Artists have been using found objects in their art ever since Picasso’s first collage, Still Life With Chair Caning (1912) in which real rope and chair caning wallpaper were an important part of the composition. The found object is now very commonplace in art and is often used in a lackadaisical manner with little consideration to form or meaning. Geoffrey Farmer brings its use to a new level in his recent retrospective How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth? at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG). Using the entire second floor of the gallery, the work fills viewers with wonder, delight and surprise as they are immersed in this labour-intensive imaginative world made from very ordinary everyday things. Farmer makes us think about our history, our contemporary culture and our relationship to the printed page in a digital age.
Included in this exhibition is Farmer’s first paper cut work, The Last Two Million Years (2007). Farmer walked around the streets near his studio in search of potential subject matter (following the legacy of Robert Rauschenberg who also collected items from the street for inspiration), and found a large tome with a faux marble cover called The Last Two Million Years. He took apart the book and cut out every individual image and then backed the cut-outs with a small paper support. The images range from large to super-tiny and are positioned single file or in groups on plinths of different heights and dimensions. One of the wonders of this piece is its simplicity in idea and material. Who knew you could create such a monumental piece with one book?
In the meantime if you’d like to explore the idea of using materials that are at hand such as papers, fabrics, books or other found objects, I recommend you check out my course Collage: Investigation of Material that starts next week. There will be definitely be a Farmer-inspired project in this course!