Author Archives: Billy Hawes

Marcus Harvey: The Side You Don’t Know

Marcus Harvey ImageThe University of Northampton recently played host to a number of high profile visiting speakers as part of ‘Subject Futures Week 2014’. The School of the Arts used this week to give students a chance to hear from important contemporary artists, as well as the school putting on a number of workshops for students to learn new skills that could influence their various projects.

One of these artists was Marcus Harvey, famed for his role within the YBA movement and the controversial painting of Myra Hindley. These two claims about Harvey’s career seem to be the two key factors used to describe his work but hearing him talk about his work, his career and his life as an artist the YBA fame and headline grabbing Hindley painting seem to be almost irrelevant.

Marcus Harvey, like many of the Subject Futures Week speakers, started his talk with his very early work. In this work Harvey began to treat ‘paintings’ as objects, and so was able to deal with the more formal aspects of the object-like nature of a painting primarily its three-dimensional qualities. This in turn freed Harvey to attach objects to the canvas surface, and allowed him to explore the notion of two and a half dimensions within the realm of painting. This work moved forward and Harvey began to include a theatrical element within the work, opening up the possibility that the act of painting could be considered performance in its own right. The process of painting is then translated by Harvey into the realm of sculpture in his most recent works whereby he carves humorous portraits of famous people often using techniques of material manipulation learnt from years of painting.

This body of work seems to have a great deal more relevance to contemporary art than his involvement with the YBA’s or his controversial painting. This body of work seems to, on a greater or lesser extent, explore the limitations of painting; his paintings can be seen as paintings and sculptures as well as performances, and his sculptures can be seen as both sculptures and paintings. With Harvey’s work you can never fully define the discipline that a piece has been made within which I find much more interesting, and much more important to contemporary art, than his fame or his controversy.

Take An Envelope

The School of the Arts at the University of Northampton has recently played host to a series of student led talks as a way to extend the context in which people work as artists. The ‘Illuminare’ talks have been curated by Fine Art student Bethany Murray, and the first series of these talks in November and December 2013 saw 8 students deliver lectures on their work, their influences and external interests.

Ally Johnson - Take an evelope

The second series began in January 2014 and developed the Illuminare evenings into not only artist talks but also trial events for art performances. Instruction based fine artist Ally Johnson used her Illuminare talk to launch the concept for her work entitled ‘The Hive’. This initially revolved around a performance by musician Cassie Mathews and poet Isabel White whilst the audience where invited up to take an envelope from off of the wall and act out the instructions inside. With heavy influence from early Fluxus based events, the room soon became a ‘hive’ of activity by using the audience as the artistic medium.

The event was the first of many for Ally Johnson who devised the concept of The Hive whereby the audience are turned into ‘worker bees’ who act out instructions, creating activity centred around other performances or artworks. The instructions for this trial run ranged from moving around furniture, talking loudly, and even disrupting the performers; a concept which turned the passive spectators into active participants of the work. Initially everybody was nervous and unsure how to act, but as certain more willing volunteers started to act out their instructions people became more enthusiastic about the tasks. As soon as everybody had relaxed about the idea of being involved the room became hectic with activity which allowed the artist to explore her theme of Harmony to Dissonance.

The launch event for this exciting new Fine Art concept was extremely successful with positive reviews all-round afterwards. Ally Johnson will again be working with Cassie Mathews and Isabel White on developing another Hive event in March at the Royal College of Music, as well as working with fellow Fine Art student Billy Hawes on a Hive based collaboration for the University of Northampton’s Fine Art Spring Show.