Angus Fairhurst was born in Kent in 1966 and studied at Canterbury Art College for one year before attending Goldsmiths College in London in 1989, where he formed a close friendship with Damien Hirst. Together they conceived and organised the seminal exhibition Freeze in 1988.
Working across a wide range of media from sculpture to video to painting, Fairhurst’s works display his idiosyncratic humour in inventive and provocative ways. Process also played a central role in his work and he consistently adhered to structure as a means of subjugating intentionality to the action of making. The artist had been engaged for some years in producing a series of anthropomorphic drawings, often using the figure of a gorilla engaged in a narrative cycle. The gorilla's appeal is that it can stand in for the human figure in a Darwinian sense, possessing near human form, but does away with the need for characterisation. In Fairhurst’s drawings, a gorilla suit would open up to reveal, for example, a little fish inside. When these essentially private drawings finally began to be shown, the gorilla image was brought to life and adopted by the artist as a form of alter ego. A series of actions in the video A Cheap and Ill-fitting Gorilla Suit (1995) shows the artist in a gorilla suit jumping up and down maniacally. The suit begins to disintegrate, shedding newspaper stuffing in the process, until the artist is revealed naked and all sense of illusion dispelled.
In a bronze sculpture, A Couple of Differences Between Thinking and Feeling II (2003), a gorilla stares at its arm, which lies severed on the floor. It looks as though it is thinking “Is that really mine? Is that really me?” Thus the body in Fairhurst’s work is represented either as a kind of strong protection for the slippery fragile thing inside, or, more commonly, as a disappointing prison.
His work featured in numerous landmark shows including In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida with Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas, Tate Britain, London, 2004 and Brilliant! New Art from London, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, 1995. In 2008, a showing of new work at Sadie Coles Gallery was sadly to be his last as a living artist as shortly before the closing of the exhibition, Fairhurst tragically took his own life. A major retrospective exhibition of Fairhurst’s work has since been shown at Arnolfini, Bristol, 2009 and M Museum Leuven, Belgium in 2010.