‚ÄúAs the chemist in his experiments is sometimes astonished to find unknown, unexpected elements in the crucible of the receiver, as the world of material things is considered by some a thin veil of the immaterial universe, so he who reads wonderful prose or verse is conscious of suggestions that cannot be put into words, which do not rise from the logical sense, which are rather parallel to than connected with sensuous delight. The world so disclosed is rather the world of dreams.‚ÄĚ
Arthur Machen, ‚ÄėThe Hill of Dreams‚Äô, 1907
Tessa Farmer creates microscopically detailed sculptures ‚Äď collectively named ‚Äėhell‚Äôs angels‚Äô and ‚Äėfairies‚Äô. Their intricate skeletal forms are crafted from organic material including tree roots and insectile remains. Like the Wright sisters, she presents objects not as the result of exceptional ingenuity but as ‚Äėfound objects‚Äô. The artist describes herself as an intermediary, like a Victorian naturalist bringing a newly discovered species to public attention. These fairies are presented as being simply parts of the natural world that have yet to be classified. As the artist remarks, ‚Äúthe first fairy emerged, foetal life, from deep inside a vibrant red tulip‚Ä¶ the first swarm invaded Oxford during June 2000, and were to return three years later, having evolved and shrunk to the size of small insects‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ The artist‚Äôs extraordinary creations appear as phantasms or apparitions in our immediate field of vision, inspiring both genuine wonder and amazement, as the Wright sisters‚Äô fairies did a century earlier.
They‚Äôre ordinarily too small to view properly without a magnifying glass, forcing us to inspect them at an extreme and unnervingly close range. Her battalions of warring angels are each some ten millimetres tall, and often seen in intense combat swarming around ‚Äėreal‚Äô, found insects. Presenting her own ‚Äėnew‚Äô species alongside ‚Äėreal‚Äô flies and wasps blurs the boundaries between the fantastical and the natural. Seen at an uncomfortable proximity, our eye accepts the continuity between the two, and reads the fairies as sensate, animate beings. The artist‚Äôs ability to endow raw materials with a life-force brings to mind Emile Zola‚Äôs dictum that ‚Äúthe artist‚Äôs struggle with reality‚Ä¶ is in trying to make something that ‚Äėlives‚Äô‚ÄĚ. It is almost impossible to distinguish between the organic ‚Äėraw materials‚Äô in front of our eyes and the fantasies that we want to believe in.