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Small Harrison Canvases

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Michael Harrison, Fuel to the Fire, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 240 x 330 mm Michael Harrison, The Woman and the Fantail, acrylic on canvas, 240 x 330 mm Michael Harrison, Before Nightfall, acrylic on canvas, 240 x 330 mm Michael Harrison, The Life of the Mind, 2008 -10, acrylic on paper, 210 x 297 mm Michael Harrison, Ponytails, 2010, acrylic on paper,  210 x 297 mm

Compared to his usual paintings the new works are more illustrative and less enigmatic as constructions of ambiguous imagery. They have a sort of monochromatic, (gently) expressionist feel, showing Edenic images of skinny naked teenagers collecting sticks for a camp fire. The achingly romantic ambience that is all pervading stops them from being pervy. Their dreaminess is not at all lustful. They make Matisse look positively carnal and seem to emphasise coexistence and co-operation.

Auckland

 

Michael Harrison
A Slave to Your Secret

 

25 August - 18 September 2010

The last Michael Harrison show here surprised, as the size of his acrylic washed paintings was getting bigger. Effectively so I thought, and becoming quite filmic and even posterlike. This current show has smaller work. There’s less wallop: a few colourful works on paper sheets and about half a dozen umber and pink painted drawings on small store bought stretchers.

Normally with Harrison’s work I am particularly fond of those paintings with animal imagery, especially when he explores the use of negative shapes. I’m not so keen on the brooding ‘tortured boy desiring difficult girl’ routine. The adolescent, even adult, aching angst. However he thinks up lovely titles, as the name for this exhibition indicates.

Compared to his usual paintings the new works are more illustrative and less enigmatic as constructions of ambiguous imagery. They have a sort of monochromatic, (gently) expressionist feel, showing Edenic images of skinny naked teenagers collecting sticks for a camp fire. The achingly romantic ambience that is all pervading stops them from being pervy. Their dreaminess is not at all lustful. They make Matisse look positively carnal and seem to emphasise coexistence and cooperation. Some reference multiracial communities.

Their appeal is partly the delicate mottled light Harrison achieves with the figures’ immersion in the leafy woods, the rhythms of the vertical trunks, and the occasional added touches of diluted green. These are idyllic narratives where you peer in through the picture place; it is not emphasised as a surface - as in say, the works with cats where shape plays a major role.

The coloured, richly chromatic works on paper consist of more of his well known symbolic paintings, with oddly static, heraldic birds, or hovering oval gaps in the sky (like eyes and nose), and psychological intensity between obsessive lovers. They are intimate examinations of interiority, but the canvas works contemplate the social. For Harrison, that’s a surprise.

John Hurrell

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