Cover image of the review

Brent Harris: the small sword

7 Oct 2017
Tolarno Galleries 28 Sep - 4 Nov 2017

Hallucinations between figure and ground flicker across the surface of many of Brent Harris’s compositions in his new exhibition at Tolarno Galleries, the small sword. In the studio (2017), for example, the main figure’s cartoonish outline—that most primitive of compositional devices that distinguishes an object from its background—wobbles and warps, as if filtered through the mottled lens of a mirage. The painting lands end #1 (2017) reads like an aerial view of a meandering coastline, with matte black oil blocking out the landmass and a subtle grey-brown gradient indicating the body of water. Harris has painted an eyeball onto the water near its border zone with the land, which allows the viewer to see both ‘grounds’ as ‘figure’ (or, better, ‘face’)—not unlike the optical illusion of the old/young woman. In the oil painting the other side (2015–17), a cluster of bodies morphs into a backdrop mountain range thereby recalling an earlier 2014 painting also titled the other side, where a group of reclining male figures become the silhouetted mountainous backdrop against which another reclining male nude poses in the work’s foreground, suggesting a fractal-like continuity of figure-become-ground. And, in a series of photopolymer gravure/screen prints executed with master printmaker Trent Walter of Negative Press, again titled the other side (2016–17), ghoulish white faces emerge ever so faintly from smudges of black ink, before retreating again into darkness.

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