Really New New Paintings – Bradley Harms
Contrary to first impressions, no software was used to create Bradley Harms's boldly graphic Circle and Stripe paintings and his newest Hair paintings. The Calgary-based artist's extroverted retinal fantasias hint at technology such as digital imaging without actually relying on it. Says Harms, "These paintings try to deny the gestural human mark, aiming for a type of perfection that is never achieved." Among the Circle and Stripe acrylics on canvas, many 48 x 60 inches, You Have an Unusually Magnetic Personality features chocolate-brown circles ringed with quoits of bright orange, pink red and turquoise, against a background of very thin horizontal stripes in many of the same colours. Your Darkest Secrets Revealed features an array of smaller black disks encircled with similar hot colours, against a dark grey background shot with flickers of brightness. Cylon Invader consists of six earth-toned circles, one of them patterned, of varying diameters; they are ringed with turquoise, rose, red, against cabana-bright lateral stripes of yellow, pink, mauve, azure. Super Sexe is the most optically complex with larger circles in the foreground and smaller ones in the middle ground against a background of vertical stripes. In Sneaker Pimp, floating disks are filled in with web-like lines, a cross between macrame and Jackson Pollock drips. The Hair paintings feature skinny stripes resembling hair or yarn. The stripes in Hovering Mass are horizontal, thatch-like marks in ochre, grey, blue, white and orange against a tomato-red background. Chestnut Lock consists of thin multi-coloured stripes hanging down in an uneven fringe, against a mustard-yellow ground. Silver Fox has a similar fringe cascading down from the top of a silvery-grey canvas. In all of these, the artist simulates programmed precision knowing full well that making these paintings by hand inevitably compromises the results. For example, at close range, the eye traces the trajectory of a slightly wavering paint brush which ran low on pigment, and had to be reloaded before the artist could complete an edge or ring a circle. Harms regards these unavoidable "failures" as affirming traces of humanity. Invited to suggest pop culture parallels to his sensibility, Harms admiringly recalls the jarring colours and eccentric art direction of the film "The Royal Tenenbaums." His own blend of finickiness and high art intentions and references (Bridget Riley's Op Art paintings, Marcel Duchamp's Roto Reliefs, Jackson Pollock's drip paintings) exerts a similar off-beat charm. A full-time painter since 1999, Bradley Harms is currently teaching large-scale drawing at the Alberta College of Art. Born in 1971 in Winnipeg, Harms received his BFA from the University of Calgary in 1996 and his MFA from the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been exhibited through North America and Europe and can be found in collections such as the Canada Council's Artbank (Ottawa, ON), Alberta Foundation for the Arts (Edmonton, AB), the Nickle Arts Museum (Calgary, AB), the University of Western Sydney (Sydney, Australia) and Tama Art University (Tokyo, Japan).