James Fairgrieve RSA RSW: Reflections: Recent Still Lifes
Having exhibited at the Open Eye Gallery for twenty years, James Fairgrieve reflects on the ideas and subjects that have united his long career in this exhibition of new paintings.
Interested in collecting and studying objects from the natural world, Fairgrieve uses ephemera gathered on long walks in the countryside. In Prestonpans, East Lothian, where the surrounding rural landscape meets the shores of the Firth of Forth, Fairgrieve scours the land, river banks and beaches for discarded wood, boxes, stones, bricks and feathers which he uses to make fishing flies. The fruit and vegetables depicted in the paintings are mostly from the artist’s garden, and ‘are grown, painted, and then eaten,’ if he can finish the painting in time. The objects and items recorded by Fairgrieve in his still lifes may be reused, consumed or passed on to a grandchild, but the connections that he forms with his subjects remain.
Rich and luscious in the manner of Dutch Old Master still lifes, Fairgrieve’s paintings are a cornucopia of nature’s bounty. The arrangements are consciously formal, and deliberately simple, allowing him the opportunity for close observation and attention to detail, creating an image which generates a sense of stillness, peace and calm. In the quiet, contemplative space of his studio, Fairgrieve arranges each element within the composition to create equilibrium. This body of work reasserts the purpose of a traditional still life to establish an understanding of how the subjects are connected to each other, their surroundings, and to the artist himself.
Fairgrieve was born in Prestonpans, East Lothian, in 1944. He attended Edinburgh College of Art from 1962 to 1967. In 1975 he was elected Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy and member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour. Between 1974 and 1978 he was President of the Scottish Society or Artists and in 2004 was elected member of the Royal Scottish Academy. Fairgrieve has won awards including the Gillies Travel Award and Scottish Arts Club Award and has exhibited regularly in Edinburgh and London since 1969. Fairgrieve’s work is held by many major public and private collections including the Edinburgh City Art Centre, Scottish Arts Council, HRH Prince Phillip, Robert Fleming and Co., Ian Rankin and JK Rowling.