Marcus Harvey - Tattoo at The Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond St
“Who wants to live on a fucking rainy rock in the middle of the ocean?”
A question John Lydon employs to justify residing between sunny L.A. and the lush Italian countryside.
A journalist questions his buttery loyalties as ‘having his cake and eating it’: wanting to sit in judgement of classridden,
dysfunctional consumerist society but also celebrate the contradictory way British culture welcomes and absorbs his diatribes. I sympathise.
I’m trying to create an image of this land and my own conflicting middle place. I suppose the work has
something to do with the glory of the past, the astonishing accomplishments of our maritime history, our pugnacious nature and the not-so-distant accolades of sporting triumphs. You can’t be indi!erent to the
brutality of colonialism but I am not interested in taking ironic swipes with this work.
As the pendulum of world power grinds eastwards we are, or at least I am, properly feeling the naked coldness of this rock, shorn of influence and wondering if any of the genius of place can create a new sense of pride and security for the future. Not questions an artist should ask, really.
With recent bodies of work, I’ve been drawn towards personalities who have been precipitated by and influenced the texture of our air. Some alive, some dead, some long-time dead. In doing so, I’ve been upbraided by fellow artists for being too
obvious and too direct, not timeless or ambiguous enough to make great art. I broadly concur with this. However, I can’t help being drawn to making
portraits of influential figures, partly because when doing this, art seems to have a function other than cannibalism, the tiresome ‘art’ as the subject of ‘art’.
Here, I’ve tried to bed down these figures into a
cast of characters and motifs; an ensemble. I’ve found myself much more absorbed by
museum exhibits than contemporary art galleries in the past few years, examining coins, statues,
figureheads from sailing ships, ‘Punch and Judy’ puppets... This has led to the ceramics, the clay
seems to o!er enough resistance to the pummelling I bring to my practice. In my earlier paintings, I’ve
employed eccentric devices to check the rather unbalanced rage that comes with my attack on the
stu! I’m fixing to the image. In these sculptures,I’ve found a balance of manhandling and building
that can be arrested at a crucial point then fired. The application of colour then becomes more
pleasurable because it can’t so easily jeopardise the image. Here is a temporary sanctuary for my