HORSE POWER

Hong Kong Tatler - - Art -

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

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