her present work,but its a tough old game,jumping through hoops,trying to reinvent yourself whilst at the same time having a brand identity for the galleries and art world.At least they have managed to keep going.Is it any good as painting and can it really stand on its own? only time can tell.

  • Bmk Bmk says:

    what planet is she on?..
    pretentious ,simplified nonsense…….. some one tap her on the shoulder and tell her that its not art,it will be forgotten within her lifetime……..the middle classes will buy anything if they think it will make money………

  • gavin Reid says:

    I had the pleasure of visiting her solo exhibition in Leeds 2012. Mesmerizing. Wonderful stuff.

  • Kay Em says:

    She seems too worried about fashion, whats fashionable and what is not.
    Art could be about going against fashion.

  • 77777aol says:

    Nice thought and comment at the end.

  • Siron Franco says:

    Como fazer catavenro

  • Matangaro Matangaro says:

    Oh my gawd – that paint tube roller squeezer – that long palette – that secret liquid medium – that paint brush rolling tableau … that studio … when you got the tools right.

  • Mik Kipling says:

    Completely ignorant of the technique. of painting. Large simplistic decoration and poster like cartoonish daubs.

  • opa alois says:

    Not great paintings !

  • pstotto says:

    Have you ever thought of anyone but yourself, Fiona? Your studio could house 400 homeless people. That girly muckment is worth less than a toffee wrapper and has less art to it. How about you make use of what you've got left by becoming a Jihadi bride? You can start by getting a t-shirt made with 'Fiona Soup Kitchen' on it.

  • Yves Frémin says:

    Un bien bel atelier. Yves Frémin, peintre à Plouézec (Côtes d'Armor)

  • Jojo Snow says:

    I was watching this and I started to imagine the smell of the studio. Brings back memories

  • Bmk Bmk says:

    Great painting comes from adversity, struggle,it does not reveal itself easily as this middle class bullshit work does,just more female curstors,/ gallery owner pushing the liberal agenda, prescriptive art,now we have non white art because of prescriptive art,all you should ask from art is that it's good,not because it ticks a certain box who made it

  • Shatha Batayneh says:

    Wonderful! Thank you for the tips about the mediums and brushes, etc.

  • J M says:

    all painters are boring and their work is dull

  • Black Foot says:

    L o ve her paintings

  • 3340steve says:

    What a charming person…

  • Arbaayah Zain says:

    interesting compilation of techniques , genre …

  • Lu Ferreira says:

    should have subtitles in Portuguese.

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