John Hurrell – 24 October, 2011
These works are still too restrained - despite their creepiness. They pine for Proust's time, not today's. So they need to get really wild, more pumped up and extreme - become more confrontational. The images are too small for the gallery space, and seem sleepy, drearily ‘sensitive', too art historic and conventional.
6 October - 6 November 2011
Nichola Farquhar’s eight small oil portraits of women are improvised extrapolations kickstarted by memories of people she knew as a child, but working within the nineteenth century tradition of the Nabis, and occasionally racing ahead to the twentieth century and the seventies expressionist/Fauve work of Jeffrey Harris in Dunedin. Some disturb because of the obliteration of detail (boneless noses, lipless mouths, lidless eyes) that you might get with skin grafts after burns, or hideous images of Indian women mutilated by jealous husbands. Others have dappled backgrounds and glowing (but absent) physiognomies that are not creepy at all, but more about psychic auras. They seem more Symbolist.
Most of the portraits are frontal but the one side profile image, Amanda, has all the facial detail blurred out in a smeary pink haze whilst there is a dominant dark dot high in the ear that could be a transplanted nostril or migrating eyeball. Two other images of erased faces, Paula and Katy-Lee, have faint vestiges of mouths and eyes peeking through scumbled masks where apertures or orifices appear to have been subtly cut out.
Occasionally Farquhar’s colour sense has a touch of crimson jungle flowers or lime green parrot plumage - an exuberant hint perhaps of the Chicago painter Ed Paschke, say here in her earlier Elam show with her use of chromatic facial parts. The Hopkinson Cundy show has her springing towards Bonnard where his light shimmers in the background. However as a body of images the works have an inwardness, a dullness of composition, an ordinariness, a lack of ambition. The colours glow more in the photos here than in reality - for face to face they are more muted, softer.
I don’t want to be too dismissive because the raw Baconesque aspects I admire; such incongruously ‘expressive’ elements placed over a 120 year old post-impressionist style - they do rattle you. But I would argue, not profoundly enough.
These works are still too restrained - despite their creepiness. They pine for Proust’s time, not today’s. So they need to get really wild, more pumped up and extreme - become more confrontational. The images are too small for the gallery space, and seem sleepy, drearily ‘sensitive’, too art historic and conventional. Farquhar needs to crank it up, impose a stronger more insistent vision - add some jarring vulgarity perhaps - and make works with intensified bodily presence that you cannot walk away from.
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