Monday, 9 January 2012


Medici Gallery 
oil and board 18.5 x 18.5

Mark Harrison is an extremely successful illustrator, painting nearly 500 book jackets in the past 25 years. In 1990 Paper Tiger published his monograph Mark Harrison's Dreamlands containing more than 90 of his jacket paintings. It was awarded the British Science Fiction Association's Prize for Best Artwork of the Year. In 2003 he gave up illustration to concentrate on personal work for sale in fine art galleries. The first two pictures here are now showing at the Medici Gallery. The link below shows Wish You Were Here, the third image, and many other works.

Midnight Promenade is powerful. There is an eerie emptiness about the place. Is it safe? The shelter on the left stands alone, the seats no longer occupied by ice cream-sucking children and pensioners shielding from the wind. Nothing moves. The building on the right blocks our view. It's a tease. Is anything happening near that explosion of light at the centre top?  I cannot imagine angry rollers roaring across the beach, only the gentle hiss of waves as they lap against the sand. The paradox is that all this menacing calm and silence is achieved with strong vibrant colours which pulsate with energy. And with a limited palette.

Harrison  often paints the twilight or the night.  Like Edward Hopper (who also began life as a commercial artist) he includes few people and no narrative. He leaves it to the viewer to ponder on what they see. What do we know about the silhouetted figure in Away From It All? He's not a man who's been striding purposely across the picture, but, head bowed, looks deep in thought. He's poised on the edge of a silky ribbon of water which links us to him, but he's turned away from us and the light, and faces out of the picture frame.
Sometimes a human shadow says it all. In Wish You Were Here there's only a locked and shuttered beach hut where there ought to be merry teenagers with a Frisbee and deckchairs draped with wet towels. Is that rust on the cropped lamp post - or dried blood?

Being a popular artist used to be a bit of a millstone. It was a shock to see work by highly acclaimed living artists like John Miller  not only in smart galleries but also sold as cards and prints in department stores. I'm told Harrison's prints are available in IKEA and Next catalogues. That's good news for many people. 

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