Richard Harrison’s Latest Landscapes Explore Nature’s Indomitable Power

Mar 28, 2016 9:26PM

Depending on the artist and era, in the battle of man vs. nature, nature is either winning or losing. In the case of Thomas Cole’s “The Course of Empire” series (1833–36), it’s a war with many battles (nature eventually wins). Richard Harrison’s latest artworks, currently on view in a solo show at Albemarle Gallery in London, reference these traditional notions of landscape painting, though he modernizes the conversation with gestural brushstrokes and a turbulent outlook.

Early paintings from the British-born artist centered on portraiture, mythology, and classical themes. Since then, he has remained faithful to expression-based art, shunning minimalism and conceptualism. Likewise, texture, whether achieved through heavy impasto or burnt and charred canvases, remains crucial to his evocative work.

Harrison’s recent landscape paintings continue to build on art-historical precedents, but from a new, powerful point of view. His large-scale canvases draw the viewer in by offering the allure of an all-encompassing environment. Marked by contrasting warm and cool colors, fluid forms, and heavy layers of paint, his landscapes depict seemingly otherworldly locations, though their expressive energy makes them feel knowable.

Through marbled and molten forms, Harrison imagines a world where nature has reasserted its dominance. With the exception of a few human figures, little trace of civilization or settlement exists. In these vibrant, glowing scenes, nature is victorious.

Paintings such as Once in a Blue Moon (2014), with its icy blue sky above a craggy landscape, and Primordial (2014), which depicts a dense, expansive forest, are more emotive than faithful to reality. Forms and colors bleed into one another, suggesting a common material across all nature.

The energy and intrigue of Harrison’s canvases inspire a sense of surreality. Though rooted in the real, these painted worlds feel home to a hostile, awe-inspiring force that human can’t contain.

—Emily Singer

Richard Harrison” is on view at Albemarle Gallery, London, Mar. 17–Apr. 9, 2016.

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