Andy Harper

New Paintings

March 16 – April 14, 2012

In his second exhibition at Danese, Andy Harper’s paintings continue to enchant and bewitch. Some works draw the viewer into worlds subsumed by webs of invented fauna, punctuated and relieved by coves of light and imagery that imply a visual relationship between the substructure of human anatomy and botanical specimens. Leaves, trees, tendrils stretch across the entirety of the canvas, providing little opportunity for rest or air, as nature’s endless tapestry rises to the surface. Interwoven and complex, Harper’s paintings reconsider and employ a broad range of art historical references: Medievalism, the condensed imagery of Breugel and Bosch, the longstanding theme of "memento mori" painting of the Victorian era, and the eighteenth century tradition of natural and botanical classification.

More recently, there has been a shift in Harper’s work. Extending his vocabulary of virtuoso mark making, the imagery is now less dependent on nature, and instead incorporates more specific references to the history of painting. "Dark Hands," for instance, is inspired by Marc Chagall’s "I and the Village," 1911, while "Merry Go Round" is related to Mark Gertler’s famous 1914 work of the same title. Though deconstructed and reconfigured, "the intention of Harper is to use the historical source as a loose referent or structural underpinning, and thereafter transfigure the surface contents through active processes of pictorial mutation. As the artist puts it, “the paintings are chosen for their overall sensibility – not purely for formal reasons but not solely for their art historical readings either.”

"An Orrery for Other Worlds," a large (42-inches in diameter) internally illuminated, painted acrylic sphere, is installed in the drawing gallery. As the title suggests, it is intended to metaphorically represent a celestial body, dense with natural life. Harper won the coveted Contemporary Art Award for this work at the 2011 Latitude Festival.

Andy Harper was born in the United Kingdom in 1971. He received his BA from Brighton Polytechnic in 1993, a Master’s Degree in Fine Art from the Royal College of Art in 1995, and an additional Master’s Degree in Visual Culture from Middlesex University in 1999. Harper lives in Cornwall and has exhibited extensively throughout Europe, including two solo exhibitions in 2011 at the Page Gallery, Seoul, Korea and at Morgen Contemporary in Berlin, Germany.
[1] Gisbourne, Mark. “Serene Beauty and Toxic Desire,” Truthwall, Berlin: Morgen Contemporary, 2011.