Alannah Farrell pictured with Jared Oppenheim on the occasion of the exhibtion After All... Do You Remember, 2018 at Ghost Gallery, Brooklyn. Photo: Alberto Vasari (@albertovasari).
OTP short-forms: Alannah Farrell
An interview with Alannah Farrell: the humanist, painting New York's condition.
Faux-realism, multi-storey nightlife and Korean cinema.
OTP What’s Important to you?
AF Hmm, that is a complex question to unpack. What’s important to me in the bigger picture? Human rights, keeping life on this planet going, honesty, forgiveness, humour, empathy.
As far as what’s important to me as a painter, I would say initially there are the formal elements of painting that I care about.
I’m a formalist in the sense that I consider all aesthetic aspects of a painting I’m working on and make a long string of conscious decisions about color, composition, light, shadow, and form along the way.
Beyond the formal elements, I care about there being a palatable psychological human connection to the work.
OTP I’ve seen your style of painting described as ‘faux-realism’, do you think that's a valid description? Maybe I could ask you to describe what ‘faux-realism’ means in your own words?
AF I've had neo-classical painter friends of mine point out places in my figures which are anatomically incorrect, or perspective and lighting that divert from realism/reality.
I’m not interested in making realistic or photo-realistic paintings. And to be perfectly honest I don’t think I have the patience or technical skill required, either.
On the opposite end of classically trained painters, some people see my work as realistic...so yes, I guess ‘faux-realism’ seems applicable for now.
My paintings feature real people and places but are largely altered by my vision of the painting I want to make. This often involves a combination of memories and the intentional skewing of color, light, perspective, and composition to build a specific psychological environment.
Alannah Farrell, Untitled, 2019, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist.
OTP You listen to a lot of true crime podcasts while you paint right? And I believe your experience with sleep paralysis is something you have alluded to in the past. What role does dread play in your work?
AF I do listen to true crime podcasts, but I also listen to music, and radio about many topics including art, (some) politics, neuroscience, psychology, various narrative fiction, and non-fiction.
Fear, or maybe more accurately, worry, plays a large role in both my sleeping and waking life. Sleep paralysis is just one manifestation of worry.
There is a bit of catharsis in channeling some of these neuroses into my paintings. I hope these fears alongside love, affection, and humour are communicated through my work.
OTP What’s your experience with self-portraits been like, to date?
AF I like a lot of self-portraits by other artists (check out work by Marie Tomanova and Clara Carter!) but I’m always a little embarrassed to make them.
If I have an idea in which it’s important to the concept, or if I think it’s too awkward to subject someone else to, I’ll use myself as the model.
I don’t particularly enjoy working on self-portraits, but maybe some of that discomfort doesn't show through in the end. The process of working with others is far more enjoyable, though.
Alannah Farrell, Midsummer Night 2nd Street, 2019, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist.
OTP You are part of a creative duo with your partner and fellow artist Jared Oppenheim. How does the division of labour work when you produce a painting?
AF Jared and I met through mutual friends involved in NYC art and music scenes. We began working together on a series of painting commissions many years ago.
It kind of struck us while working on these paintings, why hadn’t we collaborated before? The division of labor was organic, and we'd discuss ideas all along the way.
Even though our styles are different, we were able to enmesh them pretty seamlessly because we have an easy time communicating ideas. Plus the process of bouncing possibilities off another artist is satisfying.
After that project, we started working on two painting series together. We had our first solo show together at Ghost Gallery in Brooklyn, NY and have an upcoming show at Kent State University in the coming fall of 2020.
OTP Are these two shows your primary focus at the moment in the way of upcoming projects?
AF Right now I’m sort of recovering from having back-to-back shows this spring/summer. I’ve had several commissions keeping me busy and am starting a new series of paintings, the first of which I just finished.
This is one of the most enjoyable phases for me, when I have ideas for multiple paintings and get to focus on spending lots of time in the studio bringing them into fruition.
Jared Oppenheim & Alannah Farrell, The Gift, 2016-17, oil on linen with steel frame, courtesy of the artists.
OTP I have heard you talk about your experience with nightlife in New York when you first arrived in the city - going to goth clubs, gay clubs, hotel parties etc. How do you think your experience with New York nightlife has changed over time?
AF Haha, well I barely have time to go out these days, as I spend most of my time in the studio! The scenes I explored as a teenager and into my young 20s all fall under the ill-defined umbrella of “alternative” I guess, despite different music and niche clothing styles.
I mean, I feel in NYC nightlife can range from folk music to hip-hop, house, techno, goth, the list goes on. Most of the alt nights at bigger clubs would have multiple parties going on simultaneously, hip-hop on the top floor, goth in the middle, and queer club kids dancing to house music in the basement.
I started working in nightlife after school and got to know people from a menagerie of music scenes.
I’m sure what’s going on now is a bit different, but my guess is the alternative scenes of NYC nightlife will always maintain a similar spirit of comradeship between misfits despite the specific styles and clubs changing.
OTP Which New York galleries do you think are producing the most interesting shows at the moment?
AF Off the top of my head there are several NYC galleries which I think have been showing interesting artists and curating recently; White Columns, Anton Kern, Thierry Goldberg, Galerie Perrotin and The Hole.
OTP What's the best film you have seen recently?
AF Burning (Korean: 버닝) by Lee Chang-dong. It’s a slow-moving psychological thriller that sucks you in with its subtly serene cinematography and real-seeming characters.
It hits upon class and geography and crime in a really interesting way, even though that’s not at the forefront of the plot.
Young people growing up during this time (regardless of where) would probably find elements of this film very relatable.
Alannah Farrell, Avenue B (Marie), 2018, oil on linen, courtesy of the artist.
OTP Are there any artists you particularly like that you’d recommend the reader looks up?
AF Some of my very favourite painters are: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Kerry James Marshall, Kurt Kauper, Vincent Desiderio, Lisa Yuskavage, Anton Van Dalen, Dike Blair, Barkley Hendricks, Alex Colville, David Byrd, Namio Harukawa, Lucian Freud, Christian Shad, Otto Dix, Meredith Frampton, William Adolphe Bouguereau, René Magritte, Marie Laurencin and Gerald Brockhurst, to name a few.
And some of my favorite contemporary artists who I’m also friends with; Marie Tomanova, Lucia Love, Chason Matthams, Alix Bailey (and her father William Bailey) Clara Carter, Mehdi Farhadian and Jane Swavely.
OTP Do you have some closing words for the reader at the end of this interview?