Michael Harrison

by Nick Duval-Smith

I have been a fan of Harrison’s work for years, since coming across it while running No.5 Gallery (1990-1993). Like Col Fay’s work, Harrison’s at first seems simple, a little stark even. He makes what are essentially watercolours (using acrylic inks), a somewhat ‘uncool’ medium, a tough sell in the ‘contemporary’ art scene. Fay’s current show requires an audience of more than one to really happen, but in Harrison’s case, the warmth of the work emerges in closer relationship with it, one-on-one.

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Hindsight, for example, is an A4 work, as they almost all are. There are what appear at first to be watercoloury blotches which as you get closer resolve into a detail of cats, suspended like a thought. This is one of the things Harrison does beautifully, a subtle flipping from abstract to literal, which mirrors his play with foreground/figure and background, where these two also flip or pop back and forth. 

 

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Last Moment

 

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These are intensely carefully made works, but the intensity is not only heady; the finished things are records of love, tenderly accumulated over years in some cases. My Generation (above), for example, involved sessions spanning seven years. Hindsight required 19 sessions over a similar period. What’s cool is that the work does not feel at all laboured, but rather crafted with great care and attention whilst retaining the softness, delicacy and light -filled qualities of watercolour.

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