Skyscrapers tower around us, obscuring sea and sky, but my mind wanders to greener pastures as I picture the artist cantering across bucolic fields, gripping the reins of a wellgroomed mare, or in his studio, a converted shearing shed on a 400-hectare Surrey estate he shares with wife Henrietta and their four children. Horses and rural life are in his blood, I think, surmising that his quintessentially English childhood must have inspired his choice of subject matter.
His body of work, however, cries otherwise. Far from the lyrical, parochial portrayals of equines by such canonical English artists as George Stubbs and John Ferneley, Fiddian- Green’s horses are bewildering and monumental. Like epic vestiges of antiquity, his bronzes bear an ancient brand of grandeur. When the Greeks breached the walls of Troy, they did it in a horse like his.
“I was inspired by one of the Elgin Marbles [the head of a horse of Selene] during a visit to the British Museum when I was 20 years old,” he recalls. The visit inspired a lifelong fascination with the ancient Greek and Chinese civilisations—particularly with the reverence each culture had for horses. “I became obsessed with the animal that has had the most impact on man’s history. Wars have been fought on horses. For hundreds of years they were our only mode of transport, and we are still using them for recreation.”
To make these colossal structures he uses the technique of lost-wax casting, which dates back more than 5,000 years. But while his work echoes the ancients, it’s also unmistakably contemporary. Cracked and disembodied, the busts initially strike the viewer as giant, abstract forms. It’s only with further observation that their equine resemblance is revealed. Weighing thousands of kilograms and often held in place by a single supporting pin, his pieces are simultaneously fragile and strong, bizarre and beautiful.
With the world’s most discerning critics and collectors turning their attention, and their wallets, to Fiddian- Green, his largest sculptures now sell for more than £1 million each—and public and private commissions are flooding in. But his path wasn’t always clear. At the time he left school, the only thing he knew for sure was that he could draw. “I loved observing life but I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do,” the 52-year-old artist recalls.
He took a punt and enrolled at the Chelsea College of Arts in London, followed by further studies at the Wimbledon College of Arts. “I had no idea I would spend the next 30 years trying to make a living out of being an artist. I got by. I got bread on the table. I’m married and I’ve managed to feed and clothe my kids, but it has been a slow journey. It’s not something that happened overnight, like the great Damien Hirsts or Tracey Emins of this world. There has been a lot of ‘Why am I doing this? If I want to make money I should be a banker. What am I doing scratching away with a bag of clay in a cold shed?’” I laugh at his playful, self-deprecating rant. He pauses and looks at me like a child desperate to divulge a secret—“but actually, it’s good fun.”
By “good fun” he means all-consuming, riveting, exhilarating. Referring to his shearing-shed studio perched on the crest of a hill, he says, “When I’m there at five in the morning and I look across the fields, I hear
FIDDIAN- GREEN CARESSES HIS LATEST WORK, HORSE AT WATER, IN HONG KONG