Tessa Farmer was born in Birmingham in 1978 and lives and works London. She is the great granddaughter of the influential writer of supernatural horror Arthur Machen. She studied at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford where she received a BFA and an MFA. She works with organic materials such as insects, bones, taxidermy and plant roots to create complex sculptural installations and stop motion animations.
A strong narrative runs through my practice. The protagonists are a species of insect sized malevolent skeleton fairies that I have been investigating since the late Nineteen Nineties. Half human, half insect they are a sophisticated race, evolving at break neck speed, with the ultimate ambition of world domination. Their development is informed by my study of the natural world and by the organic materials that I, and others find. Part amateur naturalist, part narrator, I am obsessed with discovering as much as possible about these sinister creatures.
Historically fairies were associated with demons and the dead, thought to inhabit dark unmapped places. A popular Victorian theory for the origin of fairies was that they were a long forgotten race of dwarf troglodytes, lingering on in the fringes of society, in forests, crevices and underground caverns .
The caves in Fairy Cave Quarry are regarded as some of the best decorated in the country, containing elaborate calcite formations, stalactites and stalagmites (which can seen only by dedicated cavers). The rocks themselves offer slices of ancient marine history and relics of forgotten creatures.
The main body of my work is installed in Fairy Cave Quarry. This place has an otherworldly feel and the shifting sense of scale from the vast quarry face down to the minutiae of the thriving natural world recalls Alice’s unsettling journey down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Inspired by the abundant, rare, ancient and extinct nature that inhabits Fairy Cave Quarry, and combining the real and the imagined, the installations within earthy mounds and inside rock
crevices in the quarry face offer a rare glimpse into an imagined wonderland or fairyland that lies just below and beyond the surfaces of the quarry.
Tessa’s work has been shown in international museums, galleries and collections including that of Charles Saatchi, the Ashmolean Museum and the David Roberts Collection. Recent exhibitions include ‘The Nature of the Beast’ at New Art Gallery, Walsall, ‘Red Queen’ at MONA, Tasmania, ‘Unwelcome Visitors’ at The Holburne Museum, Bath, ‘In Fairyland’ at Leeds College of Art and The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, London and ‘The Gallery of Wonder on Tour’, Northumberland. In 2007 she was artist in residence at The Natural History Museum, London and was nominated for The Times/ The South Bank Show Breakthrough award. In 2015 she won the British Science Fiction Association Art Award.Awards include Vivien Leigh Prize, a sculpture residency in King’s Wood, Kent, and Royal British Society of Sculptors Bursary Award. Exhibitions include Odyssey at Bath Abbey, Unwelcome Visitors at Holburne Museum, Bath ‘14, Thinking the Unthinkable at The Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland, Miniature Worlds at the Jerwood Space, London, and The Terror at Firstsite in Colchester.