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HARRY HOLLAND: BMG First Look 4 – 27 September 2014</p
Feature Image: Homeward, Oil on canvas
Tonight at Dawn: Your works reflect artistic traditions from the classical Roman and Greek tradition to the Surrealists of the early 20th century; can you please expand upon your influences and/or training?
Harry Holland: I love nearly all of figurative painting. The tradition vested in these works is Caprice, examples of which can be found in all arts in the Western tradition. They have no deep metaphysical or ontological significance, but are plays on visual circumstances, and lead to no other conclusions than those seen in the paintings. When I went to art school, the major interests were abstract painting and the beginnings of Conceptual art. I didn’t understand most of what was talked about. Now, of course, I realize it was nearly all scientific crap or cod philosophy and I am very much against imposing meaning where none is seen. It is enough that painting delights us and tickles our sense of irony and contradiction. I make different sorts of paintings, which you can see on my website http://www.harry-holland.com some of which do invite a more complex analysis.
Tonight at Dawn: According to your online biography, “The paintings are suggestive in the sense that they imply situations, events, or relationships that are not directly expressed; this imbues them with an engaging sense of mystery.” Would you be willing to unwrap the mystery behind one of your pieces and share its narrative, in words, as conceived of by its creator?
Holland: No I wouldn’t, partly because I became a painter to avoid the kinds of precise explanations and assertions that words promote, and partly because it would give the false impression that I know what the meaning of a painting of mine is. I am always amazed at the complex and inventive interpretations of my work by other people, much better, often, than mine. So I let them get on with it.
Tonight at Dawn: Can you please give an example?
Holland: Many years ago I had written in a catalogue for an exhibition that I regarded myself as a realist. A visitor to the private view, who I had seen looking at my paintings carefully, asked me if that meant that everything had to be depicted as conforming to the laws of gravity. It was an entirely reasonable question but it was so simple, and so simplistic, that it disconcerted me. I had been so bound up with the metaphorical and semantic implications of the term realist that I had forgotten some of the technical realities. One of the consequences of thinking about that is the kind of thing in this show.
Tonight at Dawn: In the BMG show, many of your paintings convey a sense of freedom with nude women floating unabashedly above the Earth (e.g. Pillar); why did you choose this movement?
Holland: You’ve said it, freedom and nudes.
Tonight at Dawn: In Homeward, a singular nude is floating upwards into the sky and the title seems to imply an ascent to heaven; can you please comment?
Holland: I’m not religious, As I’ve already said these paintings are not intimations of any reality, only that they are made possible by the peculiar attributes of painting.
Tonight at Dawn: You depict beautiful, idealistic nudes that are found throughout Western art; why not incorporate more blemished figures? Is the idealism intricate to your vision?
Holland: Putting Plato and the heavy stuff aside, ideals are useful in that they remove the perspective from the particular to the general. If these ladies were more particular, i.e. that they were portraits, then the whole focus of the work would be on their personalities rather than their actions or positions, thus not allowing all the compositional and formal interests to have their full value.
Tonight at Dawn: If you lost your vision or the use of your hands and were forced to express yourself through another means, what would it be and why?
Holland: I would be a songwriter, I hope. I am a great admirer of artists like Noel Coward, George Gershwin and Bob Dylan who are clever and evocative with words. “Mr Tambourine Man” is a very good expression of the artist’s condition.
Tonight at Dawn: You definitively have achieved success as an artist; in addition to having had numerous solo and group shows, your work has been acquired by a number of notable institutions worldwide such as the Tate Gallery, British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, National Museum of Wales, Welsh Arts Council, and the European Parliament Collection. As a fellow artist, I know that artists are never quite satisfied with their work no matter how great an honor we are bestowed; how do you define YOUR success?
Holland: I am able to paint and do nothing else but follow my interests in that activity, and I am part of a community, many of them friends, who find delights and strangeness in the world, and are able, however unsatisfactorily, to express them.