September 16 – October 21, 2018

The Pulse by Ancil Farrell, is a solo exhibition of ceramic sculptures that celebrate the regenerative power of clay and the natural forces within the process of making. Arranged as a cyclical narrative unfolding in the intimate space of Emmanuel Barbault gallery, each sculpture is a unique textural and rhythmic vessel that navigates the swells of fear, resilience, and joy in life. 

Farrell spent his formative years in Trinidad and Tobago, a volcanic island where the boundary between the ocean waves and the edge of the land are in constant negotiation. These geologic origins have made their impact on the trinity of water, earth, and fire that is present in Farrell’s practice. The artist references the elements through ceramic processes; stretching, tearing, and adding clay into forms that recall magma, waves, and coral reefs. Similar to coral colonies teeming with symbiotic relationships, Farrell harmonizes his subject, expressivity, and material. Mirroring the formation of volcanic land, Farrell’s sculptures embody a collision of natural forces resulting in the creation of active and sealed movements.

An example of the active type is the sculpture Self. Suggestive of both excretions and knots, the form appears to grow beyond itself to activate the surrounding space. It is texturally vibrant and reverberating. Rough, striated flows parley with a smooth and softly glazed exterior to reveal subtle nuances at the intersection of the contrasting surfaces.

The sealed forms, exemplified by the sculpture Anxious, freeze the transformative energy. They are caught in the process of cooling down and dwell in a state of inwardness. The flatness of the dark earthy surface is used as a relief, where a solid glaze allows the eye to rest and monumentalize the moment of change.

Both are simultaneously expressive and subtle gestures that strive to unify the self by overcoming a fear of the unknown. According to the artist, each sculpture considers three versions of self: the outside view, self-perception, and the actual self. This inner navigation creates power objects akin to the Polynesian Stick Charts, of the Rebbelib type, used as nautical maps to guide travelers between islands and major ocean swells. These charts, woven from the midribs of coconut leaves, are humble in their materiality and made in privacy where the navigator shapes their empirical knowledge through their sense of touch in order to overcome fear of facing the ocean. The final charts were never carried during the journey and their meaning was only accessible to the navigators who made them.

The parallels between Polynesian charts and Farrell’s sculptures are many. Most important is the conquering of fear through making. The significant differences are the choice of material and the accessibility of each object. Farrell regards clay as,the most forgiving material”, referring to its malleability and the space it opens for mercy, absolution, and love through craft. His practice is grounded in thinking through making, honoring the emotional imprint of the natural environment through touch. Nature communicates through actions and evidence of its presence, without words, which makes the meaning of each sculpture less definable and more felt. In this way, Farrell presents forms that invite the audience to discover their own therapeutic experiences through communion with his work.

A pulse is evidence of life. It reminds us of our inseparable ties with everything living and our proximity to death. For Farrell, the act of making embodies the responsibility of facing the unknowns of self where great vulnerability shapes the autonomous power of his objects. With The Pulse, Farrell offers an intimate view into his cycles of fear and joy and an invitation for us to courageously search our own horizons.


Nataša Prljević is a multidisciplinary artist from Serbia based in Brooklyn. Prljević is a curator and organizer at HEKLER collective and the Executive and Curatorial Assistant at Residency Unlimited (RU) where she facilitates networking, project support, and public programing for national and international artists and curators in residence. Honors include: KulturKontakt Austria Grant; Rackham International Student Fellowship/ Chia-Lun Lo Fellowship, University of Michigan; Dedalus Foundation Master of Fine Arts Fellowship in Painting and Sculpture Nomination; and most recently, a guest artist honor at Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna, Chiang Mai and Poh Chang Academy of Arts in Bangkok, Thailand. Prljević holds an MFA from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a BFA from Academy of Arts Novi Sad, Serbia.