Subject Future’s Week – Marcus Harvey

On Wednesday 29th January English YBA painter, commissioner, educator and writer, Marcus Harvey, gave a talk at the University of Northampton. His talk discussed his life and journey through the art world. Harvey opens up by giving information of the art market, “your gallerists would like you to have regular, trajectory work. You need to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you are a painter they expect coherence and rhythm.”

During the early 80s Harvey attended Goldsmiths in London, this was the beginning of his series of abstract bed paintings, and the beginning of his painterly practice. He claims he, “never got away from the interaction with the canvas becoming the object first.” Harvey likes to interact in a formative way with the object and what the canvas is stimulated by. It seems that he very much likes to explore the limitations of credible licence with paint. Whilst at Goldsmiths he was deeply influenced by the clarity of Michael Craig Martin’s work, bringing in the overlapping of line drawings with paint. With time he lost the element of drawing altogether and focused on the tension of the surface.

Harvey’s work tends to be autobiographical and tries to bring political concepts of the time into his works. “Maybe I got too carried away with the narrative of the paintings.” He explains that the much contested ‘Myra Hindley’ piece made up of the children’s handprints, was a way of him representing photographical truth and fact. The handprints were a very dark way of getting across information, emotionally, visually and politically. Harvey also made a more sculptural painting of Myra Hindley but “didn’t want to be seen as someone making the most of his first piece.” Harvey states, “I didn’t know the reaction it would get, the disruption it would create, and I didn’t do it for the publicity. I just thought of it as a space for a portrait-maker to present people of currence at the time. I thought to give a thoughtful response, I didn’t know how much of an uproar it would cause.”

Harvey’s work strongly relies on the dialogue between the artist, the painting and the photograph. “I can’t say I find photography in its own form an art form for me. As a painter I set myself rules. Paintings allow the interaction with the object or the subject through photography.” The developing narrative of the emotion of paint gives it a context, this fascination with painting is stuck or suspended into a two dimensional object. He has explored with sculpture, especially when depicting landscape scenes. However Harvey believes that, “painting does not have a counterpart in the digital medium. For me, nothing has replaced painting and nothing will.”

Personally I found Harvey’s talk the most intriguing during Subject Future’s Week because he is depicted as such a controversial artist and it was useful to hear from himself of his intentions as a painter, especially for the Myra Hindley piece. I found his naivety of the public’s reaction for this painting quite surprising, yet it was very beneficial to hear from the artist himself his reasoning for creating such an unapologetic form of artwork. Having been at this talk, I can really see Harvey’s passion of painting and how much he values it as a means of communication. The most interesting concept I took from this talk was how he places painting at the top of almost a hierarchy of representation and how he sees photography as merely a tool to help the final outcome of an art work, which is his view is the irreplaceable outcome of painting.

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