Andy Harper’s work is drawn from an abundance of resources. To engage with his paintings means to enter a whole new world on its own terms. References from botany, flora, Victorian and primordial motifs as well as powerful colours and abstract arrangements stimulate our senses and imagination. Many of the earlier paintings were inspired by J. G. Ballard’s 1962 science fiction novel The Drowned World, and its content and denseness still nourishes the more recent works. The story portrays a post-apocalyptic and unrecognizable London submerged by water and tropical temperatures. The few characters in the book are isolated in the city, while the rest of humanity has chosen refuge at the cooler poles. Ballard’s vision of isolation and its psychological undercurrents during a world in crisis hauntingly fits into our current times.
Harper’s paintings are full of detail, crafted by thousands of precisely executed brush strokes that are technically incredibly versatile and result in hugely complex compositions of often unexpected clarity and luminosity. The driving mechanism in his work is the play with movement, colour, depth, and particularly light and shade. From his early photo-realistic “grass paintings” to the “vegetation” paintings, up to the more recent series of more geometrical and abstract works such as the “radial symmetry” pieces or the works with monochrome colour blocks, the process of painting remains similar and impressive. Technically based on a membrane of oily paint that is wet and totally malleable, Harper’s arrangements are recently much looser in appearance, the associations much freer. And yet, a moment of obsession and perfection is still perceptible; it is this contradiction of experimenting with different techniques and visual references that imbues Harper’s work with so much vigour, beauty and tension.