Kate Turner Fairfax - Artist Page


Kate Turner Fairfax

Kate Turner Fairfax (b. Sydney) is a painter of evocative landscapes and seascapes. Turner Fairfax completed a Diploma in Painting at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1991 before receiving a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Art from the University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts in 1995.

After completing an artist-in-residence at Arthur Boyd’s Bundanon Trust in 1997, Turner Fairfax has exhibited in a number of solo exhibitions. Turner Fairfax’s first solo exhibition at King Street Gallery titled Harbour (and works from the desert) (1999) was followed by Summer (2001) and Winter (2002). Turner Fairfax has recently held solo exhibitions at Liverpool Street Gallery - Harbour (2004), Evening (2005) and Sentinel (2011).

Turner Fairfax has exhibited in a number of group exhibitions including Australian Painting (2002) at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, The National Trust, The Packsaddle Exhibition (2002) at the New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, Steven Harvey, Peter Sharp, Kate Turner: A tribute to Western Australia (2003) at the Holmes a Court Gallery, Perth, (Going) Out There, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, University of New South Wales, Sydney (2005) and Artists Artists (2011) at the Benalla Regional Art Gallery Victoria, curated by Robert Hirschmann.

Turner Fairfax is represented in a number of distinguished public and corporate collections including Artbank, The Macquarie Group Collection, The Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra and the Holmes a Court Collection, Perth. Turner Fairfax's work is also featured in private collections in the United Kingdom, the USA, South Africa and Australia.

Kate Turner Fairfax lives and works in Sydney.


Sentinel 2011

Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix Canariensis) inhabit Kate Turner Fairfax's latest series of paintings, as sentinels. They are the guardians of Sydney’s Southern Headland.

Here at the Gap tip of Watsons Bay, during the break of day, or the mysterious finsternis of night, light reflects on both sides of a narrow finger of land. On one side the bleak intemperate ocean beats against ruinous cliffs, while on the other side, only 100 metres away, the sheltering harbour protects children who play in the warm sand, safe from crashing waves and salty sea spray. But it is the exuberant light, that seems to reflect from both sides of the peninsula at any one time, that is unique.

KTF has always been drawn to this area and has now made it her home and studio. It is the ancient rounded forms of the date palms that have lured her into creative curiosity and elicited this recent body of works. It is a departure from previous paintings, perhaps made brighter in palette and deeper in texture by the arrival of her two small children. This new environment of parenthood has enriched her work and given it renewed vitality; her greens are intensely sage, her yellows vibrantly joyous. 

There are three large canvases depicting the safe harbour and the comforting silhouettes of boats which inhabited her past works, with the shimmering texture of the water surface, in dusty evening pinks. The rest offer the solitary tree sentinels, witness to the ebb and flow of the tides and the passage of time. These date palms, their trunks scratchy and rough to touch, mimic the textured surface of the paintings, texture created by the tenacious layers of cross hatching in drying oil paint with a palette knife, that has long been KTF’s application technique. The broken surface, refracting light, evoke the impression of palm fronds rustling in the breeze.

The artist’s perception of the date palm as an unyielding watchful protector and loyal sentry stems from the visual memory of illustrations from colonial botanical prints, biblical storybooks, legends from faraway lands and Arabian nights. The date palms mark a sensory experience, forever standing nearby through childhood’s languorous summers, solid, reliable and round, stalwarts of psychological safety throughout the generations. The philosophical perception of roundness is written about by Gaston Bachelard, who understood the basic and reliable nature of the round form. He proposed, “in a phenomenology of imagination, we receive a benefit of elementariness." Here, the roundness of the date palm is a metaphorical allusion to the repetition of roundness in the natural world, and to the actuality of the eternally revolving sphere of the earth within the universe.

Prue Gibson