Angus Fairhurst

23 Oct–31 May, 2020

Angus Fairhurst (1966–2008) belonged to an influential generation that became the phenomenon known as the Young British Artists, or YBAs. In the early 1990s, a period of economic crisis, they made a sensational splash with an attitude at once countercultural and market-driven. Fairhurst was a central figure during this brash and innovative era, but unlike many in his generation of art graduates from Goldsmiths’ College in London, he avoided the obviously provocative and shocking, instead expressing himself with brilliant, absurd, somewhat melancholy humour.

Angus Fairhurst moved effortlessly between collage, photography, video, sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, music, installations and animation. His art is multifaceted yet held together by its concentrated array of motifs, its recurring themes and its irreverent wit. Certain elements recur, such as the presence of a gorilla. His work has been described as a labyrinth of references to Western art history, but it is equally an exploration of the dubious ideals of advertising and luxury consumerism. An interest in reduction and repetition recurs again and again, circling around dissolution and collapse, followed by renewal. In near-endless numbers of processes involving layer upon layer of excess – or their opposite, reductions and strippings-away – an original motif is obliterated and transformed into something else in a tug-of-war between reality and illusion.

Spritmuseum’s own Absolut Art Collection includes Absolut Fairhurst from 1994. The piece consists of a thicket of blue, red and black swing-ticket tags forming the shape of an Absolut Vodka bottle. These tiny strips of plastic are used in clothes shops everywhere to attach price tags to clothes – here, they are the core material of a work of art. This was not Fairhurst’s first foray into swing-ticket tags. In a 1992 interview, he explained that they are like “physical apostrophes that have taken on their own life… They stand in for that whole consumer/producer angle, like an apostrophe does for a letter. Thousands of them look like a mess of little marks that have created a new word.”