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A Selection of Drawings and Paintings by Stephen Farthing at the Royal Academy of Arts
Boucher: The Back Story #2, oil on canvas. Image Courtesy of the Artist.

LONDON.- The Royal Academy of Arts presents Artists’ Laboratory 02, featuring the recent work of Stephen Farthing RA. The exhibition displays 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.

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 towards better understanding how words and images can work together. Many of the drawings in this exhibition started life as a creative response to the work he carried out as executive editor of 1001 Paintings You Should See Before You Die. Farthing said ‘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’.

Divided into five sections, the exhibition begins with Farthing’s Drawn History of Painting, a series of pen and ink drawings that consider the history of painting from the Valley of the Kings to the White Cube. Framed in pairs, one drawing outlines the main elements of the painting while the other pin points the work from an art historical perspective.

The story behind the painting is examined in The Back Story, where the artist acknowledges the additional layer which the story behind a work can bring to the image. This is examined literally with the writing behind the painting being clearly visible and appearing to seep through to the surface, fusing the image and story.

Painting the Atlantic is based on the journey frequently made by the artist between his studios in London and New York State. The painting is on a huge scale and the related drawings are studies in the details of the waves and are calligraphic in form.

A lone women situated in an imagined state of perfect harmony is the subject of the section Standing Lady. As examined in the related drawings, the objects around her form a unique pattern and serve to elevate her into a sublime state.

Finally, The Abacus series looks at the coming together of image and text. The counting system has references to the world of finance and recent collapse of the markets.

Born in London in 1950, Stephen Farthing studied at St Martin’s School of Art before taking his Masters Degree in Painting at the Royal College of Art where he received an Abbey Major Scholarship, taking him to The British School at Rome in 1976.

His extensive teaching career began as a Lecturer in Painting at Canterbury College of Art after which he was a Tutor in painting at the Royal College of Art. He went on to become Head of Painting and Head of Department of Fine Art at West Surrey College of Art and Design. From 1990 he was Ruskin Master at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Professorial Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford until 2000, when he moved to New York in order to take the position of Executive Director of The New York Academy of Art, Manhattan. In 2004 he was appointed as the Rootstein Hopkins Research Professor in Drawing at the University of the Arts, London.

Stephen Farthing has exhibited extensively since his first solo exhibition at the Royal College of Art Gallery, London in 1977. His work, representing Britain, was shown at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1989, leading to many further international solo shows.

Farthing was elected Royal Academician in the category of Painting 1998 and in 2000 was made an
Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He lives and works in New York.

The Royal Academy of Arts | Stephen Farthing | The Back Story |

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