Press Room Details

5 Questions with... Rachel Fairfax: Part 1 of 3
From the Stella Downer Fine Art blog

19 September 2013

Gallipoli and Beyond is an exhibition of works on paper by Rachel Fairfax. The artist presents a quiet view of Turkey, with washes of soft colour that create a sense of the still moment. From ancient cities to the mosques of Istanbul, Fairfax reflects the beauty of a country where many histories co-exist.

We asked Rachel to share some of the stories behind this exhibition.

What were your first impressions upon arrival in Turkey?

My first impressions of Turkey were of Istanbul where we first landed and started our tour.

The first thing I noticed was the softer light and the soft grey colours of the architecture and stonework throughout the streets and buildings. The stones were hundreds, sometimes thousands of years old. The greys of the stones and cobbled streets were pinky grey, soft bluey grey, yellowy greys and something about these colours and stones kept interesting me. 

Upon first arriving, the massive scale of the architecture in Istanbul also inspired me. Before the trip, I had read a bit about the city but, like all travels, only walking through the place and seeing it, did it have a real effect upon me. The sounds of the call to prayer and the bird calls also created a soft and historical atmosphere. There’s something about Turkey that’s softer than other European cities, yet so historical and majestic too; maybe because it’s part of Europe, but on the edge of Asia, it has a difference to it. There’s a mixture of culture and religion, and an antiquity and history there that holds it’s own. The relics and architecture of the Ottoman Empire dominate the city of Istanbul and I found the history of the buildings and the colours of the aged stone fascinating.

The Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are majestic buildings. I loved the beautiful stonework and tilework as well as the enormous scale of the domes and minarets. I was drawn to those buildings and the beautiful manicured gardens and fountain of the Sultanahmet between them. I walked down to that area of Istanbul and drew the gardens and surrounding architecture for a couple of days. There was something that words can’t really describe; its reverence, majesty and beauty.

We stayed in a lovely hotel where we were given access to the rooftop terrace overlooking the city. We could see across the Bosphorus to the Sea of Marmara, and we painted from there. It was challenging to do justice to such beautiful architecture and light through immediate plein air paintings; yet I was so inspired by it. I just kept finding compositions and drawing and mixing the greys to try to capture this beautiful vista we had in front of us. Everywhere I looked was another beautiful view to paint, full of soft colour and light, new shapes and forms.

The people of Turkey have a gentleness about them that I found lovely.  Five times every day, there is a call to prayer across the city, starting at 4.30 am and finishing at 10.30 pm. I loved this call ringing across the city, and the sense of reverence and discipline that it brings. It creates a feeling of respect for their religion and their worship practices. I also noticed between the Turkish people there is a mutual respect for each other’s religions and a spirituality and gentleness about the place that I find hard to describe in words. Istanbul is a beautiful city physically and atmospherically, that I look forward to returning to, to see and paint again.

To be continued…

Rachel Fairfax Gallipoli and Beyond 27 August - 21 September 2013 at Stella Downer Fine Art, 2 Danks St, Waterloo.

If you would like to find out more about this artist, please visit her website at or the Stella Downer Fine Art website .

To see article with images, please visit the Stella Downer Fine Art blog.

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