Cultivated by his obvious love of the Art Deco era, alongside a passion for cycling, the work of British artist Mark Fairhurst plucks the peloton from the Golden age of cycling, and transports it to the modern-day, treating us to rich allegories of when racers wore goggles and cottons caps and rode handmade bicycles torched from steel.
In addition to the sport however, Fairhurst’s illustrations also capture the cultural enormity of cycling, reminding us of how the bicycle has been a two-wheeled fixture in so many aspects of society, whether as a jitney for daily transport, a bridge to social interaction or a ticket to personal freedom.
Anyone with a keen eye for art can see the profound influences the great Art Deco illustrators and painters have had on Fairhurst’s work. And, for the more adept art historian, his work conjures thoughts of the early Nabis leading up to artists like Charles Sheeler, Emile Van Der Cammen, Ralston Crawford, Fernand Bouton and even Tamara De Lempicka, eventually making its way to the German painters of Der Blaue Reiter.
Fairhurst’s journey to becoming a celebrated cycling illustrator first began with photography, working as a professional photographer in the early 1980’s for various advertising agencies that handled impressive accounts like BMW, Dunhill and Wilkinson Sword.
However, the financial crash in 2008 left many of these companies with little to no advertising budget, causing his workflow to disappear almost overnight.
In his words, “while limping along”, Fairhurst was inspired to create his first cycling image after witnessing Bradley Wiggins win the Tour de France in 2012, later making a basic illustration of the British champion and posting it on social media.
From there, requests for copies began pouring in.
While meeting the demand for illustrations and paintings during the Art Deco period was tethered to the long, creative process of making art, even at the request of the most lucrative of patrons, today’s technology easily collapses the space between desire and fulfillment, allowing Fairhurst to meet the growing call for his work, and quickly setting him off on a trajectory that would lead to him becoming one of the most sought after illustrators in cycling, as well as a successful book titled P is for Peloton.
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