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'Head with Cross' (Self-portrait) 1998-2003
oil on board
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery
12 OCTOBER 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
‘Jeffrey Harris’ Comes to City Gallery Wellington
Principal Sponsor: Telecom NZ Ltd
This summer, City Gallery Wellington invites you to enter the singular and dramatic world of Jeffrey Harris.
This sweeping survey exhibition draws on 35 years of Jeffrey Harris’s art-making, encompassing a variety of media (from
painting to etching) and tracking the changes and developments in his work. A touring exhibition from the Dunedin Public
Art Gallery, ‘Jeffrey Harris’ is presented at City Gallery Wellington with the support of Telecom.
“Good art comes of struggle,” Harris once said, “and should show signs of that struggle.” Born in Akaroa in 1949, Harris
is a self-taught artist, part of the generation that includes Philip Clairmont, Tony Fomison, Michael Smither and Ralph
Hotere, the latter two of whom encouraged him to take up painting full-time in 1970.
Harris is probably best known in New Zealand for his figurative paintings of the 1970s and early 1980s: highly symbolic
scenes of couples and domestic groups (once described by the artist as a “diary of painted pain”) which explored the
intricacies of relationships and the complexity of domestic life.
A shift to Melbourne in 1986 to take up an artist’s residency marked a new period in Harris’s work. Coming to see the
autobiographical reading of his earlier work as a limitation, Harris felt the need to pare back his paintings, and his
work moved in an increasingly abstract direction. >From lush, colourful multi-panelled works that reflected his early
experiences of the sun and heat of his new city home, Harris kept refining and reducing, eventually working in the
colours of a burnt-out landscape: black, white, ash, charcoal. In these large canvases, the viewer is faced with pouring
torrents of black and white pigment that achieve Harris’s aim of creating paintings that could not “be interpreted as
anything else but painting”.
Harris returned to Dunedin four years ago. Since that time, his work has taken another turn, including the ‘From Dream’
series, with its biomorphic masses and tumbling skull shapes, and a set of unflinching self-portraits. Despite the
varied nature of his work, exhibition curator Justin Paton identifies Harris’s faith in painting as (in the artist’s
words) “a condensation of experience and intensity”, as the thread that brings it all together.
City Gallery Wellington Director Paula Savage says: “It is a privilege to bring this astounding body of work to
Wellington. Curator Justin Paton has done a superb job of bringing together a selection of works that demonstrate the
power and emotion of Jeffrey Harris’s painting. As always, we are extremely grateful to Telecom for joining with us in
presenting the best of contemporary New Zealand art to the Wellington audience.”
Described by critic David Eggleton as a “ferocious display of art that …roars like the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion”, this
exhibition is an unmissable opportunity to delve into the rich interior world of one of New Zealand’s leading artists.
City Gallery Wellington
13 November 2005 – 6 February 2006
A Dunedin Public Art Gallery touring exhibition
Principal Sponsor: Telecom NZ Ltd
City Gallery Wellington is managed by the Wellington Museums Trust with major funding support from Wellington City