Transgressions one of ArtScene’s best

One of the most interesting exhibits in Art Scene is found at Octane Inter Lounge with Jason Farris’ Transgressions, consisting of oil paintings and ink drawings. Transgressions is at once appealing and disturbing, above all hard to forget. At first, the works seem pretty, some almost comical, some like large illustrations. But the more you look, the more you notice that all is not as it seems.

The most obvious characteristic in Farris’ oil paintings is the color. This is not color that is shy, with strong complementary colors, hallucinogenic in their intensity, that demands the viewer’s attention and keeps it. The paintings are built with color as the driving force behind composition, a way to unify the elements of the piece, and to increase their emotional tension.

Transgressions’ power lies not only in the use of color, but in the strangeness, the disturbing quality of the images. The show’s title means an act of violation of law or moral code, and the paintings explore transgressions of all arenas in the dark side of human nature. But as the devil is said to appear as a beautiful angel, acts that defy deeply-held taboos are depicted with the most manically bright colors of the palette.

Many of the paintings are nightmarishly cartoon like, with their skewed perspective populated by malevolent figures. Violence is a common theme in the works, be it the message about violence and society in a painting of Alex and his droogs from the film Clockwork Orange, or the real violent acts of notorious serial killer and cannibal Albert Fish. Violence is approached in its smaller forms, such as All Good Cats Go to Heaven, depicting a young wide-eyed girl holding a struggling cat. The image is based on an incident of a neighbor girl drowning her kittens in a wading pool that Farris witnessed as a child. The fear of impending violence and nightmares is seen in Mr. Sandman Waits, as an ominous figure in a bedroom looms over a child with dark circles under her eyes.

Arguably the most successful piece in Transgressions is Dinner With Albert Fish. Without knowing the story of the serial killer from the 1930s, the image of a crablike man eating alone is unsettling. While his expression is benign, the position of his outstretched arm seems unnatural, somehow wrong. The hand resting on the table shows reddish traces, as if soaked in blood. He is eating from an empty plate. The distorted table and background are painted in bright green and red, with an odd yellowish light illuminating the scene. The anxiety and restrained violence of the piece is spectacular.

Later, Farris explains that the emptiness of the plate and the sparse composition implies the emptiness of violence. The strange position of the hand is intentional, too, derived from a martial arts move used to cut into the human body. Farris cites his violent painting technique and application of paint as the basis for his chosen theme. The artist applies the paint with his hands, not with brushes, working as fast as he can. After all, creation can be a violent business, too.

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