One of Ireland’s most exciting contemporary artists is to unveil a series of new oil paintings depicting human skulls wrapped in precious metal.
Figurative painter Gordon Harris follows the illustrious footsteps of past masters Caravaggio, Cezanne, and Warhol, all of whom used skulls as powerful sources of inspiration.
Twice shortlisted for the Hennessy Prize at the National Gallery, Harris describes the skull as “one of the most powerful and iconic symbols on the planet”.
He was speaking ahead of his Metallic Skulls exhibition, which runs from January 21-February 04 at Gormleys Fine Art gallery in Dublin.
Primarily created in oil, and finished with gold and silver leaf, the provocative artworks are highly refined and meticulously detailed.
“These paintings bring the viewer into the distorted forms of reality,” Harris said.
“Metallic Skulls takes a direct and challenging approach to ideas about existence, taking away gender, age, and ethnicity so the viewer is left looking at raw emotion.
“Maybe it’s a simplistic way of looking at the human spirit.”
Previously, Harris’s three daughters have featured in his artworks – and he described his latest pieces as a natural progression from recent paintings where foil blankets were used to depict protection as it was wrapped around his children.
“It was only when I put the foil onto the skull that I was able to evoke emotion with the folds and reflections of the foil.
“My children are not featured in my latest exhibition but they will be featured in future paintings.”
Harris – who is originally from Mayfield, Co Cork, but now lives in Oughterard, Co Galway, with his wife and children – prefers working with oils because of its translucent effect which, he said, cannot be achieved with any other form of paint.
“I use oil paint in my paintings because I can translucently layer with glazing,” he said.
“It takes time to build up the layers but it’s worth it.”
The artist said the Connemara landscape, which he described as a beautiful place which gives him time to think, is another source of inspiration.
“My day usually begins with getting my kids off to school and letting our three blonde dogs out into our garden,” he said.
“I more or less get started painting straight away in the morning, and the morning can change into night very quickly when you’re lost in painting.”
Although Harris never attended art college, and did not begin painting full-time until his 30s, his work has been displayed in international galleries.
“I don’t think being self-taught has had any effect on my career,” he said.
“I’m my own worst critic and am always trying to push boundaries in my work.
“In this modern era, there’s a world of knowledge out there where there is no excuse not to be learning every day and developing new skills constantly.”
Metallic Skulls runs at Gormleys Fine Art Gallery, 27 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2, from January 21-February 04. See Gormleys.ie for more.