'Return of the Sperminator'
New work by Margaret Harrison
Renowned British artist, Margaret Harrison is to show at Beverley Knowles Fine Art throughout November 2007; her first solo exhibition in London since the 1980s. The show, entitled, 'Return Of The Sperminator and Other Stories', sees Harrison revisit the themes of her very early work, particularly the exploration of the human body as an object of sexuality and consumption, but observed through the perspective of 'Noughties' society. The exhibition will include six paintings and drawings, selected from the work produced for, and around, her first solo show in London at the Motif Editions Gallery in 1971. These works will sit alongside six new pieces being produced by Harrison, specifically for this winter's exhibition, over the coming months, and looking at various aspects of culture today from pulp fiction to celebrity obsession.
The infamous, first show in 1971, which featured works that "tread the fine line between irony, sexuality, trans-gender, transvestism, power, masculinity, objectification and exploitation", was closed down after only one day by the police; who felt its contents were too controversial for exposure to the public. Highlights of the show included paintings such as 'Captain America', which depicted the American comic book icon, with large breasts, wearing stockings and stilettos, and an image of Hugh Heffner dressed as a Bunny Girl. The drawing entitled 'He's only a Bunny Boy', was stolen on the exhibition's one open day; amongst rumours that the culprits may have been associated with Playboy.
At a time when the feminist movement was highly radicalised and revolutionary, it seemed that Harrison's work was too subversive for the art establishment and what was considered to be generally acceptable or comprehensible. Using what are thought to be more traditionally feminine materials, such as watercolours and pencil, Harrison's imagery was all the more impact-full and surprising for its incredibly modern nature and the political messages and observations it contained.
Although her very strong sociological and political beliefs have always informed her work, the decision to revisit and readdress the thematic emphases of the early series was inspired by the evolution in art production and the adoption and appropriation of certain more populist styles by the art world, and public today. Of her returning to these conceptual focuses at this time Harrison says, "I realised that my potential audience couldn't take the work at that point in time; there was no context for the work, and this propelled me into another strategy and direction to try to understand the world I was living in. My feeling is that the context is right for this work, and the new work, now.".
Of the highly anticipated upcoming show, Beverley Knowles says,"I'm really excited at the prospect of the new work that Margaret's working on at the moment. When I first saw the original work I was shocked and amused and awakened and many, many things all at once; so to see work along similar conceptual lines dealing this time with contemporary figures and events is something I'm really looking forward to." With the presentation of the old and new, thematically linked work, together in this way, 'Return Of The Sperminator and Other Stories', promises to be a fascinating, inspiring, enlightening and unmissable exhibition of work by one of our greatest living artists.
'Return Of The Sperminator and Other Stories' by Margaret Harrison runs at Beverley Knowles Fine Art
From November 3rd until December 1st 2007. Private View November 7th
ABOUT MARGARET HARRISON: Margaret Harrison was born in 1940 in Wakefireld and lives and works in Cumbria, England. She studied at the Carlisle Carlisle College of Art, England (1957-61), Royal Academy Schools, London, England (1961-64) and the Academy of Art in Perugia, Italy (1965). She is now a research Professor at the Manchester Metropolitan University and The Summer Arts Institute of California, where she also has a home.
Harrison has exhibited all over the world since her first solo and group shows in London in 1971 and her work is part of several permanent collections including that of the Tate Gallery, Arts Council of Britain, University of California, Carlisle City Art Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her most recent awards include; the Artist in Residence at Intersection for the Arts San Fransisco (2003/4), The Millenium Artists' Award from Northern Arts (2001) and a fellowship within the Humanities Institute at the University of California (1993).
Her work is currently showing as part of 'WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution'; an exhibition currated by Connie Butler, of New York's MOMA, for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), earlier this year (2007) and currently touring the world. Drawings from this show have been reserved for the Tat's collection and will also be showing later this year in an exhibition entitled 'Gender Battle', at Santiago de Compostella in Northern Spain.
Margaret Harrison is hugely respected Internationally and is recognised as one of the greatest contemporary British painters, who's work continues to resonate not only an aesthetically but politically.
22 October 2007