Catalogue Essay: 'my first painting show ever'
In her talk ‘Drawing in the Continuous Present’ artist Amy Sillman argued, “drawing is something everyone can do, literary everyone doodles […] drawing is anti-‘masterpiece’ thinking, it is grassroots thinking, where you are building something […] it’s democratic, it’s the underdog”. Painting on the other hand (especially in western art institutions) tends to carry a weight, grandeur and majesty. It carries baggage. I’m thinking Turner, Matisse, Pollock, Warhol, Basquiat. It’s funny because at this point, it’s like what else is there to say or do with the ‘baggage’ or the personalities behind them? Isn’t painting dead; *sigh*; do we care? Well, I couldn’t help myself, and in a quick google search I find the most expensive art sale in the world at US $450.3 million is Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ (paid for by Mohammed bin Salman!! Yes the crown prince of Saudi Arabia!!). Clearly not that dead in the Auctioneer houses.
For Jackson Farley, sarcasm and irony have always been devices for entertainment and critique. In ‘my very first painting show ever’ he offers agitated scenes of absurdity in a lop-sided dreamscape; of monarchs, devil children, and a screaming cloud-cock. This body of work presents critical paintings like never before. It’s giving fantasy, anxiety, crayons and devilish icing that will make your teeth fall out.
A theatre of the artist’s life working towards a show during the pandemic, the exhibition comes to you in seven ‘pts’, arrested two dimensionally, flat and static on the gallery wall, but not too far from the world that we come from (it all started at an Officeworks discount sale). Half the show is large Prismacolored scenes of alien figures, horny flowers and a ‘legged horse trying to work it out’ - in other words, the show is serving a big piece of Jackson’s pandemic heart. Sincerely.
Jackson often returns to the devices of theatre and performance in his practice, reminding us of the significance of joy to a proper sense of sanity. We see this in ‘my very first painting ever pt. V’, where we are presented with a scene of devils dancing around a fire upon a hill in the recognisable arrangement of Matisse’s ‘la danse’ painting. Stylistically, the colouring-book amateurism operates with a knowing ludicrousness that renders transparent the absurdity of masterpiece ideals. In reassembling the art ‘canon’ and performing the painter, Jackson reminds us of the value of joy and freedom.
In the other half of the pencil-paintings, which are actually more like, pen-paintings, text functions importantly to weave the chaos and narrative of the show together. The individual captions in each frame, when read collectively begin to build a critique of the masterpiece and genius thinking. In ‘pt. II’, ’I am the hand that feeds you’ is scratched into a sad penis flag held by a creepy hand face-figure. The naïve simplicity of the black biro dresses the sincerity and cruelty of the statement, making you laugh and cry at the same time. In another scene, ‘pt VII’, a drawer, draws a reclining nude out the front of ‘Sad Castle’, 51% of which is also owned by the nude model. The blurbs in the work, intentionally wild and obscene evocatively ground the ideas behind, ‘my very first painting show ever’. Jackson’s painter-performativity plays with the myth of the painter, the absurdity of the genre and the ideas of ‘genius’ behind it.
Idiosyncratic and a hopscotch of art process, category and material, this body of work is not interested in over conceptually rationalising a reason for making art. Instead with self-care pencils and schoolboy humour, Jackson spins the narrative of paint fluidity and institutionalised grandeur. Playing with reality, expectation and the pressure of being an ‘artist’ in Sydney, Jackson’s ‘pencil-paintings’ point to the uneasiness and ‘baggage’ within painting histories.
It’s direct, it’s drawing, it’s pencil-painting, ‘my very first painting show ever’, is as innocent as it is cynical. Jackson shows us that picking up a paint brush and joining the league of world changers who change the world with a flick o’ their wrist has never been so fun. In turning things on their head and parodying the process, with a pinch of existentialism, Jackson’s pencil-paintings are evocative of ‘anti-masterpiece’ thinking. Allow yourself to be entertained, smile, and let Jackson Farley save the world with his pencils.
Claire de Carteret
writer & curator
This essay was researched and written on the unceded lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I would like to pay my respect to their Elders past, present and emerging. Sovereignty was never ceded.
Jackson Farley: Artist Statement & Bio
I guess this feeling was the inspo for the show – after a few years of editing and re-jigging concepts/finished works, it was a nice feeling to just draw a fuckin hill and call it a day. So, I went and got a studio (the first time ever) to pursue this new found form of artistry. I decided I would become a painter + I went to the art store (somewhere where I never go) and stocked up on Canvas’ + paints. I entered my studio wide eyed and ready to accept this new fate. But there was only one problem. I’m a fuckin shit painter omg they were so bad. Lockdown blues came back and it was all a bit cooked… I was in the studio staring at my shit paintings (one was actually not so bad and is above my bed now) and I felt my lil self-care pencils calling out to me - jackson… redefine the art cannon with subversive self-care pencil paintings made with your subversive self-care pencil pack. Obviously, this was too big of a burden to accept so instead I just decided to draw some very nice drawings.
Jackson Farley is a multidisciplinary artist living and working on unceded Gadigal land. His practice intertwines narrative and humour to point out the absurdities and pointlessness of fine art definitions and power structures. Using digital media, biro pens and ‘self-care’ pencils, Farley’s work is as sentimental as it is a parody, pondering naïvely on categories of art, material, and painting process.
Jackson completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts with First Class Honours at the Sydney College of the Arts in 2017 and was awarded the University Awards for Drawing and Printmedia. He has also studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, USA and was awarded the China Cultural Centre residency in Chengdu, China in 2017. In 2019, he was selected as a finalist in the Fauvette Loureiro Memorial Artists Travel Scholarship Exhibition and in 2018, was selected for the Blake Prize, The Churchie and for Hatched.
Jackson Farley: CV February, 2022
Awards and achievements
Reviews and publicity
'Introducing' - Art Edit Issue 26
'Discovery' - Artist Profile Issue 44
‘Cuts Above the Rest’, Katrina Lobley. National Print and Online for Fairfax Media Network in Saturday Spectrum section
‘Five Minutes With Jackson Farley’ by Maria Maung. National Online for Backyard Opera.
‘Jackson’s Street Savvy Art’ by Zilka Grogan. Local Print circulation with Wentworth Courier.