Artist Jan Farara
In vibrant Caribbean hues, AntiguaÃ�ï¿½Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã�ï¿½Ã�Â¢Ã�ï¿½Ã�Â¯Ã�ï¿½Ã�Â¿Ã�ï¿½Ã�Â½Ã�ï¿½Ã�Â¯Ã�ï¿½Ã�Â¿Ã�ï¿½Ã�Â½s adopted daughter, artist, Jan Farara, offers a window into everyday life on a small island.
Words by Marcia Milgate and Juliet Austin.
Dream Island, (2011), acrylic on canvas.
Ensconced in her Antiguan home, a traditional A-frame cottage crafted from striking Guyanese wood and adorned with a treasury of handcrafted pots, lamps and sculptures, Jan Farara’s candid and colourful painted commentaries are a rich tapestry capturing the quixotic, rhythmic sensuality of life in the Tropics. For the English-born artist, Antigua’s undulating landscapes, expansive seascapes and kaleidoscope of people provide endless inspiration: in the rituals of daily life and the silence that precedes dawn; in the pull of the tides on the shoreline and the brilliant interplay of light on a cerise bougainvillea bloom.
Donkey and Coconuts, (2011), acrylic on canvas.
Yet, it is only since 2005 that Farara channelled the enduring spirit of adventure that first brought her to the Caribbean in 1970, taking the leap of faith from casual painter to full time artist. With her trademark joie de vivre, she drew on Foundation Studies in commercial and fine art in London undertaken in her youth, evolving the principles into her own unique signature. Drawing with paint, her portfolio of large, colourful canvases tell a myriad of stories, each emoting an exchange between artist and viewer.
Goat Lady, (2006), acrylic on canvas.
Having worked en plein air, Farara is now inclined to gypsy herself around the island, photographing locales like Jumby Beach and cataloguing observations in order to recreate her experiences back in her Buckleys Studio. Farara’s works appear as snapshots of the Caribbean experience, offering unstaged and authentic glimpses of traditional ways of life captured as if she were just passing by. Whether the sole focus or part of a situational rendering, subjects reflect the spirit of a moment: a woman tends her goats, another cuts into a basket of juicy mangos, a couple walk into the half-light, baskets balanced nonchalantly on their heads. It is in the visual quality of her work – the placement of colour and the play of light over form – that Farara’s mastery lies.
Faces of Independence, (2010), acrylic on canvas.
acrylic on canvas.
In Dominican Retirement, harmony of colour and the saturation of gold and yellow hues bring the straw hat into clear focus. Situating the old lady between the sharp detail of flowers in the foreground and the textured building and man in the background, Farara deftly achieves balance and movement. She explains, “Whether creating a narrative scene, an abstract or developing a thematic quality, composition is everything.”
This intuitive non-symmetry of arrangement, yet balance of forms, is revisited in Donkey and Coconuts, Goat Lady and in particular I have the net, where a white t-shirt serves to draw the eye back just off the centre of the painting after taking in the whole. Exaggerated colour placement in portraits such as Faces of Independence and Independent Michaela, while unblended, still achieves a realistic representation that is animated, without becoming a caricature. Additionally, using pigment and water, sprinkled liberally with flake salt, Farara draws her medium across the canvas with oversized brushes, turning and directing the canvas to manipulate the flow. Repeating this process up to five times achieves layers of background detail, with depth and intensity serving to visually emphasise the subject it cradles.
Honing her skills, Farara incorporates unconventional tools, applying acrylics with plastic cards, to impasto the paint in large swathes across the canvas. Grand in scale, Farara favours boards in excess of five feet, enabling her to cover great areas with the cards and provide relief texturally, while initiating stronger highlights and definitive shadow contouring. Inspiring her first foray into Abstracts, the happenstance of a drop of water on her camera lens and the subsequent marred images of unfocused circles, resulted in her own quirky trademark, to which she, on occasion, pays homage in works like Fringed with Palms.
I have the net, (2006), acrylic on canvas.
Soothing yet dynamic, Farara’s land and seascapes speak to freedom of expression. Maintaining one point of visual focus to ground the subject in context is an essential element of the artist’s style, such as in Solitude. In Dream Island, Third Wave and, even Sunset after the Storm, where colour differentiation is used to shape the conceptual view of water meeting sky, Farara fashions a looser approach. Evoking the feeling of a moment rather than a precise nanosecond of reality, one can linger, absorbed in the implied movement.
Solitude, (2010), acrylic on canvas.
Comfortable on her verandah, Farara is one to contemplate the curiosities and gifts of her existence. She acknowledges, “It is a privilege to live on an island and enjoy this way or life.” Proud of her adoptive home, Farara’s work provides a window into the heart of the Antiguan narrative, injecting vibrancy into a room, awakening the senses and transporting its viewer into the mêlée of Caribbean life.
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