The exhibition Exploring the Work of Brent Harris opens at AGSA

The Art Gallery of South Australia has announced a major survey exhibition exploring the work of Melbourne-based senior contemporary artist Brent Harris, on view from 6 July to 20 October 2024. The exhibition Brent Harris: Surrender & Catch, curated by Maria Zagala and co – presented with TarraWarra Museum of Art, brings together over 150 paintings, drawings, studies and prints, traversing the artist’s practice and stylistic changes throughout his career.

Surrender & Catch at the Art Gallery of South Australia sees an extensive collection of works from the recently closed TarraWarra Art Museum exhibition which received rave reviews.

“This exhibition is a remarkable journey through the work of one of Australia’s leading surrealist artists.” Artshub

Brent Harris: Surrender & Catch charts the ways in which Harris’s art has developed over the past four decades, presenting a wide selection of works from 1987 to 2022. Harris’s distinctive style, which moves between figuration and abstraction, uses both humor, as well as the grotesque to examine psychology. subject while visualizing his complex and conflicting feelings. Indeed, the exhibition’s title refers to Harris’s interest in sociologist Kurt H. Wolff’s notion of “teaching and catching” as a process of self-analysis and as a working method.

Addressing the experience of the body and desire, faith (and the question of what comes after death), and childhood memories of porous family relationships, Brent Harris says, “To experience 30 years of your past, laid out in images you’ve created, it’s alternately quite emotional, serious and a little scary. While these works are being carried out, it is not possible to see how things might be in the future. Time is that added ingredient. In considering what the result of a lifetime spent making images now looks like, a primary concern has been to return, again and again, to thinking about the human condition—the madness we all face in our individual and collective struggles to try to maintain. our lives together in a meaningful way. My work is a continuous search, perhaps in vain at times, for meaning. I am endlessly searching for revelation, if only expressed in the desire for the next image to be revealed.”

Harris says of his family relationships influencing his work, “It never felt therapeutic, but it certainly felt like rich psychological material. It might come from traumatic experiences, but no, I don’t do it as a cathartic, it’s simply as a way of generating images.”

Harris’s ambiguous forms in his work derive from his use of the surrealist technique of automatic drawing to access unconscious images. Working concurrently between painting, printmaking and drawing, Harris has developed a generative methodology, where each medium fuels the development of his art in unexpected ways.

AGSA Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Maria Zagala, said: “Developed slowly over many years, this exhibition presents a comprehensive overview of Harris’ formidable career. If art-making can be seen as a process of excavation, then the circumstances of Brent Harris’s coming of age – from a difficult childhood in Aotearoa New Zealand to his 20s as a gay man during the outbreak of the AIDS pandemic in Melbourne – provide the foundation from which his work has emerged over the past four decades.”

Surrender & Catch features works from the important collections of both the TarraWarra Art Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia. Complemented by a selection of loans from public and private collections and institutions, the exhibition traces a journey from The Stations (1989), Harris’s first major series exploring his friends’ deaths from AIDS, to his return to the subject in 2021.

The exhibition emphasizes the cross-pollination of images and the development of forms in his practice of typography, drawing and painting. Also included are prints by Louise Bourgeois, fellow NZ artist Colin McCahon, Kiki Smith, and new acquisitions from Edvard Munch and Gordon Walters, all artists who have had a significant influence on Harris’ work.

“Brent is an artist whose work has changed over the years and is someone who has always been open to the influences of respected artists and to have these works hung alongside Brent’s will give audiences a unique opportunity to see directly as his work was. informed by these artists”, says Maria Zagala.

AGSA Director Rhana Devenport ONZM said: “In partnership with the TarraWarra Museum of Art, the Art Gallery of South Australia is proud to present Brent Harris: Surrender & Catch, the first major monograph by Aotearoa-born artist Brent Harris, based in Melbourne. This monograph is published in tandem with the artist’s retrospective at the TarraWarra Art Museum in 2023 and an extended presentation at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2024. The driving force behind this project is Maria Zagala, Associate Curator, Prints, Drawings and Photographs AGSA . A significant gift to the AGSA of over fifty works by the artist from the private collection of James Mollison, AO and Vincent Langford was the impetus for the exhibition. Their gift in 2017 transformed the gallery’s holdings of Harris’ works on paper, with many of these acquisitions on display for the first time in this exhibition.”

Zagala’s relationship with Brent Harris has been established for nearly three decades. The Relationship showcases Zagala’s nuanced and insightful curatorial approach, which has led to one of the most interesting and challenging survey exhibitions of Harris’ work, highlighting the rich relationship, understanding and appreciation Zagala has of Harris’ work.

“I first met Brent over 25 years ago and it was a working relationship that evolved into a truly meaningful friendship and it is an honor to organize this retrospective of Brent’s illustrious career and, hopefully, to introduce those unfamiliar with Brent to his fascinating body of work.” , says Maria Zagala.

Key works featured in the exhibition come from the National Gallery of Australia and the late James Mollison, who was the institution’s inaugural director. Mollison has been a great supporter and advocate of Brent’s work, and Mollison’s partner Vincent Langford will be in attendance at the exhibition’s opening weekend.

AGSA’s flagship public program events, Neo, First Fridays and Start, will feature themes from Hariss’s exhibition.

This exhibition is co-presented with the TarraWarra Art Museum.


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