HARMAN’S WALLS is a new body of work by the painter Norrie Harman; paintings of the many different walls that create our cities. Walls, seemingly inconsequential and unnoticed, hold up our everyday lives, containing and separating us with concrete boundaries. Harman casts his laser-like gaze on the walls around our cities and through painting them, forces us to pause and look at the humble wall. He further subverts these walls with his own graffiti and street art.
Growing up in Wester Hailes on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Harman was acutely aware of the concrete walls that contained him, “I drew on them, graffitied on them and generally fought against them”.
Harman says, “When I swopped the early concrete walls of Wester Hailes for the walls of Edinburgh College of Art, I started to explore themes of boundaries and freedom through my paintings, often including walls and buildings in my work”.
WALLS IN PREVIOUS WORK
Harman’s explorations of brutalist architecture in early work laid the foundations for HARMAN’S WALLS. Earlier work includes buildings such as the Niddrie Laundrette , which has been explored by him to the point of being a concrete motif in his work.
Harman has always explored the theme of boundaries in his work, from broken wire fences in FAIRGROUND BOUNDARY through to boundaries in his abandoned garages, i.e. CAPRI GARAGE
A regular feature of the walls that surrounded Harman growing up was graffiti; walls scarred and covered in garish spray-paint. As a result, he has always been interested in the interaction between traditional oil paint and graffiti, often exploring this in paintings such as View to the Sarcophagus” and “Adidas Girl”.
Painting glitchy, visceral brush strokes gives his painting a freedom; this is only enhanced by the subversive joy of applying a bit of graffiti on top of a beautifully painted piece.
Harman brings all of these themes tother with his new body of work. He paints the walls of our cities and subverts them. Be it a pristine wall in Mayfair or a grubby subway wall in Manchester, he paints them with his characteristic abstract realism and deconstructs them with spray-paint.
The walls in Mayfair are walls that rarely see graffiti so Harman wanted to paint these well-known street corners and subvert them with street art. This is an ironic work; by spray-painting the most sophisticated walls in London, he in effect owns these walls and forces the viewer to reconsider what these walls stand for.
A huge fan of Manchester,, having lived in northern England for many years, Harman creates a very different type of wall; a dirty heavily graffit-ed subway wall. Spray-painting on Ian Curtis and references to Joy Division add layers to this wall that echo some of the frustration of this city. This is a bright, electric painting that reflects the energy of Manchester. However, it’s dark corners and flickering fluorescent lighting mirror the subversive edginess of this brilliant city.
With this body of work, Harman forces us into a slightly uncomfortable place. The walls become mirrors when viewed; evoking strange reactions. Looking at his walls, we glimpse something of ourselves. Harman’s Walls are beautifully painted concrete reflections.