Anoka Faruqee’s art Seems to Capture Time Itself at the Vienna Secession

Faruqee’s pulsating compositions make their solo debut in Europe

Most revolutions turn stuffy with time. But the Secession certainly tries to cultivate its reputation for unconventional contemporary art it has enjoyed since its foundation in 1897, even installing a temporary swinger club in its basement (next to Klimt’s Beethovenfries) for Swiss artist Christoph Büchel’s exhibit in 2010.

Yet sometimes, understatement is the most rewarding: Just beneath the golden foliage of its distinct dome on the way up to the Grafisches Kabinett, a luminescent circle in a dark frame shimmers in the stairwell. It’s the first of some dozen-and-a-half op art paintings, acrylic on linen, that comprise The Visible Spectrum, the latest exhibition by American painter Anoka Faruqee. One could be easily forgiven for believing that a stray stainless steel panel had somehow made its way onto the wall; the image appears shiny from afar, metallic. Drawing closer however, the illusion melts away: Its photorealistic sheen comes from oscillating concentric circles of color, imperfections intermingling to create a glossy mirage of simple, crisscrossing patterns of matte acrylic paint.

With paintings selected by the artist from her previous shows in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, The Visible Spectrum is Faruqee’s first solo exhibit in Europe. Since 1994, Faruqee has explored optical illusions, applying layer upon layer of color with a customized steel trowel to form circles and waves creating off-kilter moiré patterns, reminiscent of the static noise from television screens and computer monitors. The longer one looks, the more layers peep through from the side of each unframed panel, giving color a plastic dimension.

Time made material

Drawing inspiration from key artists of the late-20th century op art movement like Victor Vasarely, Wen-Ying Tsai and Bridget Riley overlaid with the geometric patterns of traditional Islamic art, Faruqee stretches the potential of this abstract and often methodical form into to create physical depth; scored like rings in a cross-sectioned tree trunk. these layers of motion-made-visible seem to capture time itself.

At the same time, her paintings tell microscopic stories with each imperfection, small errors –the by-products of painting by hand –that are critical. Like electromagnetic glitches, they bring the work to life by disrupting the perfect symmetry – like a ghost in the machine.

Like Bridget Riley’s wave-like painting Cataract 3 (1967), that, according to Faraquee, “uncannily compresses the past, present and future,” her work can feel like the overloaded sensory experience of a walk around the mosques of
Istanbul or the sari shops of Dhaka. Perusing The Visible Spectrum captures the sheer visual buzz of a bazaar – not merely the explosive doses of color, but the galaxy of tiny stories told in overlapping layers. It’s an  extravagant jungle of craft, artistry, aromas and sensations that continues to resonate long after leaving. It’s a unique sort of syntax, stretching time and space into a small acrylic vortex on squares
of linen.

Through Jun 25, Secession


Tristan Bath
Tristan moved to Vienna in 2015, and works as a freelance journalist, radio presenter, and online advertising consultant. He studied media in London, and also makes music, often composing scores for theatre productions. Takes tea with milk and no sugar.

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