In Conversation with Junia Farquhar on Dipolar cover photo


In Conversation with Junia Farquhar on Dipolar

by Jordan Kantor

Junia Farquhar is a twenty-five year old generative artist and Dphil physicist from Oxford, England, where she studies the properties of magnetic quantum materials. In addition to creative coding and academic work, she sails, solves puzzles, and sits and watches her plotter. I spoke with Junia in advance of her upcoming Art Blocks release Dipolar.
Jordan Kantor: Hi Junia, it's great to get a chance to speak a bit about Dipolar in its finished form. It’s been really fun seeing this project develop, as you have iterated and refined it. To start, I want to ask if you can comment briefly on how you first got into making art, pursuing generative art, and considering using the blockchain as a medium or context for your work?
Junia Farquhar: Years ago, I borrowed my friend’s Olympus OM-1 camera; we took some photos around Oxford and developed them together in his makeshift darkroom in the basement. I was immediately taken in with it, I bought my own second-hand film camera and started taking it everywhere. I fell in love with portraiture, and invested in a nicer camera. I also started doing event photography for some money on the side. Some of my favorite shots are still those early negatives I have from my OM-1. In terms of generative art, I started playing with Clifford attractors and similar chaotic mathematical objects in Python when I was an undergraduate. I found them beautiful and kept at it. Eventually, I shared this work on Twitter, where I found a big, active generative art community, and began to see what was available. I found it exciting that I could work with such precision, bringing into it the very best elements of what I found beautiful in mathematics. I began pursuing generative art deeply only at the end of 2021, and, as for the blockchain, someone on Twitter asked me to mint some things that I had posted. I didn't really understand it, but then I discovered fxhash, long form generative art, and saw its potential. It's exciting to be in at the start of a new artistic tradition. (I only wish I still had the private key I bought a Bitcoin on for £17 back as a teenager!)
JK: The close relationship online between artist and audience you describe is one of the distinctive and special characteristics of the generative art community. The dialogues that can happen between maker and viewer can be really fruitful, and it is interesting to hear these were present from the beginnings of your practice working in a generative mode. To that point, can you outline how your creative practice has changed over the last year or so?
JF: Once I moved to generative art, I felt like I had discovered a new world. I wanted to try every technique out there. I think this is clear in some of the fxhash pieces I have published. Most were put together quickly, because I couldn't help but get pulled into the next thing. I loved how much freedom I had to try many different things. For example, Planets was trying to capture aesthetics of old science-fiction games. The central theme of looking at a crude simulacrum of earth is something I came back to again later. Arbour is another good example of a very different style I was experimenting with. These are what my family seems to like the most.
Junia Farquhar, Arbour, 2021.jpg
Junia Farquhar, Arbour, 2021.
When I discovered plotters, they became the center of my attention. I find watching them work mesmerizing every time I make something. It's pushed me from the detail, fractal like Clifford attractors to the bold line drawings I now prefer. I love the slow, deliberate pace they have as they pull a piece out of the air. The Three-Body Problem, monopole, and abstraction projects are all from this most recent phase. And they all explore ideas about the nature of physics.
Junia Farquhar, Abstraction #1, 2022..jpeg
Junia Farquhar, Abstraction #1, 2022.
JK: Can you comment on the inspiration for your Art Blocks project?
JF: I have a story here. Back in school, I was in a GCSE mock chemistry exam. Like some other kids, I finished quickly and got bored, so I was trying to work out the nature of gravity in two dimensions on the back of the question sheet. My invigilator was a physics PhD and chatted to me about it afterwards. Lots of my reasoning was wrong, but I'd (re)discovered a few interesting insights, like that there is no escape velocity in 2D. He suggested studying physics at university, and even wrote to my parents about it. That's why I'm here studying what I am. Since finishing my degree, I've explored the nature of electromagnetism in two-dimensions often. I've also kept coming back to this question on if these formal questions about a universe that isn't our own can even exist. This problem features duality at its core, as do so many. To me this seems to map nicely onto the idea of the dielectic, which I think is so important. I wanted to try to find a way to share why I found this particular problem so beautiful. That is Dipolar.
Junia Farquhar, Dipolar #0, 2022..png
Junia Farquhar, Dipolar #0, 2022.
JK: Yes, there can be beauty in this type of thinking for sure, and it is interesting to read some of the formal elements in Dipolar through this lens. Having worked on this over many months, can you give collectors a sense of what to look for in your Art Blocks project as the series is revealed?
JF: There aren't so many secrets, look at how the two fields interact, what kinds of emergent behaviors form from different combinations. Look for the different kinds of particles, how they differ, how they are the same.
JK: Anything else people should know to better understand your art?
JF: One of the strangest things about physics is that we find universal behaviors. Places where wildly different systems show very similar results. Exotic particles are discovered in the excitations of crystals; phase transitions behave remarkably similarly regardless of what the states of matter are being transitioned to or from. I've discussed this piece as being about electromagnetism, but these patterns could form in many systems. All that is required is for some kind of vector field to be produced by point particles, and similar patterns could be seen. It probably shouldn't be surprising that we see universal behaviors in other areas too. It's not just physical realism vs empiricism, the world is pulled forward by the tension between two sides of the same coin.
JK: It can be quite poignant where art overlaps with philosophy and where languages of abstraction can speak on both literal and metaphorical levels, as I think happens in the minimal and evocative language of Dipolar. Thank you for bringing this project to Art Blocks, Junia. Can you let people know the best ways to follow your work?
JF: Twitter! I know I'm quiet at the moment, but that's just been because if I wasn't, I know I would spill the beans on this!

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