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Artist Brent Harris treats Christchurch to first solo exhibition

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Celebrated artist Brent Harris will exhibit at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū in November.

His first Christchurch exhibition, Towards the Swamp, is a collection of paintings and works on paper, including never-before-seen works gifted to the Gallery in 2018.

In these works, Harris explores uneasy psychological states in works that are both elegant and grotesque.

Senior curator Dr Lara Strongman says Harris’s Swamp images represent the human body in motion, writhing and dancing, its gestures, desires and secretions.

"His artworks are inspired by his own deeply personal and sometimes painful experiences, but you’ll often see a vein of black humour running through his practice," Strongman says.

The New Zealand-born Australian artist grew up in Palmerston North and says his strongest childhood memories are of the Manawatu River, swollen with floodwaters and wild with floating tree trunks.

His artworks are created by a process than begins with automatic drawings - a way of working that allows the subconscious to rise to the surface - which are then progressively refined.

Figures swim up from inky darkness and revelations appear in the sky, while his Swamp takes on human form in a gelatinous, dripping, bulbous, stretched suite of marks.

Swamps are darkly fertile places where death and life coexist, and where new life emerges from the traces of the old. In this sense, the Swamp is a metaphor for the human psyche, as well as a way to think about the starting point for creativity.

Given Christchurch is literally built on a swamp; this exhibition is an opportunity for conversation about the nature and process of creativity within art in its abstract form.

This is Harris’s first exhibition in Christchurch and his first solo exhibition in a New Zealand public gallery.

Brent Harris: Towards the Swamp will be on display at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū from 6 November 2019 - 23 February 2020.

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