Tom Fairs
drawings
May 12 - July 15, 2011




KS Art is pleased to present an exhibition of drawings by British artist Tom Fairs (1925 - 2007). It will be the first show of this underknown artist's works on paper. Fairs drew, every day, from life, the places and things around him. His most frequent subject was the topography of North London, where he lived with his wife, novelist Elisabeth Russell Taylor. The area's mix of wild parkland and Victorian architecture provided Fairs with all he needed to produce endless small pencil drawings of remarkable variety. Each vividly realized scene is a fresh proposition, with its own felicitous arrangement of forms and its own set of exuberant notational marks. Fairs was an extraordinarily inventive draftsman, with a repertoire of wavering contour lines, staccato dashes and thick scribbles with which to conjure not only the city's compacted jumble of nature and culture, but the sounds of rustling leaves and far away traffic, the smells of coal smoke and grass, and even the colors of wet earth and overcast skies. Every encounter with the world generated a burst of individualized loops, squiggles, and shadings, which speak of an unselfconscious absorption in a place at the moment of its depiction and give the works a physical and emotional presence out of proportion to their scale.

With their close-cropped views and crowded pictorial architecture, Fairs's landscapes resemble the late works of Pierre Bonnard, whom Fairs much admired. But while the elements in Bonnard's pictures stay crowded on the surface of the picture plane, those in Fair's drawings recede into a casually rendered but convincing illusionistic space. Successive zones, from window ledge to woodland to hilltop, are distinguished from one another by means of contrasting tonalities, with their formal interplay emphasizing the space surrounding and between them. Even as they present a totalized field of restless movement and shifting light, these works, like those of Seurat, seem barely large enough to contain the distances within them.

In spite of this, Fair's drawings often feel more like interiors or stage sets than landscapes. They are as reminiscent of Giorgio Morandi's intimate still lifes, or James Castles's domestic scenes, as landscapes by earlier British artists such as John Constable, who also painted London's open spaces. Immediate and slightly hallucinatory, with a sense of place so profound and a presentness so intense as to border on the erotic, they attest to the inexhaustible interest and possibility of everyday experience.

Tom Fairs was a lifelong resident of London, where he taught fine art and stage design at the Central School of Art and Design from 1954 - 1987. After he retired from teaching he devoted himself full-time to his own art, producing a large body of drawings and paintings in the 20 years before his death.