Andy Harper’s latest works hit us with full force. Frenetic, busy and manic in parts, the large-scale paintings from his second solo exhibition Plastic Fox display every feature that makes Harper’s work distinctive: dense compositions full of detail and depth, complex and dynamic interplays between colour and gesture, light and shadow executed in a pulsating, almost exuberant application of paint.
Gesture-like brushstrokes in diluted layers of oil paint accomplished in glamorous lilac to luscious red, bright pink and striking blue and green set a concentrated arrangement of dynamic traces and finely drawn lines in motion and carry us away into the realms of the fantastic, the organic, the abstract. An overabundance of visual information effectively dictates us to take a step back every now and then and pause for a moment before once more immersing in these enchanted and mystical sceneries.
Thematically, Harper returns to a set of forms and subjects that he constantly references and that accompany his oeuvre since his early career: motifs from botany, organic shapes and vibrant colours, which combine to semi- abstract arrangements. However, this new series of large format paintings goes beyond balanced and beautiful compositions. On the contrary, certain works such as Something is happening that is not happening at all refuse to be easily visually accessible and possess a rather gaudy and flamboyant, if not harsh quality. The picture planes are vigorously and intentionally disturbed, crossed out or scribbled over.
Harper’s oeuvre often reveals a restless, voracious and experimental spirit, and also in Plastic Fox he opens up to new adventures. Works like Pocket of Straws or Blind Stitched play with monochrome - colourful or white - blocked out masked shapes that populate the picture surface and interrupt the image flow. It links back to an older series of small format works that was presented in “Soft Errors”, the artist’s first solo show at the gallery. These works from 2016 experimented with a more informal and stereotyped language of forms, also integrating text and imagery from pop culture. Harper references their accessible, almost graphic aesthetic but contrasts it with a reinforced concentration on the painterly process itself.
Harper’s works often alternate in style or manner. They differ in composition, colour as well as general image feel and yet, some of the works were made in close dialogue with one another. Thus these recent paintings can be read as a coherent set of works, a series but they can also be seen and experienced as totally individual, separate entities.
Andy Harper was born in the United Kingdom in 1971. He received his BA from Brighton Polytechnic, a Master’s Degree in Fine Art from the Royal College of Art, and a Master’s Degree in Visual Culture from Middlesex University. Harper lives in Cornwall and has exhibited extensively throughout Asia, Europe and the US.