When you step through the door of Firouz’s Tarifa workshop, you could almost forget that you are at the very edge of Europe, at the confines of a continent. At the apex of a fixed point, alongside windy beaches, a stone’s throw from from Africa, at the center of Spain’s largest natural park. Sheltered by this immense concrete bloc, a motionless darkroom frozen in the midst of the elements, he strives tirelessly, in a relentless and perpetual movement, to make his abstraction more and more organic.
Sophie Abou Chahine
« The evolution of my rapport to painting is intimately linked to the progressive intensification of my connection to nature. It was first translated by an instinctive return to paper, like a return to the roots of “gestuality”, with pastels, aquarelle, gouache or crayons. This research of new linearities, this exploration of movement, its anchoring in geological and concrete abstraction, have slowly led me back to canvas , to the frame. They naturally demanded the use of new materials : Sennelier oil sticks and specially scouted Moroccan pigments. This approach now nourishes a vast segment of my work, including the Strata series that I have the pleasure of presenting at Galerie Golan Rouzkhosh’s new space in Hamburg."
A Ray of Living Energy : Firouz FarmanFarmaian's Strata series (2016)
Dr. Jean-Baptiste Chantoiseau
Teacher at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University
Editor of the Musée Rodin – Paris
“Nature is all motion and an art that wishe[s] to give a faithful
and conscientious interpretation of life [cannot] make rest […].”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Firouz FarmanFarmaian is an accomplished and multi-disciplinary artist. His paintings and videos show how deeply he has always been decided to take up two significant challenges in contemporary visual arts: on the one hand, the need to keep, while working on a project, a spontaneous gesture to unleash a genuine flood of sensations and colours – in respect of this issue, he has been too easily compared with Jackson Pollock, due to a misinterpretation according to me – and on the other hand, the burning necessity, not only to save from oblivion, but to discover the richness of a fading past that could turn out to be an endless source of inspiration.
In 2016 with Strata, an ongoing series of square format canvases (200 x 200 to 140x140cm) full of incandescent colours and energy, he doesn't offer a mere synthesis of his two artistic features. On the contrary, his invigorating style introduces a new exploration of the true origin of movement, both in life and in painting itself as though, in so doing, he wanted to prove how much a work of art can be alive if you succeed to connect it with a primary energy or what Friedrich Nietzsche, iconoclast as well before the eternal, would have called an “animalic vigor.” Such wild vibrations and unlimited expressiveness naturally emerge through vivid and restless compositions: for instance Strata IV is riddled with powerfully ondulating blue and red lines that seem to represent a shock of electricity that pulses through the canvas; the same stimulus gives birth, in Strata VI, to a hypnotic tornado among layers of shimmering purple paint; a joyful net of wavy lines animated, on a pale pink background, a feast for the eye in Strata IX whereas in Strata I a surreal vegetation emerges from bright grey, yellow and white brushstrokes. For Firouz FarmanFarmaian, stillness would be unnatural and menacing. There is always and necessarily an uncontrollable wave at the very heart of his paintings. Each Strata then could be seen like a captor of sensibility or a magnetic field. Lines do appear full of life and never rigid. The painter seems to experiment with his series Kandinski's lesson: “A line is a track made by the moving point; that is, its product. It is created by movement – specifically through the destruction of the intense self-contained repose of the point.”
As animated as it is, it would be a huge mistake to consider that there is neither shadow nor depth in such a universe. Let's analyse one of the most important piece of the series: Strata V. At first glance, one might see a stack of horizontal layers set up by moving and criss-crossing white lines. Strata V expresses in this way the very geological meaning of the word “strata”. However there is so much more to see. If you just apprehend the piece from top to bottom or side to side you miss its richness. The viewer has to go through its surface made of waves to discover its incredible deepness full of subtle details. Then appears a kind of black skin whose texture seems to represent the finest lines engraved on the palm of our hands. To disclose a strata hidden by another one, to confront them, to play with them and free them within a colourful and powerful symphony: here lies the very heart of Firouz FarmanFarmaian's Strata experience. The work on material that he does with his Strata makes him close to Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis whose aim is to excavates the deepest strata of the unconscious while fighting all kind of censorship. When you patiently work « strata after strata », as Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, you give a chance to your art to be far from academic expectations and you open-up your imagination while dreaming on the material, as Gaston Bachelard would have said.
However I think that the material is never an end in itself for Firouz FarmanFarmaian. Here lies the very difference between him and a Jackson Pollock who has always been inclined to put in the limelight the materiality of his creations: Pollock's paintings expose the medium in its pure nudity to show its luminous glow. Conversely, with Firouz FarmanFarmaian, the medium, as powerful as it is, disappears in the end because it is precisely taken for what it is: a means to conduce you to another place, to another meaning, to another dream. The spiritual and material worlds are never in opposition to one another in his paintings. This is why I see in his art works the outburst of a shamanic and iconoclast spirit. Which his array of colours, his tremendous freedom and visceral energy, Firouz FarmanFarmaian drives his viewer to experiment an astounding return to the beginning of life, of light, of movement. This complete immersion in his Strata, which included many earthquakes and breakthroughs, invite us to perceive, not only what is most deeply embedded inside the painting, but as well inside of us to enlarge our mental faculties. He offers then a mirror that could reveal itself as a true Fountain of Youth, echoing up from one Strata to another in a palpitating and infinite circle.