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Regulars / The Graduates 2017

Movement, figure and feeling from artist and illustrator Molly Fairhurst

Portrait:

Jack Johnstone

“Be playful,” says artist and illustrator Molly Fairhurst. “Always.” It’s a definitive statement from someone at the outset of their career, one that hints at a wise head on young shoulders. Molly’s work is concerned with “movement, figure and feeling” and her prolific output has developed a portfolio that shows a distinct and assured style.

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Molly’s work deftly flits between the figurative and the abstract, and can be read in a way that shows she has a healthy understanding and respect for the history of art. “My approach, recently, is in a lot of movement, trying to capture feelings and atmosphere through a physicality,” she says.

“But I also think it’s often quite tongue in cheek, never quite serious, even when it is. I’m still having a lot of fun pushing forms and figures. I’m not sure how big a hand is too big. I’m not there yet.” It all comes together in a way that firstly shows a great confidence in what is being produced, but takes what has preceded it and knowingly references a shape or pattern that is a familiar trope in art.

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Looking through her work, it is clear that Molly is at the start of a journey. Her project 1,000 Tigers was a response to her dissertation. “It was my first time really using drawing and painting as an investigative tool and it was so freeing to take so much time in process, and lose myself in it. Even when not drawing tigers, I think I translated a lot of the methods learned here into later work,” she says.

To not be daunted by such a sprawling and open-ended project shows a maturity and appetite for critical thinking through drawing. Her limited edition zine Kick Don’t Twist is “a study of form, gesture and the co-existence of emotion and the delight of the human body,” she explains. "A collection of paintings examining physical expressions of anger and feeling in a time that is raw to many.” Sold in a short run at ELCAF this year, the large-format publication shows Molly’s perfectly imperfect style and her images elicit a frustrated response from the viewer. Molly has found a way to force a viewer to empathise with characters they will never meet.

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This year Moly graduated from Leeds College of Art, chosen for its promising mix of “professionalism and artistry”. “In the end it was a lot of fun,” she says. “The class itself had a great atmosphere, inside and out of the studio, creatively and as friends. It was also great to work in a class with such diverse attitudes to making.” Throughout her time studying, Molly found her perspective on academia and what the role of an illustrator is change – which had an impact on the way that she works.

“The first year of my degree was, funnily, the one where I was most concerned about making something polished, or professional appearing,” she explains. “Of course, it is still a concern that I should make something that is well-crafted and applied, but beforehand I was reserved in doing what I already knew, being derivative of myself and perhaps others. I’d like to think that over the years this type of working made way for something that was looser, and more open to experiment, and I started to think a lot more about what I was doing from a more critical perspective.”

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Supported by A/D/O

Founded by MINI, A/D/O is a creative space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn dedicated to exploring new boundaries in design. At its heart is the Design Academy, which offers a range of programming to professional designers, intended to provoke and invigorate their creative practice.