MARK FAIRNINGTON, Flora
The forthcoming exhibition of works entitled Flora by Mark Fairnington opens at the Oliver Sears Gallery on Thursday 28th April 2011 and will run until 9th June. It will be the artist’s debut solo show in Ireland.
Born in 1957, Mark currently lives and works in London. He employs “the language of natural history to frame [his] pictorial fictions” and the results are exquisitely executed hybrid images of birds, flowers and insects. These mysterious almost mythical beasts exist alongside studies of real animals and natural history specimens, but in common they share a painstaking attention to detail and co-exist in a frequently luxurious habitat accentuated by the use of rich paint materials such as gold and palladium leaf.
This collection will include a body of new plant paintings entitled The Cuckoo Orchids and a painting entitled Zebra Box which depicts a display case from the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum at Tring which has also been the source of inspiration for many of the bird specimens featured in previous work.
Mark’s interest in natural history has led to his involvement in a number of important research projects. The first of these, Heavier than Air at the Imperial War Museum (1997-98) involved making a series of drawings based on illustrations from books housed in the Museum's library. The final exhibition also included objects, paintings and drawings from the collection most of which had never previously been exhibited. The focus of the research was images and objects that had been made primarily to illustrate something or give instruction. In 2008 drawings from the Heavier than Air series were included in the exhibition War and Medicine at the Wellcome Collection, London. The project was funded by the Imperial War Museum.
At Oxford Museum of Natural History during 1999/2000 he worked with entomologist Dr George McGavin from Oxford University on two projects Mantidae and Membracidae. This involved researching and making paintings of specimens in the Hope Entomological Collection and Membracidae was a sciart project funded by the Wellcome Trust. Mark travelled to the Las Cuevas Research Station in Belize, which lies within a protected forest in the Maya Mountains, to study treehoppers and their use of mimetic camouflage as a defence mechanism.
From 2003 to 2005 Fabulous Beasts, Birds We Cannot See and Darwin's Canopy were research projects at the Natural History Museum. Fabulous Beasts culminated in a major exhibition at the Museum in 2004 funded by the NHM, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, London Arts and the AHRB. With 250,000 visitors over its duration, and national press coverage, it became an important example of the value of art/science collaborative research to the Natural History Museum, securing a funding stream that had previously been threatened.
Mark has had numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout Europe and the US during his career and has won such prestigious awards as the AHRB Research Leave Award, in 2003; Sciart Consortium Research Award in 2001; British Council Exhibition Award in 1989 and 1995; London Arts Board Individual Artists Award in 1986 and 1993.