Window-Smashing Scottish Artist Kevin Harman Returns with more Windows, These Brimming with Paint
The window has special significance for Scottish artist Kevin Harman. In 2009, he sparked controversy in Edinburgh by “smashing a gallery window and calling it art,” as The Guardian headline read. Was it art or vandalism? Harman was fined; his MFA degree was temporarily revoked.
And that wasn’t the only time Harman has participated in contentious performative work. In the UK, he is well-known for his “Skip Art” project, a series of interventions he staged on city streets under the cover of darkness. Each instance involved emptying a skip (i.e., a dumpster) and rearranging its trash in new formations.
In comparison, Harman’s new exhibition looks almost conventional—at least until you look closer. “No Man’s Land,” now on view at Ingleby Gallery in Edinburgh, features a series of large-scale glassworks. Like much of Harman’s work, the bold, colorful pieces are practically rushing with emotion, and they can’t be easily categorized. Are they paintings or sculptures? Abstract or figurative? Is that an outstretched arm in Submerged through memory ink (2015)? A crashing wave in So Still I Remain (2016)?
And then you realize the works aren’t just rendered on glass, but in windows. Massive double-glazing units, to be specific, which Harman splits apart before pouring and layering household paint into the interior space. He can’t control the exact effects of his technique, so there’s an element of chance. In that respect, it’s not so different from Harman’s performance art, or from life itself. Indeed, Harman has said he wants to “reintroduce people to the real.”
Deeper meanings aside, the show could also be a read as a tongue-in-cheek response to the infamous window-smashing that pushed Harman into Edinburgh’s limelight back in 2009. On the gallery’s ground level, that broken window is displayed alongside court papers and related legal correspondence.
“Kevin Harman: No Man’s Land” is on view at Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, Apr. 2–May 21, 2016.