‘The goal is to make life itself a work of Art’
– Henry Miller
(On the painting ‘Mirrors’…) ‘Suddenly you are in a space and it feels like you shouldn’t be there’ – Claire Milner
‘Movies are… lovers , heroes and villains. We may enjoy a beautiful motion picture story, but life is seldom like that; if on the other hand it is too realistic who wants to see more of life as it is, when he/she goes to be entertained?’ – Paramahansa Yogananda
Reality is a set of things we know to be the case…
The catalyst for the idea of ‘men and women’ series in a space with a non obvious narrative grew out of themes from my Kitchen Sink and Whitechapel paintings and was triggered in a slightly new direction with the painting ‘Mirrors’ 2003 (detail above).
‘Mirrors’ probably came out of ‘There’s a Place 1993’ ten years earlier.
‘We are not identical with mirror images, and we can never fully go into their place, just as we never fully go into the place of other people’ – Darian Leader
‘”…to hold , as ‘were, the mirror up to nature.” – Shakespeare
Contextually ‘Mirrors’ was painted at the dawn of the ‘reality show’ phase of television with voyeuristic shows such as ‘Big Brother’ which in turn were born out of the 1971 sociological ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’. The music I was listening to at this time was Pulp and songs like – ‘The Common People’ and ‘Underwear’
‘Mirrors’ features my wife Emma and I. We had moved into our new home with our young daughters. It is an unidealized work and has elements of the ‘kitchen sink’. No carpets on the floor etc. and a feeling of the ‘Theater of Situations’ of Sartre.
This idea then developed into using models in more depersonalised spaces like hotels which are more anonymous / transient settings that change according to whoever occupies the space at any one time. This allowed me to construct scenarios rather than record them and expound subconscious and philosophical ideas allowing me to create my own ‘realities’.
The visual influences for these works come from both art and cinema: Hitchcock /surrealists/ Magritte/ Antonioni (Love Forever) In ‘Not for Sale’ and ‘Love Forever’ there are elements of the notion of ‘Courtly love’ which for Lacan is a paradigm of sublimation. In ‘Not For Sale’ there is a clear fall off of light from light to dark. ‘Not for Sale’ incorporates ideas on ‘the mirage of the object of desire.’ ‘The art work that the art thief doesn’t have comes to represent that which is beyond the register of tradable, price – tagged objects. It becomes an object of desire par excellence, something absolute that cannot be subject to the laws of exchange’ – Darian Leader. For me this is what Art in its truest sense is but talk to most artists and their main topic of converstaion is money.
In the ‘Men & Women’ series I started to incorporate the idea of paintings within paintings. The paintings/windows/mirrors on the wall offer alternate spaces for meaning. This comes to the fore in the Straubenzee portrait that I did later one where I appropriate the paintings that appear in the Wallace Collection with things that have a meaning or an interest for me.
‘Furr shows the opinion that humans could find essence in their interdependence and relationships. In the postmodern world where technology, ambition, individualism and chaos sometimes leave one to retreat into self-imposed loneliness introspection, Furr’s output often consists of domestic interiors in which one or two figures are shown sitting , playing musical instruments or wrapped up in their thoughts. Like Robert Henri, he underlines the importance of everyday life and in his paintings “Mirrors”, “Not for sale”, “Red & Black” he captures transient moments in the life of people seeking different ways of representing men or women , developing a method by which they are depicted with scientific accuracy and details so that his paintings become like a mirror of the visible world full of metaphors and vivid colours remembering R.Magritte’s statement “Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see”
“In Furr’s painting “Mirrors” the man is sitting with his absent gaze fixed in front of him and he is characterized by solitary quietness and melancholy. He sits stiff and he does not seem take part in the scene becoming a symbol of the subtle melancholic loneliness of modern life. What might he be thinking while sitting on the chair? The answer could be linked to the “Theatre of the Absurd” and to its main exponents such as Kafka, Beckett, Pinter. Like them he introduces recurrent themes such as the room, silence, solitude or inability to communicate. Magritte’s two lovers recall the impossibility to truly communicate that we can also find in T.S. Eliot’s poems The Waste Land and Woolf’s novels.
If Camus said “The divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, truly constitutes the feeling of Absurdity” , Furr tends to withdraw into ourselves indulging in meditation, confrontation and introspection, individualism or egotism, emphasizing that the inner being is just an incessantly chattering voice, or voices, neither personal nor unique. Words are useless, there is nothing outside language except the silence recalling Novalis’s verses “The silence is the caustic of soul”
Freud hinted that life may be regarded as merely a “disease of matter” and Furr stresses the theme of monotony and loneliness and reproduces the mysterious, difficult and incomprehensible life that often closes man on his own silence stressing the fact that the solitude can be experienced most intensely among millions or in the couple remembering
E. Montale’s verses” There flows between us an underwater light that distorts the profile of your face…every gesture of yours enters without wake…and I flow into the power that weighs around me, into the spell of no longer recognizing anything of myself”
It seems that man is in the dilemma of being unable to find any essential purpose to his actions, the dilemma of existentialism, of being confronted with choices in day-to-day living and having to invent purposes and meanings for himself without any metaphysical or intrinsic principles to guide him recalling Saba’s verses: “Around a solitary greatness…you hear nothing but silence, see nothing but air” and Samuel Beckett’s statement: ”Nous attendons. Nous nous ennuyons…”
Passive life is manifested through the character’s immobility and the result is a synthesis between the Sartrean existentialism and idealism where humans thrust into a world with no essence. Thus, his paintings assume a universal significance as a symbol both of life, annihilation, hope and dream recalling Emily Dickinson’s verses: “There is a solitude of space, a solitude of sea..a soul admitted to itself- Finite Infinity”
In ” Love forever” the flowers represent romantic or eternal love remembering Virgil’s verses “Omnia vincit amor et nos cedamus amori”.
Furr’s characters seem to be clever, elegant, bright and self-confident but show thoughtful circular movements. In “Not for sale” the woman’s gaze is penetrating and absent while the man is playing the instrument giving the painting a timeless quality in which sound is a universal dream. They are together but they are alone.
It is important to notice that his work shows an everyday scene, the couple is shown indoors, it is realistic but it is represented in an imaginative atmosphere. In Dali’s works the bond between man and woman is troubled by ambivalent feelings of dependence and in Furr’s paintings the couples are seen as people whose relationships seem defective or even impossible remembering Catullus’s verses: “I hate and love. How can I do that, you might ask me perhaps? I do not know. But that’s what I feel and this is torture.”
Thus he could be connected to De Chirico because he describes not only the external world but also a world infused by dream and feelings combining in a single composition “scenes of contemporary life and visions, producing a highly troubling reality” It is therefore through an aesthetic contemplation that Furr juxtaposes reality and dream and in “The girl with the green cloth” love is a man presented from the back while in “Love forever” we remember R.Browning’s verses: “She looked on, and her looks went everywhere”
Often provided with a surrealistic opening from outside, the room or the bedroom can symbolize a refuge, a sort of motherly womb, a sort of property or a kind of prison for the modern couple, the end of a relationship and sexual atrophy.
The slender, elegant figures of women in his symbolic painting “Flesh and Blood” create a perfect frame of volume and colour never indefinite or blurred but sonorous and magnificent. The mirror is the symbol of man’s double personality, it could represent social hypocrisy while In “Red and Black” it idealizes the woman’s beauty and represents the union of the real and the ideal because she sees the mirror as a reflection of her own soul, as an independent being but she is extraneous to herself and wants to keep eternal youth.”- Cappello