Brent Harris is a painter-printmaker. Whilst his paintings are well-known and appreciated, few of his prints have been exhibited and the important place they have come to occupy in his practise is yet to be fully understood.
This is about to change. The prints that Harris has made during his time at STPI in November 2004 appear to signal a breakthrough in his art that will be of lasting consequence.
An earlier breakthrough occurred during a six-month studio residency at the Cite des Arts International, in Paris in 1993-94. At the time of leaving Australia he was just beginning to question his use of geometric form and how far he was going to be able to use and extend this vocabulary. In Paris, he quickly became aware of his disaffection for the purely geometric, and the levels of high taste it was at the service of. Always worrying about the direction his art might take, and in light of his current demolition of his previous position, a great positive started to emerge. He wrote,
I don’t have a position, I am unable to take myself seriously… and the ensuing anxiety is the reality.
Many thumbnail-sized, often scribbled drawings record the intensity with which Harris was thinking about his art, and his acceptance of new ideas as they presented. He worked at a type of formless drawing in which charcoal was smudged and erased as a means of accessing subconscious forms. He saw that a new subject was starting to emerge. In one such drawing we see a target formed under an automatically rendered line become facial, suggesting an elephant head, allowing the absurd to enter the work. Harris allowed this absurdity to take hold, and a new series started to develop, he identified this with the title Appalling Moment. His appalling moment was the beginning of a shift that saw geometric design replaced with disorder, chance and organic forms that could both pulse and slide across the surface. The witty and unpredictable replaced order, his art began its move toward a more psychological basis.
This notion of the absurd informs most of the work made in Singapore, Harris has learnt how to use the absurd as a driver or catalyst to stimulate new imagery.