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Angus Fairhurst

British Sculptor, Installation and Performance Artist

Angus Fairhurst Photo

Born: October 4, 1966 - Pembury, Kent, England

Died: March 29, 2008 - Bridge of Orchy, Argyll and Bute, Scotland

"He shone like the moon and as an artist he had just the right amount of slightly round the bend."

Damien Hirst Signature

Summary of Angus Fairhurst

The "quiet man" of the YBAs, Angus Fairhurst's sophisticated and often understated practice nevertheless reveals an artist interested in poignant mediations on life, society and individual experience. Whilst his work has been somewhat overshadowed by his young suicide, it often used associative visual cues like animals and magazine images to investigate questions of self-awareness, vanity and the life of an artist.
Like many YBAs Fairhurst's relationship to the established art market in the 1990s was originally antagonistic, the new generation of artists attempting (and succeeding) to shake up the stuffy and conservative network of galleries and curators that barred their entry. Although content to let other, more brash, artists lead the way, Fairhurst provided essential underpinning to the efforts of the YBAs as co-organizer of the original Freeze exhibition and as the occasional studio partner of both Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas.

Key Ideas

Fairhurst's work orbited around recurring visual motifs used in a variety of contexts. The clearest example of this is his use of the image of the gorilla, which featured in sculpture, photographs and installations. Fairhurst spoke of the visual tension between the powerful animal and his own lithe frame as one which fascinated him.
Fairhurst's work often implicitly critiqued wider society, particularly the art world and the disingenuousness of advertising. Some of his most highly regarded work used unwitting participants to show this, using London gallery staff to illustrate the insularity of the artistic industry or the silhouettes of glamourous models to show the visual manipulations of magazines. His work also shows evidence of a deep and abiding connection with nature and the natural world as an alternative to modernity.
Whilst his work is often now read within the context of his suicide, Fairhurst's work regularly deploys surreal humor to illuminate his point - making the viewer laugh due to the inherent ridiculousness of the image in order to provoke thought about the nature of society or culture.
Like many YBAs, Fairhurst was connected to a parallel world of pop musicians and actors who were similarly famous and prone to raucous partying in Soho (London). The interrelation of art forms was common, with imagery from pop culture having a strong reciprocal bearing on artworks, album covers and films. Publicity strategies more often associated with rock stars were also employed by visual artists, amplifying their cultural presence. Collectively this reflects a cultural period after 1997 known as "Cool Britannia", where British culture reasserted itself globally and economically.
Angus Fairhurst Life and Legacy

Angus Fairhurst was born in Pembury, Kent on 4th October 1966. Remarkably little has been written about his early years before he attended art school, which reflects the relative paucity of information available about his life when compared to YBA peers like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. As Michael Glover wrote shortly after his death in 2009, "Fairhurst, in short, was the partially forgotten one". What is documented is that Fairhurst's interest in the art world developed from an early age, and that he wished to pursue it as a career. Between 1978 and 1985, Fairhurst attended The Judd School, a highly regarded and prestigious grammar school in Kent before moving to Canterbury Art College in 1985 in order to pursue his artistic practice. Canterbury's teaching staff at this time included Stass Paraskos and Erin Hurren, artists in their own right who encouraged an innovative and experimental approach to artistic education. Fairhurst's time here in 1985 and 1986 led to his application and acceptance at Goldsmiths University, an environment that would profoundly impact on his career.

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