EXHIBITION NOTE ON & FOR STAN FARLEY's HAIRST, SCULPTURE; 1-16 February, 2006; at Gallery 101, Collins Street, Melbourne.
Mention humour in our time and you evoke Duchamp & Beckett & their legion of subordinates whose trajectories too often intersect the banal & puerile for any distinction to remain. Stan Farley's work gurgles with humour though it may well be the philosophical chuckle on the other side of political tears. Arguably he's possessed of Nietzsche's "golden laughter", described as the philosophers' peak grade. The gods also laughed, Nietzsche speculated; "they cannot refrain from laughter even in the presence of holy acts."
Moving from canvas painting to sculpture, from poetic painter (I'm thinking of Farley's show at Tolarno's, twenty-odd years ago, for which William Blake & Samuel Palmer remains my abiding sense & feel of it : golden wheatfields over looked by the angels) to painter poet, isn't an art-world strategy but a life-world imperative.
"What's the world without words worth?" one of his plaques proclaims. The sentence, recalling Ian Hamilton-Finlay's stone carvings & gnomic humour, isn't required to substantiate his poetic thought but does so anyway. The pun redeems Wordsworth as Nature Poet, spiritual seeker in times of upheaval, within a question about language & ultimate meaning. I feel Stan Farley's actually proposing that without words (poetry), life is worthless; additionally that meaning is garnered from speech & text, not from materials per se.
An exquisite paradox is that his work is hardly immaterial, for it's as much an expression of the materials as a use of them. Wood, for example, demands its outgrowth as though the sculpture were foliage of an essential idea.
Stan Farley's work abounds in personality. No self-portrait as such but a diffusion of identity & necessity as natural as his dearest Australian, European & British landscapes --those one imagines him recognizing as the contours of earthly bliss.
Somehow, the more personal & particular the practice the more redolent of the universal it seems to be.
His art is to successfully encourage a sense of familiarity; to make guests of strangers, shepherding us through the palimpsest he can't help but recover of the daily straight & narrow.
[This version of the Note contains the slightest corrections to that printed for Stan Farley's exhibition. On the night, John Wolseley launched the exhibition and the Note was available to be read.]