‘Cinema Between Two Worlds’ is a painting about six feet high, the subject being some people in a cinema, although the film screen looks more like a painting or a shot of a painting in the film. It is painted fluently, the seats look plush, it is a cinema with small tables between seats, and two young men are turning to speak to a young woman. It evokes comfort and enjoyment and escapism.
‘Peckham High Street’ similarly has a scene that seems to be on a canvas in a room. One seated figure inside the room looks out at a figure outside on the canvas, or outside a window painted on the picture within the picture. Other figures outside look in. The paint is sloshed on, the colours are luscious, there’s plenty to look at and notice and it reminds me in a way of Gauguin – a frieze with life going on but with the feeling that you don’t know what exactly is happening except just whatever passes by in a place somewhere where people pass by. The way the paint is put on reminds me a bit of the work of Michael Andrews, painting swimmers.
‘Insight’ A couple in a jungle, maybe somewhere like the Eden project but with monkeys, or on a stage set with a painting of monkeys, but the leaves from the trees are intruding into the space where the couple are seated.
The exhibition seems to show Rebecca Harper playing with what is a painting or a painting within a painting. Her subjects come from contemporary life, from her own experiences and the scale of the figures being life-size helps to make the viewer feel part of the scene.
There is a lot in the blurb issued by the gallery about ‘the diasporic condition’, about ‘global citizens with itinerant lifestyles’, but to me this is imagined. There is nothing to say whether these people are travellers or have lived in these spaces all their lives. I don’t see the work as very profound or having something political to say. I do see it as very enjoyable, confident and exuberant.
Somehow, by producing such large scale works, Rebecca Harper is claiming attention and it seems she has launched herself successfully into a high priced circuit of exhibiting and selling, an arena which has helped her to be chosen for projects and galleries. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Rebecca Harper at ’Chameleons and Urban Nomads’ Anima Mundi, St.Ives, March-April 2019
Volume 33 no 6 July/August 2019 32