It’s Been a Hell of a Year

This has been one hell of a year. The shape of this year was one of spectacular highs and heartbreaking lows. At the end of 2016 I realized, as did most, that the world was in for a rocky go. We braced ourselves for the Trump and May (Brexit) disasters, knowing full well that a shit show was about to happen. ‘Glum’ is a good adjective for the state of the english speaking world in January of this year.

But as the spring started and the winter faded my personal life was moving in a direction of incredible life dreams finally coming true. Having daydreamed about living in Portugal for decades I was finally buying my own plot in paradise. 4+ acres or so of wild mountainside just below a village of 50 people. A dozen fruit trees, 100+ olive trees and 90 grape vines buried under 3 meters deep of uncut bramble thorns. Two stone buildings like something out of Tolkien hidden under the growth, red clay roof shingles and all.

By May I had actually become a land owner, and the thought of this phase of my life finally beginning filled me with a sense of adventure and hope that helped me combat the landslide of fucking idiocy that was happening on the world stage all around me. The Pumpkin Spice Dictator like a ghost haunting my dream come true, Theresa fucking May lingering over every airport TV screen, a parody of Britain more ironic than Gilliam or Cleese could have ever envisioned. (‘Tis only a flesh wound…)

In July I raised funding from a crowd sourcing campaign of postcard sized paintings to build a tiny cabin. I didn’t actually raise as much as I needed for the whole cabin, but it was enough to do the concrete foundation piers and sort out some other things on the land. The trip down was hot, and the experience not an altogether pleasant one. While the location remained a daydream come true, the reality of our host neighbors became socially awkward and our spirits took a hit. Sometimes people come from different mindsets in life and find that despite common interests they are vastly different in their approaches to living.

But the local village people remained friendly, and having a neighbor you think is off a bit isn’t so bad when you are out in the middle of nowhere. So we got on with what needed doing and returned to London because the fall meant art world requirements were approaching.

Upon our return an August break from reality was put in place as my daughter came for the summer. Much nonsense occurred, ice cream was eaten, bbqs had, and somewhere in the middle I managed to paint a few dozen paintings.

But then as September nights got shorter and the things one could pick from the garden and eat fresh scarcer October came around the bend. And finally, after waiting in full for the “other shoe to drop” on my day dream of Portuguese living things turned dark.

At the beginning of October I went through Frieze week. Its the part of the year where being an artist is very much, painfully, a job. You go places you don’t want to go, talk to people you’d rather not talk to, and play a role you can’t fucking stand because hey, it pays.

Over the course of Frieze I had a few mental episodes. Moments of outrageous internal panic that filled me with flight feelings in public events. Had to skip an important opening I was invited to by a collector and cancel a dinner the next day for similar reasons. I am not sure if its age, my normally reclusive behavior or the state of the world but I am increasingly filled with social anxiety. Frieze week this year was the absolute worst anxiety experience I have had. Not fun. But then it was over and all of the collectors had flown away back to LA and Berlin and I would be able to enjoy the coming Halloween. But this is 2017, so nah.

The fires in Portugal started in August, and over 60 people died mostly due to bad planning. Like California the hot dry air of the summer is turning parts of Portugal and Spain into infernos. Thousands of hectares of land leveled by fires. In October the Atlantic hurricane Sophia that hit Ireland dragged a lot of North African desert air up into Portugal, and an already hot and dry summer without rain sparked fires all around the tiny village I had decided was going to be my dream.

Suffice it to say all of my land was destroyed on the night of 15 October. 100+ olive trees, grape vines, a dozen fruit trees, oak, pines, every single thing was reduced in a monstrous blaze to charcoal that now coats the earth like a blanket of despair.

I spent the next weeks of the autumn fretting and thinking about the land. My mother in law arrived for a visit, which was distracting, and some projects were finalized and then in early December I was able to visit the land in person.

When I first set eyes upon my land in October of 2016, it was a green lushness that was so thick you couldn’t actually see the shape of the land at all. A year later it was now ‘my’ land and burned. November rains had washed away the dust and left only the burned fingers of blackened trees clawing the sky as I stood there looking into a drizzle grey afternoon. I could see the shape of my land now with no obstruction, but that vision was one of bleakness. The beauty of the scene was cinematic for sure. The ancient (some 500 years old) stone walls of the “Soito de Aldeia’ or ‘pasture of the village’ were exposed. In places thick slabs jutted from tall walls form free standing staircases. The vines were black snakes that ran along the edge of the stream I had until now only heard, never seen.

I took over 500 photos of the land and spent the afternoon in the misty rain under a grey and bleak sky on that Edward Goreyish hillside. Macabre, the fallen down ruins of my Tolkienesque buildings, the water running down the mountainside sounded like the laughter of trolls. In the absence of the bramble the crows have returned to the land to roost for the winter. It was an invitation born of a likeness of colour to the land, and of the exposure of soil that might harbour some tasty morsel that had long been covered and was now exposed and raw. It was no longer the pasture of the village, now it was the valley of the crows.

I felt full of the pain of the landscape around me, but had more business to attend to that day. I visit another neighbor and then popped into the local cafe in my tiny village. I was told, through a person who happened to be there to translate for the proprietor, that the government would be able to help me replant my trees and support the regrowth of my land because it was a natural disaster. My grim hopes rose in the face of their enthusiasm that my farm would come alive again.

But this is 2017, so when I returned to London and began making calls and doing research I found that the deadline for application was 22 December, on the 14th. I tried in vain to get the lawyer who did my property work to help me sort out the application, which required interaction with the Department of Agriculture, to no avail (she is 30 weeks pregnant and her mom is in the hospital). My many emails to the Dept of Agriculture (and many other organizations) went unanswered, even though written in Portuguese (by google). And after the week before Christmas passed one slow day at a time and dozens of calls and emails were sent (and the rare reply simply telling me to email someone else) the 22 December deadline to apply for relief passed and with it any chance of making the land a functioning farm without some other source of help.

But then the holidays came and they weren’t so bad. Quiet and full of books and time with M. A walk in our increasingly encroached upon local London woods, a mushroom pie and a lamb, visits with some friends.

Its been a hell of a ride 2017. My rise and fall in terms of life goals has been as extreme as most any year I have had on this planet. My outlook for next year is just to forge ahead, make more art, try to survive and hope the land heals. The trees are dead, but the soil is fertile, I suppose. Now I have to figure out what things I want to plant next year.

 

 

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Elliptical Confinement

Elliptical Confinement1 300dpi

I am pleased to reveal my new work Elliptical Confinement. It is an interactive immersive painting that is built on a 3D object generated out of the data sets of mass incarceration in the United States over the past decade.

Capitalism has created the largest epidemic of mass incarceration in human history. We have monetized human confinement, just as we have criminalized human behavior. Until we can see the scale that this modern form of slavery has created it will remain invisible to us as a society

This piece is part of a 3 location group show Geometrix happening in Washington D.C. The work is on view in a gallery but is also available via the web to anyone in the world. It is increasingly important to me that my work be available to more than just a handful of collectors and the web is the perfect medium for that to occur.

Please share the work around and help me bring attention to the insane politics of incarceration that occur within the US and increasingly abroad as the result of the privatization of the prison industry.

Elliptical Confinement

http://curatorsoffice.com/ellipticalconfinement

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GEOMETRIX: Line, Form, Subversion presented by Curator’s Office D.C.
3 Venues, 3 Months, 3 Opening Receptions
January 14 – April 16, 2016
curatorsoffice.com

RSH- ACID at Imitate Modern

The Alkahest
(from the introduction to the catalogue to RSH – ACID)

Painting is like the formation of primeval life, a pushing and pulling of energies that by some powerful statistical anomaly creates the absolute. Painting is a performative act of limitless expression. When we look at art in the early 21st century, we see a landscape proliferated with creators who utilize the internet as part of the dialog of their work. Either through direct consumption and appropriation of imagery found on the web, or through the performative structure of social media.

This push and pull of the immaterial realm of the web against the material realm of the traditional painter is the membranous boundary between the previous incarnation of art and its future self – a historic period much akin to the Voyager space probe finally pushing out of the heliosphere and being free of the immediate effects of the sun’s gravity. Art in the 21st century is finally shedding its 20th century skin, rubbing it off like a snake against the hard rock of data that swells around us every day. The boundary of the liminal space that is the internet, exists as a constant in the realm of the imagination, bringing with it a kind of extrasensory perception. This constant interaction with people informs the creative process of the majority of artists under forty and brings to the table an evolving dialog in which we must understand the role of the artists as public persona.

Painting as a form of expression is mankind’s oldest art form. By bringing the performance of the now – that is painting – into the liminality of the web, we create a space that the public can project its imagination onto, the record of action that is the painted surface. By taking this to the architectural level, it allows the viewer to stand inside of the painting, being encompassed by the form and colour.

Expanding painting not just beyond the edge of the canvas, but beyond the confines of the material, painting must evolve, must go beyond the boundaries of the physical if it is to remain relevant in the 21st century. How then does one take such an intrinsically physical practice as painting and transform it into the immaterial? Through social interaction, through networked media, and through the constant feedback loop of the internet dialog.

The alchemical process in the creation of the Alkahest is to distill, by reducing that purification the alchemist is able to finally create the universal solvent. The web allows for a constant recycling of ideas, a sampling of fractal proportions that makes everything self-referential. With the works in ACID, I have sampled only my own previous work, distilling the pieces from gestural paintings into geometric collages through a process of destruction and re-creation.

We stand at the threshold of a new era in art, where production and conceptualization are freed of the realities of the material world. The ‘materia mobilis’ of reality is giving way to a limitless space of creation – that immaterial realm of the digital.

-RSH, Jan 2015

 

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Download the complete catalogue with a full introduction by artist John LeKay here.

 

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Every year we are alive could be the one that contains our death, unwrap it slowly.

solstice2014

Wednesday is a strange day on which to end a year. Its like the middle of a project and suddenly it ends and a new project starts. 2014 was an incredible year, a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs.

In Jan I went to Los Angeles to realize my project MIRAGE in its first version. A 130×35 ft mural integrated into a augmented reality app MIRAGE was painted as a site specific piece in DTLA’s Fashion District. It was an incredible two weeks in LA, eating as many tacos as I could stuff in my face from as wide a range of taco trucks and restaurants as possible. Spent 2 weeks in the hot sun, painting a massive hotel in the Fashion District and browsing the stacks of Vacation Vinyl on Sunset Drive.

Having missed the coldest bit of winter I returned to London to start work on a series of new works in collaboration with the Swedish software firm Whisqu. It was pretty awesome using a robot to draw, especially the way in which the altered/glitched file data makes the plotter jerk in an almost epileptic fit while drawing. These glitch based plotter drawn works will be revealed mid 2015.

Sometime in late summer Paul Miller (DJ Spooky) released his long awaited book the Imaginary App, which featured MIRAGE from its original concept sketches, long before it became a reality. As summer settled in I signed with my first commercial gallery in London, Imitate Modern, and have now been in two group shows and an upcoming solo show in Feb 2015.

Come August I got to help one of my favorite painters Maya Hayuk on a private commission. Just inspiring to stand back and watch her do her thing for 5 days. She is a real painter, constantly thinking about the whole work, physically pushing the paint. Honestly one of the best in the world right now. A really great way to spend a week.

In October I went to Silesia Poland to create my largest ever piece of public art. A massive 5 story food bank that feeds the greater area of the town of Swidnica. It was a great experience brought about by the work of a local student group. The personal beauty is that this town is where my wife is from and the building is very near to her former school. It is on a shortcut path that kids take everyday so the primary viewers of the piece will be young students. Its an exceptional thing to be able to bring colour to so many young people’s lives. Plus bucket trucks at 75+ft up are like flying!

For the last two months of the year I have been working on my solo show ACID (opening 29 January!) at Imitate. The pieces of the show are broken in two, half being part of the installation itself, painted directly into the space. The other half are a series of ‘meta’ pieces I have been working on conceptually over the past year. For these pieces I take multiple paintings I have done on paper and cut into them with a razor in various patterns. Using the remains I collage them together into a new piece of art. It functions like a form of appropriation, a sampling of my own work. But as I am using the original and not a reproduction it acts like a distillation, purifying the piece into a metamorphic whole.

As I look out into 2015 its hard to speculate how things will go. ACID opens exactly four weeks from today. It feels in my head like I understand the shape of it, but who knows how it will develop on the ground? After the show I plan to get out of town for a break. Someplace warm. Malta maybe, or Portugal. The rest of the year is wide open. Absolute potential to do as much as I can and take what I do as far as I am capable.

As an aside I want to say that it was hard looking onto the world and seeing the effects of repression, violence and capitalist warmongering on the world stage. While I am a very strongly political person in private I make a point of keeping my work spiritual, as purely from within myself as I can. But the things going on in the world are dark, are patterns we have seen before in history and the scale with which the people of the world are victims to a handful of greedy bastards is unprecedented. But people are not blameless victims, we give these few the power they have both through our actions and our inaction. The world is walking down a dark path much the way it did a century ago, buying into a narrative being constructed by the very people who hold power over the public. We do not have to take this path, our actions can lead us just as much to victory and equality as it can to enslavement and darkness. Seek the light.

On to 2015, chaos reigns!

– RSH 31 Dec 2014

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Paint as Energy

A few months back I excitedly announced on social media that I had stumbled onto a new technique for painting. It was new to me but at the time I was unsure if it had been used before by any known painter. After some initial inquiries to a few respected critics and academics I confirmed that, if it had been used as a technique, it was never made public.

The discovery of any new approach to painting is, at least to me personally, grounds for excitement. It has long been said that nothing new can be done with paint, that all the ideas have been exhausted. Having found what I believed to be something new was a continental shift in my way of thinking about paint. It forced me to re-examine my previous techniques in light of this discovery, to reconcile my practice into a cohesive whole. Giving me new insight into things I have been doing for ages but never really stopped to considered.

In short this new technique involves using various handmade whips to apply paint to a surface with a great deal of force. An intense release of energy upon impact that creates various textural forms and requires a great deal of subtle control as it is very easy to damage the surface in unintended ways. Even the process of damaging the surface intentionally is one that has taken me time to consider.

rshwhippaint

After months of exploration I have finally found things to say with this technique. I have a long road ahead of me over the coming years exploring the vast terrain that the whip technique opens up but I wanted to share a basic premise that has come to me through this process.

Painting, in any form, is fundamentally about the controlled release of energy. This energy originates within the body, and its expression though paint occurs via any applicator. From the traditional brush through Pollocks sticks to my current whips the use of energy and its release is the fundamental that centers painting. Much like a martial art painting involves the entire body, a dance that frees ideas in the form of energy to make marks on a surface.

When we chose to paint, as opposed to other forms of artistic creation, we tap into the extended expression of the body in nature. As a painter we learn to speak in a language that is made of colour and form, but whose vehicle is the energy being transferred from our actions into the paint and onto the surface. It is this relationship between our bodies and the surface that defines painting, but it is the energy itself that gives painting its soul.

I look forward to a summer of further exploration with my new found discovery.

 

– RSH

Vernal Sacrifice

Over the past year I have been privately working on the concept of rural interventions with colour. Dealing with the natural space in the way I have been working with architecture over the past decade. Vernal Sacrifice is the first in a series of pieces I will be doing over the next year.

The paint is water base children’s tempera (poster) paint and is fully non toxic and environmentally safe. It will fade in just a matter of a couple of days in its environment without leaving a trace behind.

Vernal Sacrifice 3

Vernal Sacrifice 5

Vernal Sacrifice 2

Vernal Sacrifice 4

Vernal Sacrifice

Vernal Sacrifice 10

Vernal Sacrifice 9

Vernal Sacrifice 7

Vernal Sacrifice 6

Vernal Sacrifice 8

#rsh #raymondharmon