Light, color and atmosphere have always been an integral aspect of Ms. Fairlie’s artwork. Trained to paint in a traditional manner of direct observation at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and strongly influenced by the 1970’s school of Figurative Realism, her early interests led to paintings depicting her studio and a variety of home interiors.
These works were inspired by the effect of direct sunlight as it fell across pure color, how that color’s intensity would increase while the hue remained pure. These paintings re-created brightly sunlit rooms, attempting to invoked both a feeling of comfort and a sense of the familiar. By the 1980's her subject matter began to play with metaphorical references rather than face value objectivity, while retaining the intimacy of the interior.
While in graduate school in the early 1990's, she was challenged to find the contemporary relevance in her ideas. Pushing limitations self-set, such as a dependence upon "direct observation", she created a series of altered interiors that where based on dream imagery and memories. In these, she combined objects that held personal symbolic meanings and traditional allegorical references from Art History, and superimposed them into a manipulated interior space that reflected her ideas, using photographic compilations, contemporary analogies, symbols and metaphors from past works.
The results were works that seemed to be paintings of actual places, yet are manipulated views and re-contextualized images with layers of metaphorical references relating to historical, contemporary and personal symbolism. The human element was purposely left out, forcing the viewer to become the direct objective of the subject. These dreamlike references, unfinished meals and half empty glasses lead to an investigation of reflective imagery.
As in a dream, when one “sees” reflections, one doesn’t question what they are observing. Many layers of information can be disseminated at the same time. Although there seem to be two different facets of Ms. Fairlie’s imagery, the investigation of dream-like images and how they trigger memories is the underlying link.
Ms. Fairlie’s work investigates to the concept of the dreamscape and the fascination of the dream itself, where the dreamer never questions that there are multiple views or dual realities. Her paintings try to represent the symbolic link between the past and the present. Her fascination with the Grand Hotels of the 1900’s is both personal and symbolic, as is the intrigue of the dream. Drawn to the lavish interiors of the Victorian grand hotels with their ornate opulence, reflects a lifestyle of a very different culture and a world that was far more structured than that of which we live in yet still has vestiges of influence.
Even the correlation of the Romantic Movement in the late 1800's (especially in America), and our society's attachment to the Grand Shopping Malls of the late 1900's with their spectacular environments (that let us become whatever we dream,) has a particularly relevance to the theme of her work. The use of our senses, how odours can trigger memories and how images can trigger memories of sound and smells are underlying concepts within her work. Within this concept, the spiral of the past and the present collide, provoking a fascination with the duality of that relationship and providing inspiration for further works.