Vantage Point: A Contemporary View of Oxford – Christopher Farrell
In his new solo exhibition ‘Vantage Point’, Christopher Farrell is setting out to explore Oxford, recording not just its iconic skyline but the rapidly changing face of the city too. Christopher Farrell is already well known for his interpretations of historic painting techniques, used to make his distinctive paintings of London. Often large scale, his paintings contain breath-taking detail using combinations of highly skilled drawn marks, as well as more gestural and abstract forms. Using similar approaches to painters of the past, in particular Canaletto, Christopher practices methods that have not changed for centuries, yet he doesn’t romanticise or omit indicators of a rapidly changing skyline – the cranes, traffic lanes and glow of air-craft tail lights are all very much part of his work.
Turning his attention to Oxford, it’s Christopher’s aim to ‘learn’ Oxford through drawing. With this in mind, visitors can expect to see new paintings and drawings that are an artistic investigation of Oxford’s architecture and character. Christopher is particularly interested in using traditional methods such as red chalk, silver and gold point, on specially prepared surfaces. These techniques date back to the 14th century, used by artists like Durer, Da Vinci and Raphael. It’s an unforgiving method, taking many hours of practice, in particular to build tone, where the artist must layer marks by cross hatching.
As a new addition to Sarah Wiseman Gallery’s carefully selected group of artists, Christopher Farrell has only recently begun visiting Oxford. He was initially struck by the variety of buildings and architecture. For the exhibition, he felt that this mix of buildings needed his visual distillation in order to build a unified impression of the city. “Oxford is a very exciting city and my initial thought was ‘Wow! This place is complex’; with the mix of the architecture and the city overall,” he says. “I am always thinking, what do I need to make the paintings look like Oxford? Do I need to have representational paintings with the spires? Can a painting represent Oxford with just colour and only a suggestion of the architecture, through gestures, lines and space?”
Christopher uniquely combines his traditional drawing with digital imaging, photographing his paintings at key moments and using the images to progress the painting. Although technology is a tool in his painting process, the historic traditions of drawing remain at the heart of what he does. “Drawing is a great way to gather information, as it’s fast and direct. I sometimes use GoogleEarth to scout for viewpoints and make drawing from the screen.” “This usually evolves to focusing on specific buildings with a view to learn the architecture, this visual knowledge would feed the paintings.”