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Catherine Farish

Art New England, Oct/Nov 2007  


Spheris Gallery
59 Main Street
Hanover, New Hampshire
July 21 - September 12, 2007

By Craig Stockwell

Canadian artist Catherine Farish creates eventless narratives using a mixture of printmaking techniques, collage, and painting on paper. The lack of event in these narratives appears central to her aesthetic and the viewer is refused the pleasure of coherent image and drama and is given, instead, a field of effects and incidents. This response to our moment is not unusual; the field of even events reflects accurately our situation of ambivalence. The work is lovely and gentle and intelligent, it reads a like a musical score or a map of vague directions. There is a plentiful and accomplished range of mark-making occurring here. The look of the work is a general appearance of aged and yellowed-smooth skin that has been tattooed and marked and painted upon, there is a spiritual vocabulary to the marks that suggests the surfaces are being prepared for and by ritualistic activity. 

Presented are larger works that are nearly square and a group of smaller horizontal works. The horizontal works with their long stretch are particularly susceptible to being read as a narrative, but again the viewer is left with being forced to consider the method as the only story given. There is one note of intrigue in that a head or face emerges from several of the works, sometimes explicitly, and sometimes as the merest suggestion. In the three small horizontals the heads are clear and seem to be imported. In the larger works the heads are free-drawn in sketchy lines and once the heads are discovered one can’t help but search for them in places they maybe aren’t even present. 

Another curious aspect of this work is the apparent contradiction between surface and process. This is a process that is spontaneous and intuitive, things are torn, tried, painted, added, and subtracted, but the surfaces of the works are seamless (even where seams exist) and the impressive frames are elegant and flawless, all of which serves to contain the images. 

This is domestic work, in the best sense. It is the kind of work meant to be read slowly on a wall in a well-traveled domestic space. Work to be lived with and slowly unfolded. This is work motivated by thorough engagement in a process and faith that the meaning will itself develop.