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The Exhibition will be titled after its installation is a promise by the Amsterdam-based British artist Alex Farrar to commit to a new name on completion of the display, at the end of his summer-long residency. Accordingly his final exhibition action immediately preceding the opening coincides with the moment of naming. This act is deeply performative in that something on the cusp of becoming tips over into a state of presence, and it arrives in a material state through a ‘speech act’. According to linguist J.L. Austin naming is neither describing nor reporting something, but actually doing it – bringing a new state of things into play. The exhibition is consequently at once the result of having been named and the embodiment of its title.
Renamed as Faltering, light under two screw holes, with 999 Red, shadows, screws and drilled holes, flushed, then glimmer over pieces of masking tape, with screws, drilled holes and Cherry Bomb the exhibition comprises a series of distinct groupings of works that comment on the body’s broken extensions by transcribing bodily emissions, examining cavities and showcasing torn-off fingernails.
The Sweat Paintings are made with a silicone-based mixture dripped, poured and brushed into organic forms that improvise on the ways in which sweat appears on clothing. By stabilising this momentary spillage Farrar captures an expression of discomfort that reveals a tension between our public and private lives, as a form of alienation that produces an abject response.
Once their intimate connection to the body is severed these residues and castoffs enter the realm of the Other, their detachment eliciting feelings of alienation and revulsion. However, their transmogrification from bodily parts into works of art accomplished by shifts in scale, colour and material alter the reception. We enter into the domain of the symbolic: sweat becomes solvent/paint, lashes are printed, and nail parings are upscaled and varnished lead-casts, thus moving from indiscernibility to striking conspicuousness. Farrar adopts the names of commercial products and colours for some of the works such as 999 Red or Cherry Bomb delighting in the falsely amplified language of branding and consumption, which dumbs down the relationship with the consumer.
Made by lead casting enlarged drawings of pared fingernails, Behavioural Residues are a series of lead sculptures that form a visual oxymoron. Their weight and scale counters the doubt and uncertainty associated with the action of biting nails while their toxic surface is covered in a bright finish commonly used in nail polish.
The book Wimper (the Dutch term for eyelash, or a potential misspelling of the English for ‘whimper’ or complain) is published as an extension of the exhibition, and reprises a series of earlier prints entitled Behavioural Residues (Second Sweep), featuring barely perceptible images of single eyelashes. Apart from their significance as intimate materials discarded by the body over time, such as hair or skin, they submit to the almost nothing of an aesthetics of disappearance, but equally to a dialectics of misunderstanding that commits to a lack of closure.
The gestures of the exhibition process remain present inscribing the space: measuring, marking, drilling, hammering, hanging, taking down, repositioning, erasing. They form a partial narrative of the artist’s engagement with the site of the gallery and the dialogue with the curators.
This text is an excerpt from Of the Surface of Things by Nicolas de Oliveira and Nicola Oxley published as part of the book Wimper accompanying the exhibition.
Faltering, light under two screw holes, with 999 Red, shadows, screws and drilled holes, flushed, then glimmer over pieces of masking tape, with screws, drilled holes and Cherry Bomb
27 September – 26 October 2019
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