Julia Farrer: Transformations
On one wall of Julia Farrer's new exhibition hangs a painting titled Tower Variation I, and beyond it three others from a series called Babel ; an allusion to architecture is explicit, writes Andrew Mead . But her Tower of Babel is very different from the one in Brueghel's famous picture, that ultimate masonry megastructure spiralling towards the sky.
While the reference is grandiose, Farrer's paintings are intimate, each Babel work comprising two 70cm elongated vertical panels, hung side by side with just a sliver of wall between them. Animating these diptychs is an assembly of geometric shapes, both opaque and transparent, which pivot, rotate and overlap to create complex spatial worlds.
Some earlier pieces by Farrer, setting various geometric elements adrift in cosmic space, had echoes of Malevich and El Lissitzky; these, though never representational, suggest Cubist ancestry. Their intricacy, precision and cut-out collage-like quality bring Juan Gris to mind.
The acrylic paint has been sprayed on to these thin boards; there is no trace of the artist's hand. Barely described, such paintings could seem mechanical, accomplished but impersonal; surprisingly , that is not the case. In each Babel work one panel is more muted than the other, as if a shadow were swallowing the blues, violets, greys or eau-de-nil. Perhaps it is this undertow of darkness that gives these paintings their resonance - and distances them still more from any material tower.