Brent Harris: Four new works

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Tolarno Galleries presents a suite of four new Brent Harris works, direct from the artist‘s studio.

Brent says, “These paintings have been worked on during the COVID-19 lockdowns. But really my studio practice is quite the same, as with most artists, we are used to working in isolation. The subjects of these panoramic pictures originates in the personal, before hopefully taking on relevance for the individual viewer.”

These previously unseen new works include two paintings, and two related works on paper.

Brent Harris
Imaginary Brother, 2020
Oil on linen
92 x 73 cm

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Imaginary Brother 2020

This character first appeared in a few suggestive smudges at the bottom of a large 2015 painting. In 2016 I made drawings and several paintings imagining him, I see him as a stand-in for the artist.

This painting is worked up from a drawing made in 2016, but not painted at the time, until now in 2020. The title relates to a famous and favourite de Kooning pencil drawing from 1938, titled Self-Portrait with Imaginary Brother.

I don’t have a brother, so here in my painting, a twin is almost forming. I have worked on this size canvas off and on for quite a few years, it’s the size of many of my favourite Gauguin paintings, and it must have been a standard size at the time.

– Brent Harris

Self-Portrait with Imaginary Brother c.1938, drawing by Willem de Kooning

Brent Harris
Peaks, 2020
Oil on linen
91 x 190.5 cm

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Peaks and The Shore

Toward the end of 2019, a commission was proposed with no other guidelines than a very specific size. I seldom do commissions and initially thought to decline this one as I don’t work on this horizontal format. The commission was left open for a few months and I eventually started to think of this wide format as almost a stage. A stage generally has curtains, which lead me to think of a previous painting from 2017, Girl meets Boy, with the two characters flanking the sides of the canvas, interacting with each other but also relating to the space between them.

I most often start canvas paintings with drawings, and that is how I proceeded here, from a sheet of many small drawings of different ideas, to two larger charcoal drawings focusing on two of these ideas. The large drawing that has become The Shore was then started on the canvas, the drawing was developed alongside the painting, as colour was introduced. The second large drawing was developed as a separate study for a future painting, Study for Peaks Cloudy. When the commission was finished I then decided to attempt a slightly smaller painting from this study. As the painting developed on the canvas it changed from the study to become simply Peaks 2020.

These paintings have been worked on during the COVID-19 lockdowns. But really my studio practice is quite the same, as with most artists we are used to working in isolation. The subjects of these panoramic pictures originates in the personal, before hopefully taking on relevance for the individual viewer.

I have said of The Shore... The stage is set, the shadows cast, the faint light on the distant horizon beckons.

The Peaks drawing and painting refer to my New Zealand childhood, where I grew up I could see two of the three snow capped mountains on the North Island from my home. They could be seen as the mountains we have to climb on our individual journey.

Regarding the two figures looking on, who they represent continued to change for me the longer I spent with each of these works, as I think they would for the viewer.

– Brent Harris, July 2020

Brent Harris
Study for 'Peaks Cloudy', 2020
Charcoal and coloured pencil and gouache on paper
Framed dimensions: 70 x 127 cm | Image dimensions: 43.5 x 103 cm

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Brent Harris
Study for 'The Shore', 2020
Charcoal and coloured pencil on paper
Framed dimensions: 70 x 127 cm | Image dimensions: 44.5 x 103 cm

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Studio view of Imaginary Brother 2020 and pencil drawing from 2016
Studio view of Imaginary Brother 2020 and Peaks 2020
Studio view of Peaks 2020, Study for The Shore 2020 and Study for Peaks Cloudy 2020

Brent Harris (b.1956, New Zealand) is a painter and printmaker who has lived and worked in Melbourne for nearly forty years. Harris’ works are known for their flat space, clean lines and graphic forms that belie themes such as the unconscious, mortality, trauma, eroticism and childhood.

(Text courtesy Art Gallery of South Australia)

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