Angus Fairhurst, the precocious talent who helped kickstart the 1990s "Young British Artists" movement has been hailed as a "great artist and a great friend" by Damien Hirst, following his death at the age of 41.
His body was found on Saturday in a remote woodland area in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, on the same day his solo show at Sadie Coles Gallery closed in London. It is believed he committed suicide.
A spokesperson for Strathclyde Police said: "The body of a 41-year-old man was found within woodland near Inveroran cottage in Bridge of Orchy at around 4pm on Saturday. At this time, there appear to be no suspicious circumstances." A spokeswoman for the artist added that he "tragically took his own life" whilst on a walk.
Fairhurst found fame with his bold videos and installations. In life however, he was often quiet and self-effacing. Sir Nicholas Serota, the director of Tate Galleries in Britain, which owns seven of his pieces, said the artist has always been "deprecating about his own talent". "But he made some of the most engaging, witty and perceptive works of his generation and was an enormously influential friend of other British artists who came to prominence in the early Nineties," he added.
Hirst, with whom Fairhurst collaborated on a number of projects, such as the Tate Britain show In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, in 2004, said: "He always supported me, in fair weather and foul. He shone like the moon and as an artist he had just the right amount of slightly round the bend. I loved him." The artist Sarah Lucas, Fairhurst's one-time girlfriend, said: "Angus was a lovely man. Funny and kind. Very much loved by all his friends. Very much loved by me."
Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain, said: "He was a brilliantly inventive, witty and provocative artist, always modest about his fundamentally important contribution to the soaring international reputation of British art since the 1990s."
Born in Kent, Fairhurst graduated from art school in 1989, the same year as Hirst. He had organised a student show in February 1988 which was seen as a precursor to the Freeze exhibition Hirst orchestrated in July 1988. Fairhurst, along with 16 other Goldsmith students, was instrumental in Freeze. It was there that the work of the Young British Artists caught the attention of the collector Charles Saatchi, and also put British art at the forefront of the international contemporary arts scene.
Although he never achieved the same level of fame as many of his contemporaries, his work was well respected. In 1991, Fairhurst networked together the phones of leading contemporary art dealers in London so that they could only talk to each other. The audio sculpture, Gallery Connections, was intended to mock the way the art world spoke solely to itself.