The Mysterious Allegories of Roy Fairchild
Park West Gallery proudly presents the extraordinary works of British artist Roy Fairchild. Often referred to as “neo-romantic,” Fairchild’s art is at once mysterious and yet accessible. It is wholly unique and yet grounded in many artistic styles.
A Park West Gallery exclusive • By Roy Fairchild
My early career was spent as an illustrator. At first, I enjoyed the challenge of tight deadlines, and the changes in style to suit the needs of the client—anything from cartoons to technical illustration. As I grew older, however, I became increasingly frustrated by the skipping from one style to another. I found that I needed to find a style that I could spend time on, to develop and grow. In short, like most artists, I needed to find my own voice.
I can’t say that I have always enjoyed painting pictures of women and flowers. I am aware that these elements are sellable subject matter and like most people, I have to earn a living. I have never tried to tell customers anything other than that. I try to paint the pictures the best I can, and give customers value for money. If they like them fine, if they don’t like them, they don’t have to buy them. Some people are put off by this attitude, while others seem to be relieved and prefer this more workmanlike approach. After all, if you buy a new car you don’t ask what the inner meaning is behind the round headlight or the way the rear bumper has been designed. Most artists over the centuries were commissioned to produce work. It may not necessarily be to their personal taste or interest.
Having said that, I have tried to balance what I saw as the commercial requirements of art with my own particular interests, and have included bits of the “real me”—whoever that is—into my pictures.
For me, the woman and flowers are just parts of the image; those parts of the painting of a more personal nature tend to float around the periphery. Much like overheard conversations at a party, it’s generally the things going on around you that seem the most interesting, not the person you’re talking to.
Much of my work has taken on a decorative/tapestry like appearance. The tapestry effect of my work evolved as a means of weaving stories, images and objects together. I spent a lot of time being dragged around old country houses with my family when I was a child, and I think that seeing all those old paintings and tapestries at such an early age has had some influence on my paintings. I look towards this way of presenting images as a natural point of reference. For me, the attraction of the finished work lies in the overall pattern and textural quality, not in any particular focus of interest. If you look up at the stars at night, it’s the whole scene that gives it a certain beauty, not any particular star.
Often, the paintings contain references to events that are happening in my life at that time. For example, if you look at the bottom left-hand corner of Cradle Song, it contains writing and diagrams that refer to a legal dispute that I was having with my neighbour. So in a way, the pictures are like a diary, a snapshot of my day. Usually, the true story is not in the centre, nor is it obvious. It is generally woven into the background.
I often include snatches of music and words that I hear on the radio as I work. If I receive letters from people who I like, or even if I don’t like them, then I put these in my pictures. Symbols that are personal to me, things I’ve seen, the stamps off holiday postcards; all these I collect and put down in my work.
I often repeat these objects from picture to picture. Like acquaintances, they evolve slowly. Some get forgotten, others develop and change, some I let go after a while. Just like human contact.
People refer to things like the pattern of life, the threads of existence, and I try to give that feeling of connections in my pictures.
This aspect of storytelling through pictures is seen in most cultures around the world, beginning with the earliest cave paintings.
This relates quite neatly to my initial occupation as a diagram designer. I’ve always been quite a practical person and noticed that a well-designed diagram or flow chart had a natural balance or harmony to it, rather like a scientist or engineer would describe a theory as being elegant. In my paintings I found that if I put elements together that related to one another in some way, even if it was just “odds and ends” from my memory, then the pictures seemed to evolve comparatively easily and had that same sense of balance.
I enjoy working like this. The pictures seem to develop in a natural way; each picture grows as I work on it. My work as a whole evolves slowly, organically, like a living thing.
I am often asked about the bits and pieces in the border. These came about from my early days as a technical illustrator. I would often make notes and drawings around the edges to remind myself of things to deal with later. And over the years I have started to include these things into the final design, simply because I think it looks more interesting and seems to add a thoughtfulness and structure to the piece.
I just want to say that I don’t walk around being an artist, thinking poetic thoughts all day. A lot of my time is spent telling my children to turn down their music, looking forward to meeting friends, digging in the garden and fretting about income-tax and complaining that no one understands me (I have never met an artist who doesn’t complain). Some of these things you can see in my pictures—happy, sad, thoughtful or trivial—just normal stuff.
Having said all this, I think I should tell you that I am planning to change my style and move into different directions, for no other reason than that I want to see what else I can come up with.
I think that I’m still going to keep some narrative in my work. But I may focus on less superficially attractive, but more personal details of what’s going on around me. Just day-to-day events that all of us go through, and try to paint them with a sense of humanity.
Learn more about Roy Fairchild at Park West Gallery Artist Biographies →
Exclusive artwork by Roy Fairchild is available for purchase through Park West Gallery and its cruise art auctions at sea. Visit the Park West Gallery-Fairchild Fine Art Collection →