Saturday, 14 July 2012

Can You Tell What It Is Yet?

On a rainy Friday morning I ventured into Liverpool to check out the current exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, Rolf Harris' "Can you tell what it is yet?"

I went with a very open mind, excited just to be there for the experience, but hoping to take away something more.

If it's possible to be both excited snd disappointed by the same exhibition, I was. Spread across three (very busy) rooms, the exhibition takes us from his childhood, through his music career and his art career.

So, why the disappointment? At times, it felt like a tribute. It felt like the type of exhibition one would go to after the artist had died. I felt uncomfortable prying into his childhood photos and pieces of his clothing from when he paints; and I hoped for more talk about technique and the influences upon his artistic life.
But, the art was great. When I think of an inspirational artist, Rolf Harris wouldn't have popped into my mind... Until now. I have struggled with portraiture for many years, and seeing his portraiture work develop was exciting. I came home and just wanted to pull out my paints and sketchbook and just start painting my own self portrait [sadly that will have to wait until I am well enough!]

[Rolf's recreation of Gustav Klimt's, The Kiss.]
Included in the exhibition was his first portarit using a palette knife, of his Dad, when Rolf was still in his teens. I should pick up a palette knife...
His portraits use such amazing use of colour, building up the layers. I always love it when portraits don't just use "flesh tones", but really bring it to life. Rolf always tries to make the same colour work in different areas of a painting, and that really helps to pull a picture together, I think.
[Self Portrait.]
I think what inspired me most about Rolf's work though, is the layers of paint. You could tell that many of his paintings started with a bold painted background, and I think that it is such a wonderful base. It adds texture under the brushstrokes, and it adds a lovely fullness and depth of colour.
[Sun on the Water Tresco.]
Oh, I need to paint...

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