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FEATURED ARTIST OF THE MONTH : COLIN HARROW

“Wells Cathedral

Can you tell us more about yourself and your practice; it’s influences and your preferred media? 

Although my background is journalism I have always been interested in art and after I retired as Managing Editor of a large national newspapers group I moved to the Lake District and reinvented myself as a painter.

I received an Open College of the Arts Award in 2003 but am largely self-taught using watercolour and oils and even taking the odd photograph, to capture images of things that catch my eye.

I don’t specialise in any particular subject and I like to think that anyone who buys my work is looking for something unique although one particular viewer did say she noticed an element of nature in most of my pictures which I thought was very astute. It’s my belief that all paintings are really just collections of shapes and colours. Sometimes they combine to form recognisable views or objects while others are complete in themselves in the unique patterns they make or the impressions they produce in the viewer.

Sometimes I try to capture a small, intimate part of a subject believing that such detail can often convey more of its unique character. Occasionally these paintings will have an almost abstract quality. I also like my pictures to tell stories so that people who buy them will be encouraged to look into them rather than just at them.

shoepolish

In 2008 one of my paintings, a picture of shoe polish tins was short-listed in a national competition. It went on show at the Bankside Gallery (next to Tate Modern) and was bought by a gallery in Milan.

My work has been exhibited at the Birmingham Royal Society of Arts gallery as well as in various galleries and exhibition centres in Cumbria and Somerset as well as in Greenwich.

My own favourite artists include Americans Edward Hopper (“Nighthawks”), the social realist “Ashcan School”, particularly George Bellows, Andrew Wyeth, a very much under-rated, at least in Europe, painter and Norman Rockwell who was far more than just an illustrator for the “Saturday Evening Post and whose work contains a wealth of social commentary. My Favourite British painter is Lucian Freud.


What was the inspiration for your abstract photographic work ‘Wreck’?

I very much like abstract work but don’t have the imagination to produce it from my own head. However I do like to find real objects from which I can extract an abstract image and “Wreck” is a prime example. I call it “abstract realism.”

I used to do a lot of sketching in a place called Fleswick Bay on the Solway coast in Cumbria where there are some beautiful rock formations.

It’s quite difficult to get but it’s well worth it. I took my daughter with me one day and she went swimming. She suddenly called out “Dad, what’s this” and I saw she’d noticed a piece of an old ship’s engine exposed as the tide went out.

My wife later discovered from the local library it was the remains of a Spanish iron ore ship that sank in the bay in 1907 and I was fascinated at how over the years the ore had bled into the metal, pebbles had become embedded into it and the weed that had grown on it gave it an organic life of its own.

I thought it was wonderful how nature had taken a totally man-made piece of machinery and turned it into something quite beautiful. It’s a work of art but Nature’s not mine. I’ve only recorded the part that I found most compelling.

I really enjoy the way that before they actually know what it is people who see it have their own interpretation of what it is. Everything from a plate of food to molten metal.

“Seashells”

‘Seashells’ is a painting of intimacy and detail.  What drew you to this subject and how important is capturing detail in your practice?

I was walking on the beach at Burnham-on-sea when I saw these two sea shells and particularly liked the patterns on them. However in order to give them the sense of what I can only call “place” I didn’t want to pick them up, brush them off and just paint them as shells, I needed to show the grains of sand on their surfaces and how they reacted with the patterns so they were all of a piece so to speak.

And in doing this I needed to paint the sand surrounding them. I’m not obsessed with detail but if it is required I have no problem in getting into it. I suppose it’s part of what I mentioned earlier about seeing myself as a traditional “painter” of pictures rather like so many people who are now regarded as artists may have thought of themselves in previous centuries.

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