In his new solo exhibition Vantage Point, Christopher Farrell is setting out to explore Oxford, recording not just its iconic skyline but the rapidly changing face of the city too.
Christopher Farrell is already well known for his interpretations of historic painting techniques, used to make his distinctive paintings of London. Often large scale, his paintings contain breath-taking detail using combinations of highly skilled drawn marks, as well as more gestural and abstract forms. Using similar approaches to painters of the past, in particular Canaletto, Christopher practices methods that have not changed for centuries, yet he doesn't romanticise or omit indicators of a rapidly changing skyline - the cranes, traffic lanes and glow of air-craft tail lights are all very much part of his work.
Turning his attention to Oxford, it's Christopher's aim to 'learn' the city through drawing. As the author and artist Kimon Nicolaides said 'learning to draw really is a matter of learning to see…and that means a good deal more than merely looking with the eye.'
With this in mind, visitors can expect to see new paintings and drawings that are an artistic investigation of Oxford. Christopher is particularly interested in using traditional methods such as red chalk, silver and gold point, on specially prepared surfaces. These techniques dates back to the 14th century, used by artists like Durer, Da Vinci and Raphael. It's an unforgiving method, taking many hours of practice, in particular to build tone, where the artist must layer marks by cross hatching.
Christopher combines these techniques with state of the art digital imaging software, photographing his paintings at key moments and using Photoshop to re-work the image, by adding or taking away gestures digitally, or reconstructing the space. He also uses Google Maps to access areas of the city that are harder to reach, making drawings from the screen itself. For Christopher, this technology is very much a part of the painting process.
The city of Oxford is at a moment in time where rapid development and building is creating a new facet to the life of a town long associated with ancient tradition and academia. A glittering new shopping centre, new housing, manufacturing and transport links to London have all meant that Oxford's image is refocussing itself. Christopher Farrell's paintings will echo these new beginnings, but will also reference and highlight links with the city's renowned history.