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Jeffrey Harris: By Definition

Past Exhibition
11 Aug 2012 – 13 Jan 2013
Free

"Alienated figures in grief stricken relationships playing out the dramas against the dark interiors of Harris' imagination." —William McAloon, Art Critic
Jeffrey Harris, By Definition, 1988. Collection of The Dowse Art Museum. Gift of the Artist

Jeffrey Harris, By Definition, 1988. Collection of The Dowse Art Museum. Gift of the Artist

Jeffrey Harris, By Definition Installation Shot. Collection of The Dowse Art Museum. Gift of the Artist. Photo: John Lake

Jeffrey Harris, By Definition Installation Shot. Collection of The Dowse Art Museum. Gift of the Artist. Photo: John Lake

Harris created this suite in 1988, not long after his move to Melbourne in 1986. This shift to Australia gave him a renewed sense of freedom, resulting in larger and more abstracted work. The bold brush strokes of these prints demonstrate his gift for mark-making, reflects a new interest in black and white and a rejection of the detail, symbols and colours of his earlier work.

The size and weight of the 12 aquatint prints featured in the exhibition reflect the emotional impact of his work. Harris describes his practice as "a diary of painted pain".

Autobiographical in nature, his works can be seen as snapshots of psychological moments, mostly revolving around domestic settings, family events and significantly the death of his young daughter Imogen. A solo figure—such as a self-portrait—or a couple are often the focus. In 2000, Harris returned to New Zealand, making Dunedin his home and since then his work has veered back to the figurative. A major survey exhibition of his work was developed and toured by Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 2004. Harris' work is included in many New Zealand public art gallery collections.

Jeffrey Harris was born in Akaroa in 1949. Largely a self-taught artist, his first solo exhibition was in Dunedin in 1969 and included over 60 works; a testament to what would become a prodigious career. His subsequent four-decade long body of work and his ability as a painter and printmaker has made him one of New Zealand's most acclaimed artists. During the early 1970s, Harris was mentored by a burgeoning community of artists including Ralph Hotere, Michael Smither and Colin McCahon. In 1977 he was the Frances Hodgkins Fellow at University of Otago, a pivotal stage in his practice. Harris was initially recognised for his figurative painting, alongside other artists of the time such as Tony Fomison, Philip Clairmont and Nigel Brown. Over the last 40 years, his style has shifted, ranging from detailed pencil drawings to bold coloured expressive paintings. However, whether large landscapes, up-close portraits or symbolically referenced drawings, his works are vivid and intense.