Artists’ Laboratory: Stephen Farthing


Written by Hannah Grantz
08 Monday 08th November 2010
The Royal Academy's Artists’ Laboratory is a new program of exhibitions giving contemporary Royal Academicians the opportunity to take risks and explore new ideas within their artistic practice, and also provide a chance for the public to experience less familiar aspects of their work. This month features the recent work of prominent London-born, now New York-based, painter and lecturer Stephen Farthing RA.
Stephen Farthing has exhibited extensively since his first solo exhibition at the RCA Gallery in 1977. His work, representing Britain, was shown at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1989, leading to many further international solo shows, and the same year became Artist in Residence at the Hayward Gallery. He is also an eight-time prize-winner in the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition between 1976 and 1999. He was elected Royal Academician in the category of Painting 1998, previously held the position of Executive Director of the New York Academy of Art and is currently the Rootstein Hopkins Research Chair of Drawing at the University of the Arts London.
The exhibition will display a selection of drawings and large scale paintings, made since 2005, all of which examine the artist’s preoccupation with looking beyond the surface of the visual image by exploring the story behind the work.
Many of the drawings in this exhibition started life as a creative response to the work he carried out as executive editor of the book 1001 Paintings You Should See Before You Die. As Farthing explains, “I decided to set the acquired knowledge of working in the studio, to turn what were masses of facts into something useful to me as an artist.”
Farthing has mixed writing, painting and drawing in varying proportions to produce a sequence of works that take aspects of the history of painting as their subject matter, with a view to better understanding how words and images can work together.
Divided into five sections, the collection will seek to inform and educate on topics such as how the story behind a work can add to an image and how objects are used to elevate the main subject of a painting.
Part of the collection will be another opportunity to see Farthing's 'Back Story' work, where a series of images painted with a text in reverse sits on the picture plane between the audience and the image. The text tells us what is going on not in the picture but behind it, so compromising and at the same time informing the image with text.
Artists' Laborator 02: Stephen Farthing runs from 10 November to 19 December 2010 in the Weston Rooms and Main Galleries, and there will be an opportunity to see Farthing discuss his exhibition with art historian Professor Dawn Ades OBE on Thursday 25 November 2010 (Large Weston Room, 4–5pm).

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  • Guest: GMA
    Tue 15 - Feb - 2011, 05:33
    fabulous interplay of image and text in '#back Story' pieces, both direct and indirect, subtle, full on and always very powerful. Thank you for the opportunity to view, thought provoking - wonderful! ASL (The Glass House Menagerie Atelier)