William Farr X MAC
Beauty Papers and MAC celebrate the launch of Prep + Prime Fix+ Scents with an installation by artist William Farr: flowers made from detritus found on the streets of Peckham. “Usually the smell of the flowers cancels out the smell of the rubbish. Decay is very important to me. To me there isn’t a separation between what people perceive as decaying and what people perceive as being alive, because its all a single process.”
BEAUTY PAPERS BESPOKE
Beauty Papers: What was the last beautiful thing you saw?
William Farr: The last thing that really knocked me out, in terms of its beauty was the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Gagosian – the painting Two Figures that the whole exhibition was based around.
BP: Tell us about the installation you created for Beauty Papers x MAC.
WF: It’s a continuation of a body of work I started this year. I’ve been working for a long time with flowers found in the street. And then the logical next step was to make flowers from rubbish. So we made a lot of flowers out of rubbish that we found on the streets of Peckham, and I think it’s looking good.
"I’ve been working for a long time with flowers found in the street. And then the logical next step was to make flowers from rubbish. So we made a lot of flowers out of rubbish that we found on the streets of Peckham."
BP: When did flowers first come in to your life?
WF: I always get asked this question and it’s a really funny question to be asked, because everyone grows up looking at flowers. Unless you are literally born in the middle of the city and you never walk past a garden. Who doesn’t look at flowers? So I don’t think there was a point which flowers really hit me in the face. In the beginning, for a long time I had no awareness that I even liked flowers. It just kept happening. When I was younger I would collect them and press them. I was always a kind of hoarder, or a collector. It went from your obvious things like stamps, rocks, shells, bones, to stranger things like rubbish.
BP: And when did you start to work with flowers in your art?
WF: There were always flowers in my sketchbooks in high school. At college me and my friend would drive around in a car at night, getting high and stealing flowers from people’s gardens and putting them in her car. Then I would press them. I had all these books and I’d stack them all on top of each other. You know everything that I do, it’s not very considered. I never researched how to press a flower, so half of them would go mouldy or not really work out. But then that was what I enjoyed about it, the mark it left on the paper or the mouldiness of it. I think that’s something that I still love, the moment someone looks at something and there’s such a close line between them thinking “that’s shit” or “wow that’s beautiful.” And taking something that’s of no value like rubbish from the streets around Peckham, and creating an illusion to people, that when they look at it they find it beautiful. I think that’s really interesting. That’s why I hate flowers as well, because people instantly think that they are pretty or nice or beautiful, and I don’t see them like that. People associate flowers with weddings, Valentines day, love, romance. For me they’ve been such a constant part of my life. I was always obsessed with the detail of things, jewellery and textures. The texture of something when you take it apart, smashing up an old clock, the cogs inside it, how it all fits together, how something ages, whether you can age something yourself or not. Combining those things, “something new, something old, something borrowed and something blue” I always think that about my work. If you can combine all of these things together, it’s like making a little potion, and something works and then you see it differently.
BP: Other than flowers what are some of your favourite materials to work with?
WF: Well it’s just mostly flowers and rubbish. I like to work in different mediums. I like to frame my work on different platforms in different circumstances, so it could be digital, it could be video, it could be something more physical or sculptural, something that people could access in a physical space. I think I will stop with these bloody flowers and rubbish at some point. It’s hard because as an artist when you are developing a body of work, you see it changing, and you want to continue it. It’s a kind of addiction, because you know there’s this outcome that you’re going for and you’re getting closer and closer and you see the work build and build and build. But then a part of you resents it and gets sick of it, and sick of yourself because you really look at yourself within it. You kind of have to live with it all the time. The only way to describe it is obsession. It’s like when you’re in a relationship and you’re obsessed with the person but you’re also in love with them, and you can’t separate those two things. In terms of different mediums, to me there’s no medium that’s less or more valid, I don’t like things that are too simple because I find it visually boring, personally.
"To me there isn’t a separation between what people perceive as decaying and what people perceive as being alive, because its all a single process."
BP: Does there always need to be a whiff of decay?
WF: Usually the smell of the flowers cancels out the smell of the rubbish. Decay is very important to me. To me there isn’t a separation between what people perceive as decaying and what people perceive as being alive, because its all a single process. We are all always decaying. I don’t want to make work that talks about a single experience- my experience. It’s meant to talk about the human condition, and everything as it is now. Obviously we produce so much waste, we try to hide it, we try our best to hide all our waste like a secret. It’s funny because people are talking a lot about rubbish now, I never grew up seeing rubbish as rubbish, I’d find my teddy bear in a river. I never saw the separation. There was never a point where someone told me “that’s dangerous” or to “stop.” It’s funny hearing people tell kids to stop or “be careful” because it’s instilling constant fear.
BP: Regarding beauty, what do you think has informed your personal language of beauty? and what do you find ugly?
WF: Knowing and working with other creatives in London has been really amazing. It’s something that I feel so privileged to have been a part of. When I was younger I felt very isolated in my creativity and then I began to see people share it and share it with each other. And I think that’s amazing. That to me is quite beautiful, but how do I understand beauty? I guess through nature. Where I come from there are mills decaying everywhere, a post industrial town. You are constantly surrounded by decay. We are living in the decay of this civilisation, and that is beautiful, The most beautiful thing is the present. A lot of creatives talk about what’s next, the future. There’s nothing less creative than sentimentalism. Creatives that aren’t willing to kill their work or throw it out are crap, that’s just a basic rule.
BP: Do you have a beauty routine? Any favourite products?
WF: I do have a beauty routine. I’m actually far too obsessed with skincare products, but I didn’t start using any skincare products until I was 24. I do want to stay looking young, I do everything; I use a cleanser, toner, serums, moisturisers and a little bit of concealer if I’m looking tired.
BP: Living, dead, real or imaginary … who is the most beautiful one of all?
WF: All of them together, without one or the other it doesn’t work.