McFarland has become known for his ability to take photography and all of it’s attributes into new territories, through digital photo compositing of multiple film exposures into one seamless and perfectly sharp composition. These large-scale photographs such as the Sugar Shack work from 2013, rendered any manipulation invisible, creating works that that were hyper-real. With the advancement of social media tools and widgets we have become accustomed to the manipulated photo, accustomed to the lie that is the image. In the years since completing these earlier works we find McFarland ever more prevalent, as technology and particularly photography manipulation advances to the everyday user, McFarland’s work seems to contain a more violent undertone, where we see the mechanics of analogue photography literally smashed open, what was before hidden or cleaned away now takes a front seat, dirt and decay are allowed to prevail, duration and process is laid bare, to create images that are at one forensic and equally cinematic.
Inky black soot stains the hearth of a fireplace in McFarland’s work from his new series called Villa. Fireplace (2018) a life size chromogenic print mounted onto a lightbox puts the viewer into an abandoned space, the only sign of human presence is the residue that has been left behind for what seems like an eternity. Channeling the cinematic through the still photograph and somewhat reminiscent of the atmosphere created in the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, this full scale high resolution print, communicates movement through decay as nature inevitably takes hold. Metaphors for the photographic process can be traced throughout; blackness where there was once light emits a soggy dampness where there was once heat.
Moving to Villa’s exterior Colonnade sets the narrative in motion, as we are presented with a slow pan of the same neglected estate as Fireplace, setting his camera up in a vertical position the artist slowly traces the estate horizontally in a 360 degree motion through unkempt foliage and crumbling columns. The panoramic presented as a portrait develops through to the exhibitions title work Shattered Glass, 2015 this epic diptych comprises of a transmounted chromogenic print and 4K video displayed on a UHD monitor. We see a winter landscape through a blizzard of shattered glass. This pane of glass the largest of its kind,is made obsolete through its destruction, however rather than this violent fragmentation severing our viewing experience, the glass layer instead fuses with the frozen background, creating seamless harmony between camera, window, vista and the dual presentation devices. Both the still image and the moving image have been presented using custom built formats, harnessing the latest LCD technology allows the artist to present both still and moving pictures as equal and of the same standing, previously not achievable.
Lens Cleaning is a series of photographs that again explores the multiple layers associated with both creating and looking at a photograph. While we have become increasingly accustomed with the clean photograph, dirt, dust and hair throughout the history of photography has essentially been seen as the enemy of the photographer. In this series the artist deliberately makes it his duty to introduce dust and dirt at every stage of the photographs making. The image itself shows the artist cleaning his 4 x 5 lens whilst wearing a coloured ‘particular brand’ of cotton crewneck Jersey T-shirt, specifically good for cleaning lenses. These Torso shots (in kodak yellow and red) show the physical act of cleaning, through the movement of two exposures indicating the camera set-up. Photo debris is exposed under the photo enlarger and again it is introduced physically preserved between the framed glass and print.
Scott McFarland lives and works in Toronto, Canada. His works are included in public collections such as the MoMA, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, the SFMoMA, the Walker Art Center, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. In 2014, the Art Gallery of Ontario exhibited McFarland’s solo exhibition Snow, Shacks, Streets, Shrubs which surveyed his recent work. Other major surveys of McFarland’s work have been exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada (2010) and the Vancouver Art Gallery (2009). Most recently, McFarland exhibited at the SFMoMA (About Time), Sky Leaks at Fort Gansevoort, New York, as well as Lens Cleaning included in a Handful of Dust curated by David Campany.