Richard Harper

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Richard Harper


Since leaving Art Center my work has been focused on exploring the limits of realist painting. Attempting to hone representation down to its essentials I chose to restrict myself to the figure due to its primal position in the evolution of art and historical reference as the ideal subject. Since then the human body has been central to my work and stands as not only a representation of the individual itself, but of humanity and the experience of being.

The richness of the nude as the ideal of subjective mimesis through representational painting still holds for me a potential as a mode of self-expression, which is at once objectively obvious and subjectively mysterious. It is the idea of the human body as matter and thought, concrete and mysterious, flesh and soul. In our contemporary world of high tech and virtual reality the centrality of human existence is lost. The tactile presence and the human contact in the manipulation of the material in the creation of a work of art remains a reminder and witness of our visceral existence and physical reality. The singularity of our own being and that of the “other” is a reality that we all deal with on a daily basis and which asks us all to examine the meaning of individual identity and place in the universe.

The evolution of one of my paintings can take months and sometimes years. For the figures it takes on the mechanics of almost constructing each layer of the skin itself. My working technique involves multi-layering of several very thin translucent coats of paint. The process is long and meditative. It is a prayerful ritual. I see my painting akin to alchemy where the external world is processed through my eyes and my internal world and then manifested again on to the canvas. Here inert matter, mineral pigments and oils, are transmuted into a meaningful illusion of presence. I like to think of my paintings as icons in the Christian Orthodox sense of the word. They are not as much to be looked at, as to be looked through.

In 1975 I graduated from the Los Angeles Art Center College of Design with a bachelor of Fine Art degree. While living and working in Southern California, I made several trips to Europe visiting its major museums feeding my love of painting. 1986, after working several years in California, I moved to Paris, France, drawn by a love of the city sparked many years before when I first experienced its beauty. Eight years of the movable feast that is Paris translated into a move to the French country side where my wife Karen and I created our studios in the stone barns of the 16th century manor we purchased in 1995. The region of the Perche, in Normandy, remains my home base while continuing to exhibit my work in various venues around Europe.

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* This statement has been provided directly by the artist in association to their 14th International ARC Salon entries. This content has not been edited for typos or grammatical errors and has not been vetted for accuracy.