Friday, June 3, 2011

Interview with Philip Harris

q)Who are you? Where are you from and where do you live now?

a)My name is Philip Harris, I was born in Doncaster, England in 1965. My family moved regulaly when I was growing up but I consider myself to be from Nottingham. I went to college in Bradford followed by living for ten years in London. I have now settled in the New Forest in the South of England.

q)What is it that you do? What media do you use?

a)I am a figurative artist, specialising in Oil on canvas and Pencil on paper.

Figurative painting has always touched me more than any other art, producing it is my most precise and natural means of expression. To make anything else in any other style would be a lie.

I like to focus my work within the progressive tradition of realism. Work can be comprehensible to all and yet infinitely nuanced.

I am interested in the age old but ever present existential issues.What does it feel like to be alive,how could I feel more fulfilled,how can I connect with the world and what is preventing me from doing that.

My characters are confused, unfulfilled, incomplete, confrontational or afraid. They are as unsettled by their situation as we are. Sometimes the figures are caught in motion between one emotion and another. They often eyeball the viewer, reacting to us, trying to make out how our presence affects them.

The figures are connected to the landscape but unable to wholly integrate into it and sometimes they are actively threatened by it. Their means of relief or redemption is frustratingly inaccessible to them.

The paintings are coaxed into completion over a slow, painful and frustrating process. Each layer of paint alters, refines and clarifies the image until it feels right. I paint by instinct and always trust that above intellect. My intention is to paint emotionally charged paintings, as exposed as teenage love poetry, as uncomfortable, confusing and confrontational as life is.

q)What do you think sets your work apart?

a)my work has never fitted neatly into a category as Charles Suamarez Smith wrote:

’It is an impressive body of work, standing completely outside the orthodoxies of contemporary art practice…. Philip Harris is an example of an artist whose paintings have emerged from the crowd,, it now looks resilient enough and authoritative enough to survive far away from the mainstream, chilly and rather fascinating." Charles Suamarez Smith, Modern Painters.

When I first started exhibiting work in 1991 expressive realist painting was contemptuosly dismissed as a dying art form,its death was over-hyped.It was however always clear that in the age of Brit-art I was going to cut an isolated figure.

q)How long have you been showing your work for? Did you have a “big break?”

a)I first exhibited 23 years ago in a group show in London but my breakthrough year was in 1990 when I held my first Solo show at the tricycle gallery in London during the same month as winning third prize in the B.P Portrait award at the National Portrait gallery. I went on to win first prize two years later with my painting 'Two Figures Lying in a Shallow Stream'. The award led on to more solo shows at bug commercial galleries and participation in the National Portrait Galleries 'Painting the Century', a major show in London during the millenium.

q)What are some things that have inspired you?

a)That's a tough one, inspiration can come from anywhere and arrives in different ways.

The idea for 'Three Identical Hares' came after driving past roadkill on a country lane towards a bleak local beach whilst a storm gathered overhead

q)What have you been working on recently?

a)I have just been taking a break, 2009-11 was hard work. The most recent large piece completed was Firestorm. I am currently working on ideas for the next two or three years work.

q)Do you listen to music while you create your work? If so, would you give some examples?

a)Most of the time I listen to BBC Radio 4 largely because when I am concentrating I do not want to have to go and change c.d's. The music that I do listen to is a pretty eclectic mix. I identify mostly with relatively modern music like Radiohead, Bjork, but my formative years were spent listening to The Talking heads, Elvis Costello, The Cocteau Twins, The Fall and Public Image Ltd and I'd say that these are still my favourites. Also like Tom Waits, Olaf Arnalds, Joni Mitchell and Steve Reich.

q)Do you do work in any other media? Other projects not necessarily related to your main body of work?

a)In a word, No. I work on the main projects for about 60 hours a week which doesn't leave much time for all of the other stuff that I'd like a bash at.

q)What advice do you have for artists looking to show their work?

a)Focus your efforts upon the quality of your work 95%, focus upon publicity/networking etc 5%.

q)Do you have any upcoming exhibitions of your work that you can mention?

a)Just held a show at The Plus One Gallery in London so the next one won't be for some time.

q)Where can people see more of your work on the internet?


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