Festival Britain

6 September to 28 September 2012


We are pleased to present a spotlight show for the British artist Andy Harper. Stemming from his success at the Latitude Art Prize, this project brings his most recent contribution to Latitude together with new works, anchored around the idea of Festival Britain. In these paintings, Andy looks not just to the 1951 Festival of Britain, but also to the political tradition of using games and festivities as a panacea for a public groaning under social strain. Hot on the heels of the London Olympics, the exhibition comes together as a painted critique of the “Jam Tomorrow” mentality.

The first work, “The Threefold Law”, was painted for Latitude Festival in Southwold in 2012 after he won their Contemporary Art Prize in 2011. The work obeys strict geometrical dictates, developing through them into a kind of totem. It is thick with the methodical mark-making that has defined much of Andy’s recent work. Each motif is recreated incessantly, morphing and growing as it does to create a sense of structure and ritual through repetition. Like an ancient god made organic through mechanisation, it is both logical and contradictory – sensual and verdant, but also unrelentingly calculating and methodical.

The Festival Britain paintings venture into looser, more experimental terrain. On the surface, amongst the flurry of shapes and colour, some of the familiar signs of national celebration can be seen: the optimistic pastel palette of red, white and blue; shreds of bunting weaving through the marks; a fragmented Skylon punching its way through ribboned brushstrokes. Ballooned shapes float and bind like mitochondria, writhing in a visual party across the surface.

But beneath all the ebullient distraction, a cold architecture can just about be glimpsed: solid, purposeful, but impossible to discern in its entirety. Staircases of concrete constructivism lead off Escher-like in different directions, their surface planes then scattering like ticker-tape and confetti. Golden frameworks, rigid girders, spun cables and driven pylons engineer their way in and out of the mark-making. These are the mechanical machinations of a Better Tomorrow: quiet and understated, but present nevertheless as an insistent guiding structure.

Through this subtle but unnerving combination, the Festival Britain works look at the nature of socially engineered entertainment, and how the frivolous, sometimes simplistic pleasure of the party is often used as an element of engineering grander social schemes.

Andy Harper was born in 1971 and is based in the UK. He studied at Middlesex University, (M.A. Visual Culture 1997-99), the Royal College of Art, (M.A. Fine Art Painting 1993-95) and Brighton Polytechnic (B.A. Fine Art Painting 1990-93). Solo exhibitions include Towards a New Architecture (Page Gallery, Seoul, 2011), Truthwall (Morgen Contemporary, Berlin 2011), An Orrery for Other Worlds at Aspex (Portsmouth 2010), Danese Gallery (New York 2009), One in the Other (London 2008). Work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery (East End Academy Exhibition 2009), Newlyn Art Gallery (Curious Nature 2007 and Wastelands 2008) and Galway Arts Centre (Darkness Visible, 2007).

Installation Images