This week Phil Harris explains the background to his two works in REALITY: Modern and Contemporary British Painting.
As a rule I prefer to remain silent on the detailed intentions behind my work, I feel that too much explanation can often blunt the emotional impact of a painting upon the viewer. I hope however that these short descriptions of my work in the exhibition ‘Reality’ will be of interest without distracting from your own experience of looking at the paintings.
S.P Behind A Glass Door
‘S.P Behind a Glass Door’ is a large painting made in 2001. It took five months to complete.
The painting features a man standing facing the viewer on the far side of a Glass doorway in the space between a cold moonlit exterior and a warm inner hallway, his gloved hands rest against the glass. At first glance it may appear that he is looking into the hallway, seeking entry or observing the inhabitants but as we look closer it becomes apparent that the figure has been caught in a moment of complete self-absorption, his breath marks the glass and it is this which has drawn his attention.
The compositional device of multiple frameworks draws the viewer’s eye towards the figure and ultimately to the breath on the glass. It is this small moment of contemplation on our own existence that is at the heart of the painting.
I hope, through this painting, to make it possible for the viewer to pause, be still, to observe and to be rewarded by that close observation. Through this the viewer can join with the figure in a moment of contemplation.
Arizona Bloom is a very large and complex painting made in 2014. The painting took an entire year to complete.
A bearded middle-aged man stands facing and communicating directly with the observer. He is wearing an ill-fitting red suit and carries what at first sight appears to be a bouquet of some kind. The figure is in good humour but it is unclear why, or what he is doing in this forbidding and impersonal landscape. He stands in the foreground beneath a dark threatening sky upon stone which is fragmenting away from the dry soil and amongst tough blooming cacti. Behind him lies a low desert landscape, a wide river system running through it. One of the tributaries bleeds a red algal bloom.
We may be drawn to conjecture on whether the character’s optimism is unfounded, his humour short lived, his hopes doomed or whether he is content, free to revel in the extraordinary fact of being alive to witness the immense, indifferent yet wonderful forces of nature at play.
I hope through this painting to create a circular narrative of hope and circumspection but which ultimately encourages the acceptance of a lack of certainty.