written by Margaret Smith
Wednesday, August 26th 2015: OPhemeral [OP-fem-er-al//optical art that is long lasting]
This month, Plethora Artist Guild featured artists Jared Last and Rhys Farrell whose work demonstrated dedicated craftsmanship and showcased visual playfulness. Both Last and Farrell constructed pieces that distorted visual cues to purposefully alter our experience of optical intake. OPhemeral was an “illusionary exhibition”: a showcase dedicated to highlighting Op Art from the two local artists.
Nearly three years ago, Jared Last became enamored with the technical and delicate processes of Glass art. The technicality of the craft was entrancing, luring the young artist in with both its unique historical significance and its nature as an immensely challenging (and delicate) medium of expression. Having dedicated the last thirty months to intensive study, Last says with conviction that, “[his] strongest technical and conceptual work is executed in Glass – be it blown or otherwise.” For anyone that was at OPhemeral, it would be hard to disagree. Last featured four pieces in the show: Patterns and Perspectives, and the Oculus Series, composed of three lenses titled Internal Reflections in Steel Blue, Ceruluean, and Gold.
Last selected these four pieces ultimately for their exhibition of “similar conceptual and technical concerns” that displays his highest levels of technical skill and craftsmanship that he has since garnered during his time at ACAD. The pieces were also selected due to fragility of glasswork itself, as Last selected some of his more durable pieces. This implies that, although the works we saw were stunning, even more astounding glass by Jared Last has yet to appear in Loft 112. We at Plethora look forward to featuring more of his art, and continue to be astounded by his ever-increasing dexterity for creating patterns and combining colors in his unique, and elegant works.
What makes Last’s glasswork most awe-inspiring is the familiarity one feels when gazing at or inward on his art. Last draws on the infinite relationships between color, pattern, and form found in nature and in architecture from around the globe. His four pieces showcased last week were inspired by Byzantine and Roman Empires, and “specifically [by] the Pantheon, possibly the most famous example of an architectural oculus”. All ofLast’s work is handmade: he carefully crafts ideas and meticulously draws and cuts each pattern onto the form, enduring hours and days of painstaking work before relishing in the success of his final piece. Although Last has become confident in his craftsmanship, he recognized at OPhemeral new avenues on which his work could wander, skirting past a technical plateau and ascending into new levels of artistic execution.
Many at the show witnessed the shadows Last’s glass cast across their podiums and upon the walls; Last himself took note and has promised to incorporate these shadows into his future work. The shadows were, in fact, happenstance; yet as any good artist would Last recognized the fortuitous shadows as elements to integrate into future, long-term installations.
Overall, Last made a lasting impression on Plethora. He offered up work that required active engagement from the audience. His pieces were looked into not just looked at – a difficult task to accomplish with the ever-growing absentmindedness of today’s up and coming generations. Not only were the lenses themselves a source of bewilderment, but the glass trio, Patterns and Perspectives, hung upon the wall were gazed at by a lucky few in just the right way – where despite their bulbous shape, the spheres appeared flat. As far as optical illusions go, Jared Last is an artist whose work you’ll have to look at twice.
Rhys Farrell began as a graffiti artist several years ago. His work has since evolved from abstract work into deliberate, definitive line work that awed the audience at last week’s show. His transition over the years has occurred slowly, but has accompanied a definitive and rapid gain in his confidence both as an artist and as an individual.
Farrell names his transitions as exciting and ongoing. Despite the concise nature of his work displayed at OPhemeral, Ferrell is an artist in motion, never settling, never ending, and always seeking new avenues of expression and talents to hone.
The line work seen at OPhemeral is only one of Farrell’s recent obsessions: it began with a casual look at art dealing with color and optics, and quickly transgressed into a commitment to master the craft. The color selection, for many, was what first drew the eyes of onlookers. Farrell devotes special attention to color palates that deliberately draw in the eye, which he says enhances the images to their full “optical strength”.
Farrell presented three paintings at OPhemeral, two of which took the audience pleasantly by surprise. Although most people are familiar with the stark contrast of red and blue, featured in his piece Diverge, the violet spectrum of P550 1-5 and the pink, yellow and green of Sunrise, highlighted Ferrell’s immense skill for selecting color palates that simultaneously sooth and defy the human eye.
Each of his three pieces had an obvious gravitational draw: the eyes were forced to flutter about the wood boards seeking a space to focus on with ease. However, Farrell’s patterns defied passive observance, and required a rigorous dedication to taking in his completed works.
A distinctive trait of Farrell’s work is his preferred surface on which to work: wood. The stiffness and durability of wood works in Farrell’s favor, as his paintings require many, many layers of paint to sufficiently convey the desired patterns he creates. To add to the non-conforming nature of his art is his ongoing, “manipulation of the traditional square”. Again, Sunrise and P550 1-5 drew in the audience with their atypical shapes, which Farrell used to, “enhance the optical sensation that [he strives] for”.
Farrell exhibits careful attention to the small factors in his art – such as the placement and spacing of each piece on the walls – that amplify the optical effects of his work. Each piece, as a result, powerfully occupied the walls of Loft 112. Farrell’s work is easily as tenacious as it is colorful, and Plethora looks forward to witnessing the ongoing expansion of Farrell’s technical expertise.
OPhemeral showcased technical expertise in both the creation and presentation of the artwork. Audience members continuously commented on the excellent placement of the various pieces, taking time to note the precise placement of both the glassworks and paintings in relation to themselves and each other. Moreover, the intended dichotomy between the 2D and 3D works created a well-balanced atmosphere that instigated active participation by the audience. Audience members gazed forward, downward, sideways, backwards, and continuously sought out new perspectives by which to examine the work of Jared Last and Rhys Farrell. Smiles, giggles, and other expressions of bewilderment were regularly part of the evening’s landscape. Overall, Jared Last and Rhys Farrell’s combined talents were cohesive and complimentary. United, both collections fed off each other to create a tantalizing and sensational atmosphere. We thank the artists for their contribution, and look forward to witnessing their inevitable progress.