The Art of Thalia Farendla of JiPL Arts
The early morning sun shoots a beam across a yellowing strip of salvaged metal as Thalia Farendla of JiP L Arts wields her tools to excavate new life from this abandoned scrap. Her petite frame belies her strength as the twenty-eight-year-old molds and creates unique, resurrected forms from forgotten items. With a determined demeanor, she forges an innovative, artistic statement birthing the piece into a new incarnation. Working with metal requires a lot of patience and skill, creating art from such repurposed materials takes even more time and accuracy. Some artists working in this tradition create more representational works, but Farendla prefers a more interpretive approach. You might say she unearths the “soul” of what is hidden in lost pieces. She is working in an ancient tradition that has evolved over millennia.
If necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, then the development of tools from the discovery of copper and subsequent metal derivatives is a testament to human ingenuity for utilitarian purposes. However, the use of such materials for artistic expression is a much more complex consideration. What we can surmise is that it speaks to the indominable creative impetus within us reaching back to the earliest of times, as crafting objects from metal can be traced back over nine thousand years ago. In ancient Rome and Greece artisans crafted awe-inspiring bronze statues as well as furniture and household utensils made from various metallic substances as they gradually learned to produce alloys of iron and copper. This expanded into the creation of dazzling pieces of jewelry and other objets d’art that served more of an aesthetic appeal than simply just a practical purpose. Craftsmanship was perfected throughout the centuries giving rise to elaborate as well as functional uses for metal creations. Today’s artists working in this genre have additional imperatives for pursuing this art form. Given the need for recycling in a world where a disposable mentality has created great harm to our ecosystem, these artists are also essential societal leaders in reclamation, producing both functional and inventive works of art.
My introduction to Farendla came several months after our family moved to France from the United States at the end of 2018. As anyone who has visited France can attest to, simply walking around the cities and villages offers multiple opportunities to appreciate the artistic sensibility of the French people. No one can argue that great works of art have always been born in France, and Farendla does honor to that tradition. She refers to herself as a créatrice de peintures sculpturales. She grew up in Strasbourg, France, a city close to the German border. Her birth mother, Beatrix, was of Austrian descent. Tragically, she passed away when Farendla was only three years old. She was raised by her step-mother, a painter, and her father, a sculptor who works with metals, and who served as her first role model. They brought Farendla and her siblings to numerous exhibitions where they were exposed to the works of Giacometti, Bacon, Kiefer and many others. She has also been inspired by the art of sculptor Bernar Venet, by Lee Jae Hyo who works with pebbles and stones, and by the contemporary artists of Monumenta. These are exhibitions held at the Grand Palais in Paris whose spacious scale is well suited to what is most often very large and expansive work. Kiefer worked in recycled pieces and was the first artist to exhibit at Monumenta in 2007 followed by others such as Anish Kapoor, a British Indian sculptor, who exhibited in 2011, and whose work has inspired Farendla as well. In addition, her parents were pioneers in supporting organic foods and holistic living which reinforced her philosophy of reclaiming and preserving the natural foundations of our bodies and the earth.
Approximately eleven years ago, at the age of 17, Farendla was in a very severe car accident that rendered her unable to walk for a period of time. Bedridden and in pain, she had the opportunity to think about her life and her future. She felt drawn to the idea of working with her father, Jean-Patrick Lachapelle, in his studio as a sort of therapy for the rage and helplessness she was experiencing. Lachapelle is internationally respected in his field, and by apprenticing under him she found expression through her art that was birthed out of adversity. In this regard, she likes to say that she was “born under an anvil.”
Her first work was done in conjunction with her father and became a collection called “The Soul of Wrecks.” From scraps and discarded metal items, she was able to see the spirit and possibilities harbored within these forgotten pieces. She and her friends and associates roam as scavengers searching for fragments that cry out for resurrection. She forges these into a palette or sheets not knowing in advance what the final product will look like. Her moods and emotions imbue the work as they take shape. Some scraps remain dormant in the studio for a few months or even years until they speak to her and “ask her” to shape them. Some are crafted of a single piece of metal, while others form a sort of patchwork of various pieces. Sometimes they match up to her original vision and, at other times, they take on a direction of their own. She names each work in a rather simple or vague manner, not wishing to “lock up the piece” into a particular category or to dictate a response in the observer. She sees artwork as changing over time and experience. For this reason, she has chosen not to create figurative paintings and to work with a more fluid approach.
As the owner of two JiP L. pieces, “In the Morning Sun” and “Hot Wreck,” I can attest to the powerful response they invoke in the viewer. The former piece is rather large (42.2 x 61 x 1.8 inches), and its blend of yellows and grays does indeed remind one of a moody daybreak, remarkably crafted from a discarded hot water heater. Yet, as you study it, you can see the trunk and expansive branches of a large tree and, alternatively, a herd of elephants crossing the Serengeti. “Hot Wreck” is a smaller work (31 x 23 x 5.2 inches), so expertly integrated and impressionistic, that it almost seems as if it had been painted in oils. There is at once a sense of collision yet harmony, of landscapes hovering over one another, of ocean and air.
As an homage, Farendla adopted the artistic name of JiP L. JiP is a German female name she particularly likes that means to chase and pursue, and she added the “L” for Lachapelle, the surname of her father and guide. Her family enjoys telling the story of her birth, saying she was so curious and in such a hurry to see the world that she was almost born on the rear seat of her father’s Jeep on the way to the hospital. That curiosity and ambition has certainly translated into the work of a world-class artist. In the five years since she first began working with her father, she has discovered her true calling. While this is the only genre she works in, recently she decided to branch out within it, creating a line of functional art in metal furnishings. Her approach to this new line is inspired by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi that is similar to the Scandinavian concept of minimalism. “Wabi” refers to a sort of understated rustic elegance while “sabi” honors the flaws of imperfection that provide their own beauty with age. It celebrates the joy of what is natural and authentic which can certainly be attributed to her methodology and artistic intention. Her materials will remain the same but will become part of the world of interior design. Several prototypes are already cast but are not yet available. This new collection, appropriately called “Redemption WS,” will launch in the near future.
Farendla is moving to a new gallery location at Paray-le-Monial, a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in the region of Burgundy in eastern France, where visitors can stop by, meet her, view her creations, and make purchases in person. She remarks that people are often quite surprised that such a diminutive young woman works so adeptly with difficult materials and machinery, grinding, welding, and cutting. She admits it can be challenging, but meeting those challenges is a key to her success.
Farendla participates in international art fairs, and her manager, Caroline Silvina of CalliArts Agency, promotes the gallery on social media, websites, at fairs and in competitions. This allows her more time to work in her studio. She is currently seeking companies or galleries who can sponsor her work, and she would like to be included in more international exhibits.
Thalia Farendla’s work will be exhibited next at:
Salon International d’Art Contemporain, Toulouse Parc des Expositions, February 28 – March 1, 2020 https://www.art3f.fr/index.php/fr/toulouse
Salon International d’Art Contemporain, Haute-Savoie, May 15-17, 2020 https://www.art3f.fr/index.php/fr/art3f-haute-savoie
Karen Corinne Herceg writes poetry, prose, reviews and essays. Her latest book is Out From Calaboose by Nirala Publications (2017). She lives in France.