Acclaimed English artist Richard Harrison returns to Albemarle Gallery with a new set of vibrant and expressive paintings. Dramatically rendered landscapes are articulated by bursts of turbulent abstraction that emphasise otherworldliness and their place in the realm of dream and imagination. In some pieces characters appear out of the welter of coagulated paint, punctuating a conjectured story, embodying themes of transfiguration and redemption.
The viewer’s eye is dazzled by volcanic eruptions of elemental colour. Harrison’s palette is highly registered; primary and secondary hues dominate, making for strong contrasts and rich combinations. This lends a hallucinatory quality to each scene. The contours of land and sky are graphically outlined in broadly gestural schemas. The surfaces of the paintings are thickly encrusted, clotted, smeared and pitted, disclosed and clouded with slicks of viscous oil paint. These are not simple recordings of topography, but emotionally charged vistas.
Harrison relishes the physicality of his medium. He cannot resist the urge to wrestle with its materiality: to excavate, build up and erase. He has a compunction to interact, to generate an outcome, to effect an affect. Paint is applied with assertive confidence tempered by dexterity and subtlety. The collisions between these contrasting applications make for dynamic and arresting interactions. He is always aware of chance, of the happy accident, the fortuitous juxtaposition. Outcomes depend on confrontation; the paintings are records of struggle, a striving to fashion meaning out of chaos.
This sequence of paintings charts a course through a fantasy landscape. As in Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ significant locations mark important stages on a journey of revelation. The painter sees himself reflected in the roiling turmoil of his subject. These pictures have some correspondence to the apocalyptic visions of nineteenth century Romantics such as Blake, John Martin and Turner. Richard Harrison appears to offer up his own encounter with the original definition of ‘The Sublime’, that is, awestruck in front of the terrible magnificence of nature.