New Haven Register

John Favret’s exhibit at New Haven library is a real gem

Sunday, September 12, 2010
By Judy Birke,


NEW HAVEN — Every now and then one comes across an artist with whom one is unfamiliar, whose work is so good that it is hard to imagine that one hasn’t come across it before.

John L. Favret is such an artist.

A fine exhibit of his acrylic paintings is currently on view at the New Haven Free Public Library through Oct. 2.

Consisting of a group of life-sized figurative images reminiscent of the German Expressionists of the first half of the 20th century, who used figuration to express inner feelings, Favret approaches his subject matter from an expressionist rather than a realistic point of view.

Emotionally charged and visually forceful, the source material drummed up from memory and imagination, these evocative dramas seem to express Favret’s take on the exhilarating turbulence and terror of life.

Whatever the subject matter, whether a day at the beach or blighted buildings in an urban neighborhood, Favret’s dynamic interplay between process, narrative and form, wreaks emotional havoc, imbuing the paintings with a disquieting and delicious sense of anxious imbalance.

In lushly rendered images like “Crapshoot,” of gamblers and onlookers, “The Wave,” of a group of figures in turbulent waters, and “Hitchhike,” of a solitary figure on a country road, the distorted figuration, the pulsating brushstrokes, the intense movement and high-toned coloration, all contribute to a wrenching sense of disquiet in which the painting process is so evident that the works seem to record the physical activity as it is occurring.

But these paintings are not just about emotion. Favret also pays thoughtful attention to the formal elements of composition and form.

By cropping edges of objects, buildings and bodies, by suspending figures at surprising angles and orientations, by leading the viewer into the pictorial space with dynamic diagonals, via a road, a ski slope or the direction of a wave, Favret creates an exciting sense of tension within a unified pictorial structure.

Subject matter, too, keeps pace with process and form, Favret cleverly tapping into ambiguous content that plays with one’s mind.

In the aforementioned “The Wave,” for example, of figures playfully negotiating waves in the ocean, one also observes a single figure at the top corner of the image, whose wave of a hand, in seeming desperation to stay afloat, hints at another association to the painting’s title. A seemingly self-satisfied alligator just happens to be floating by. (Am I reading too much into this?).

Other fine images like “The Float,” of figures splashing in water, and “Jump School,” of figures involved in a rescue from a fire, reveal Favret’s balanced fusion of a moment in time with his keen awareness of its relationship to a particular place.

The exhibit was curated by Johnes Ruta.

Judy Birke of New Haven is a freelance writer and art consultant.