Angus Fairhurst



Sorry, no image available

Not on display

Angus Fairhurst 1966–2008
Video, monitor, colour
Duration: 60min
Presented by the artist's estate 2011


Alternating/Orange 2001 is an animation by the English artist Angus Fairhurst, and forms part of the eight-work series Alternating 2001 (Tate T14022–9). Each work in the series features torsos or upper legs, drawn using a computer programme, that move and gyrate rhythmically against a glowing background of monochrome colour. The eight colours are blue, green, grey, orange, purple, red, turquoise and yellow, and each work’s title reflects the one used for its background. Each animation has two figures, one with male genitals and the other with female, except Alternating/Red 2001 (Tate T14027) which has two male figures. White is used to highlight either genitals or areas where the figures are overlapping. With both figures repeating the same motions slightly out of rhythm with each other, they move into and through the space of the other body, losing definition and appearing more as a hermaphroditic combination than individual anatomies. Where the movement of the genitals towards and into one another might appear erotic (notably in Alternating/Grey 2001, Tate T14024, and Alternating/Orange 2001, Tate T14025), this is denied by the apparently different spaces occupied by each of the figures, who never appear to share any physical interaction with one another.

Such fragmentary anatomies appear in many of Fairhurst’s films. The metamorphosis of these bodies as they move in and out of one another suggests a continuum of shifting matter, identity and mood. They undergo repetitive transmutations, suspended in absurd yet curiously compelling cycles. Fairhurst also explored disjointed anatomies, albeit ones generally more surreal in construction, in Things That Don’t Work Properly/Things That Never Stop 1998 (Tate T14018). By turns surreal, cartoonish and diagrammatic, Fairhurst’s animations also epitomise his offbeat humour that was often tinged with melancholy. The moving image was a frequently used medium for Fairhurst, reflecting his interest in repetition and loops, and his videos extend the nature and concerns of his drawings, objects and installations in time.

Throughout his career, Fairhurst’s practice seemed to resist categorisation, with the artist often switching from one medium to another, including sculpture, painting, animation, photography, drawing and collage. His work has addressed the subject of the human condition and tackled fundamental issues such as the mystery of the self, the uncertainty of existence, and the constant desire to find meaning. The interplay of nature and artifice is also a recurring theme. Like the playwright Samuel Beckett, whose influence Fairhurst acknowledged (Muir and Wallis 2004, p.101), his use of repetition and the loop can be understood as a metaphor for what Fairhurst saw as the absurdity of life itself.

Fairhurst was closely associated with a generation of British artists who studied at Goldsmiths College in London in the 1980s and whose work came to prominence in the early 1990s. His work has connections with conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as with the appropriation strategies of artists such as Richard Prince in the 1980s – he rearranged culturally significant material, such as imagery from glossy magazines and advertisements, to change perceptions of a seemingly familiar world (see Tate P20288–90). It is partly for these reasons that he was also considered a key figure in a generation of artists that changed the character of contemporary British art.

Further reading
Gregor Muir and Clarrie Wallis, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2004.
Sacha Craddoch and James Cahill, Angus Fairhurst, exhibition catalogue, Sadie Coles HQ, London 2009.

Clarrie Wallis
January 2011
Arthur Goodwin
December 2018

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like