FLORA MCLACHLAN AND THE BRIGHTON ART FAIR
The oldest set of Brighton Art Fair labels I can find on my computer is from 2004, so that must be when I first showed there, and I’ve hardly missed one since then! Seeing those almost-forgotten older etchings brings home to me how BAF has really helped me find my voice as an artist. I began with a strange mixture of straight landscapes, still lives and dark castles, but seeing the work hung in the white space of the art fair, and also hearing what visitors to the art fair found distinctive about it, helped me see my way forward, and I slowly began to combine landscape and a fairy-tale atmosphere to make my pictures of lonely hills and magical wild creatures in dark woodlands.
I grew up in Lancing, so coming down from Oxford to show at Brighton always feels like coming home, and it has in the past been a real family event for me. That first year I showed with my father Jeremy McLachlan and his pottery, and then my mother Philippa Lithgow joined us with her oil paintings of the Downs. Finally I moved to a space of my own across the aisle from theirs, and felt my work really took off when it was given the spotlight. In 2008 we parked my six-week-old baby Laurie’s pram in the café and he obligingly slept for hours through the racket of hissing coffee machines and mad buzz of people deciding which painting to buy. This year I’ll be back, but sadly I’ve now lost both my parents, so alone…apart from all my BAF friends of course.
Brighton Art Fair is always fun; it’s so wonderful to be able to meet and talk to all these other artists for a whole weekend. It’s intense, exhausting and exhilarating. I love the rush of hanging the year’s new work, watching how the pictures relate to each other on the wall and wondering what people will think of them. I also love wandering through the aisles and seeing what everyone else I know has been doing, finding interesting new printmaking inspiration, and sometimes buying or exchanging work. I’ve made a lot of valuable contacts through the art fair, and many sales too, and I do think of it as my year’s milestone, a chance to see my work all together and decide which direction to go in next. I couldn’t imagine my life as an artist without it.