Circus, Circus – Bradley Harms
ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present “Circus, Circus,” the second solo exhibition by gallery artist Bradley Harms. The exhibition runs from June 6 to July 5, 2008. Bradley Harms’ work involves a process that is both meticulous and the painstaking, while at the same time appearing naturally fluid and flowing to viewers. The most striking formal elements of his paintings—his characteristic series of precise lines and clean, linear shapes—are carefully considered then methodically articulated, freehand, line-by-line. The effect of these efforts is that, even from a short distance, the paintings have the appearance of being generated through a mechanized processes that is removed at least once from the direct hand of the artist. Harms’ work plays liberally with the tropes of digital reproduction and with the tension between manual and machine generated mark-making. His work is a flirtation with the ideas of perfection and precision and it is only upon closer consideration that the orderly, manufactured uniformity is betrayed by small clues—slight hesitations, the gentlest of wavers, the mark of an imperfect (and human) hand. These are the moments that defy our expectations as viewers, where we are rewarded by the trace glimpses of what Harms terms the “genuineness” of the painting. The technical fissures are subtle subversions that suggest an embracing of the distinctive physicality of painting. In some pieces, like the tightly coiled Black Lung, these moments of subversion are less obvious. In a painting like Blue Razbejhala, however, organic shapes and painterly interventions prominently interrupt the mechanical. Here, the perfect lines seem to join in the liveliness; they criss-cross, wiggle and zig-zag across the canvas and, though they never entirely abandon their grip on perfection, they assert the presence of humanity. The fissures open up wider, allowing more and more of the genuineness of the painting to pour through. Increasingly, in much of Harms’ recent work, the orderly world of the mechanized has been thrown into a chaotic state of confusion. There are islands of precision, and the parallel lines are still carefully rendered as ever, but a layering effect begins to be generated: pieces and patches of clustered linear elements are laid on top of vibrant and colourful brush strokes, producing the effect of laying swatches of gauzy cloth over bright spills. Are these concentrated spaces an attempt to assert order or, perhaps, the joyful highlighting of a loss of control? In these works the tug-of-war between the mechanical and the organic is slowly being won over by the obvious hand of the artist. The presence of the machine and the accompanying act of deceiving perception are increasingly relegated to the background while an obviously flawed humanist and gestural presence overtakes it. As a society that increasingly expects to be confronted by the digitally rendered, and to be drawn in and fooled by retouched and manipulated imagery, Harms invites each of us to search for and discover in his work the deconstruction of the faÃ§ade. Represented by Angell Gallery since 2006, Bradley Harms is also currently involved in teaching painting and drawing at the Alberta College of Art and Design. Originally from Winnipeg, in 1996 Harms received his BFA from the University of Calgary and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been featured in galleries and can be found in collections throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan. His work is included in such notable collections as: the Canada Council’s Artbank (Ottawa, ON), Alberta Foundation for the Arts (Edmonton, AB), the University of Western Sydney (Sydney, Australia) and Tama Art University (Tokyo, Japan).