The art of Julian Farade is all about human dramas. Yet, in his paintings, drawings or embroideries, we can hardly see any humans. His works are rather populated with fantastic creatures, like agitated crocodile- or bird-like monsters. Sometimes they appear alone, but more often in pairs or in a group, rushing chaotically or struggling with each other. These imaginary battle scenes are usually set in schematic interiors or exotic landscapes, indicated by simplified houses, mountains, palm trees or a horizon line; sometimes the action takes place in entirely abstract colour areas.
Despite its narrative aspect, his art is not purely representational. Like many painters of his generation, Julian Farade explores a territory between abstraction and figuration. The roughly drawn angular figures blend with each other but also with the surrounding environment, colliding into a dynamic colour mass. Sometimes the beasts are so stylized that we can only guess their configuration by putting together a set of clues - protruding body parts visible here and there, like disproportionate limbs, sharp gaping jaws, or terrified bulging eyes. He paints and draws vigorously with crude dynamic strokes, often outlining the figures and objects with black oil pencil or paint. He seems to have found his pictorial formula by combining gestural expressionists fervour with primitive figurative language, which could recall Willem de Kooning’s « Women » and artworks by Asger Jorn or Karel Appel.
Alongside his fascination with Expressionism, Figuration Libre or Bad Painting, spiced up by his interest in Jung’s archetypal theory, CoBrA movement is a major inspiration for Julian Farade. He shares its playfulness and experimental spirit, its use of vivid colours and grotesque animal images to express by similar pictorial means a whole variety of human inner dramas. In his oeuvre, he seems to exploit the concept of human animal, wittily depicting people’s animalistic impulses and desires. The power of his images lies in their spontaneity which, in its turn, characterizes both the subject he is dealing with and his very method of doing. Indeed, Julian works quickly, minimizing the time interval between thinking and making, as if he is trying to find the shortest possible way to project emotions, to capture them instantly in their fullness and freshness. Thus, he transforms his bodily energy into noisy turbulent scenes which radiate the feeling of panic, irritation and fear.
Having a very painterly approach to drawing, Julian Farade takes turns in applying oil paints, greasy oil pastels and crayons on paper. As a result, his works appear to be a sort of hybrids between drawing and painting. He truly enjoys choosing his colours, and putting them together, so, in some sense, his work is also about colour. His use of bold palette misleads us at times. Through the delicious combinations of pinks, yellows, or quite overwhelming orange hues, we see distorted bodies as dancing figurines and dramatic situations as joyful carnival processions or maybe parties. But we should look past the seductiveness of colours to get to the otherwise quite gloomy meaning which the depicted scenes seek to convey.
The exhibition at Podgorny Robinson gallery features a series of recent embroidered works. This is a new medium for him that he decided to explore when he suddenly lost his studio space and could not work with oil paints and large canvases anymore. He started making these artworks in his Parisian apartment, the only work place that he had at that moment, then continues them in New York where he moved several months ago. So the idea of ‘homemade’ associated with traditional textile practice - and in this case with embroidery -, takes a very literal sense here.
The transition from expressionist powerful gesture to a slow process of embroidery might seem challenging. The violent energy bumps against a repetitive manual activity, so we could have expected it to weaken. However, it is not really the case, as its strength remains quantitatively the same though its ‘quality’ do slightly change, turning into something tempered, even softened. Working with textile, Julian makes use of « automatic » spontaneous language; the result of the process is unpredictable, the images emerge progressively - stitch by stitch. With embroidery still being an unknown practice for him, he composes these artworks as he feels, working with threads and needles in the same way as he would do with paints and pencils – messy stiches sewed in different directions, same edgy-shaped beasts, boards of canvas left empty. Embroidered, the figures flatten, overlapping each other like paper collages, but gain in texture.
Even though the very fact that Julian Farade turns towards such traditional folk practice as embroidery is surprising and may seem accidental, as conditioned by personal circumstances, it is far from being a temporary solution, but is more of a natural inclination, a willingly made choice. Indeed, relationships between craft and fine art are long and constantly changing - splitting and merging. In the second half of the 20th century the wide use of craft techniques, in textile particularly, was often identified with politically engaged art and related to the raise of gender, race or class activism. Later, by the turn of the century, these popular folk forms have reasserted their value in the field of fine art, embraced by a generation of artists who started to associate them closely with sophisticated conceptual ideas. It seems that today’s return of crafts-related art forms has more in common with 19th-century Arts and Crafts movement, which aimed to smooth the harmful influence of the Industrial Revolution with noble nature of thoughtful labour. At the age of exponentially developing technology and digital alienation, popular hand-made practices appear to have a function of a lifeline, able to reconnect us with our humanity. As if the reaction to the inhuman aspects of society had provoked a general shift of aesthetic paradigm. In fact, along with flourishing of crafts, we observe a noticeable re-emergence of figurative painting - naive, symbolist or surrealist -, with its insistent revisiting of rather emotional and sentimental subjects.
Traditionally, craft refers to the idea of highly developed skill and mastery. Julian Farade’s approach to embroidery is naïve, recalling archaic craft forms or children’s art. With their clumsy stitches, the works appear sloppy and amateur. Still, his unskillfulness is deliberately exaggerated. Sharing punk attitude with Bad Painting movement, Julian Farade seems to be fascinated with the idea of mistake. Indeed, his intentionally “wrong” images make a perfect match with marginally situated craft techniques that he employs. There is also something very touching and comforting about his embroideries. Thick woolly fibers produce a pleasurable surface, appealing to the eyes and touch, as if they were trying to soften the rough nature of fighting reptiles inhabiting them.
Materialised in the form of embroidery, Julian’s turmoil of animals and monsters can be considered as a powerful reflection of the human deepest anxieties and fears. It seems to encourage us to reconcile with our instinctive animal side. In his letter to Constant, Asger Jorn accurately asserted: “You can often give a better description of a fight between people, the essentials of it, by means of fantastic animals, the simple, primitive, naked instincts, than by depicting a specific situation. It is not the human animal we should describe, but ourselves as human animals”. Julian Farade seems to apply this very principle.