The Work of Philip Harris

Arresting hyperreal drawings and paintings by British artist Philip Harris defy the sterile, photographic traps of the genre and magnetically compel his audience with deeply intimate and moving figurative works.  His staggering technical skill, sharp-focused detail and allusion to camera image is fused with a dreamlike composition and unsettling atmosphere that balances between ostensible reality and a strange parallel subconscious world.  Perhaps the most influential BP Portrait Award winner, Harris challenged conventions of portraiture and figurative art with his startling  entry- ‘Two Figures in a Stream’.  His work feels allegorical and poetic.  His figures, many of them self portraits, caught in an a floating state of suspended reality where they lie, stand, writhe and glide free of pretence or self consciousness and unbound by formality.  Harris’s descriptive precision, meticulous line and minute detail means that his work has an almost critically intensive gaze but his musically beautiful depiction of scene conveys a filmic elegance that renders his subjects actors illustrating an unquantifiable feeling or emotion.  Displaying an obvious love of nature, Harris often paints his subjects in the foreground of billowing clouds against piercing blue skies, razor sharp blades of grass littered with crisp leaves and cascading pebbles, the architecture of houses in a back garden.  All his attention focused on immediacy and that which is painfully, microscopically close to or directly touching the skin of his subjects rather than illustriously detached scenery in the far distance.  Using dramatic and stark lighting contrast he paints flesh with the same fine precision and describes flesh, blood vessels, hair strands and pores with a delicacy that transforms such features from imperfections to intrinsic idiosyncrasies and attractive individuality.  There is a sense of meditation about his work, immaculately brutal, sensitively candid, Harris is surely one of the most important contemporary painters in Britain today.

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