Earlier in the month, Alison promised to introduce you to some of the characters that appear in Norrie Harman's solo exhibition, 'Way Out West'. It would be unthinkable to ignore the biggest of those characters, in both size and personality, the remarkable Hilary:
'Hilary's For Tea', oil on board, by Norrie Harman.
Now this is a big painting, the biggest we've ever shown at 8'x8', and Hilary's personality is all pervasive when you come into the gallery: you cannot ignore her and you cannot deny her impact. And it's by no means just her size that gives her such impact - this is a painting masterclass from Norrie - a stroke of genius. In an exhibition that is almost entirely monochrome, it is fascinating that the one painting with colour should actually be the darkest and most disturbing. Of course, her gruesome painted face is scary, but the unnatural lurid green, clashing with the blood red, is the toxic colour of nightmares. Not to be taken lightly.
Hilary is a complex character, lonely and full of tragedy, but perhaps deserving to be so. Having lived with her for the last month, I have grown very fond of Hilary and have learnt to see her vunerability and well as her menace. She hangs at the back of the gallery with a 'tunnel' of monochrome work pointing towards her. It takes courage for an artist to use such a limited palette in his work: no distraction of colour, paring the work back to its bare essentials, shows real confidence. The genius of having just one, enormous and exquisitely painted colour painting that has so much impact has not been missed by those who have visited us this month.
Hilary also makes a couple of appearances in the monochrome work. Here she is 'hunter/gathering' for the nightmarish tea she is inviting us to:
'Hilary Goes Shopping', watercolour and indian ink, by Norrie Harman.
Again wonderfully created, there is the body language of despair, maybe even defeat, that belies the threat of her appearance. I love this painting for its power and its humanity.
An interesting footnote about Hilary is that such is her size, Norrie couldn't work on her in his studio, so he built a tin shed on the outskirts of Edinburgh and painted her there. Doing so in the cold and lonely winter months shows real commitment to his work, and he is to be commended for doing so. After all, if he hadn't, we would never have got to meet this amazing character.
Love it or hate it (and both opinions have been expressed), there is no denying that 'Hilary's for Tea' is a monumental piece of work which we believe should be housed in a permanent collection for all to experience and consider. Much of Norrie's work will leave a lasting impression on us: none more so than the wonderful Hilary.
And a Happy Birthday today to 'Hilary's for Tea' creator, Norrie Harman.