AS IT WAS IS NOW

                   7 April – 13 May 2018

AS IT WAS IS NOW, a solo exhibition by Tim Harrisson, pairs new and old work together, rooted in a continued interest in minimalism, landscape and history. Harrisson works with the great variety of stone that the British Isles has to offer: Chicksgrove limestone (145 million years old), Portland stone (145-152 million years old), Ham stone (174-182 million years old), as well as the famous Carrara marble (25 million years old) from Tuscany, Italy.

On Saturday 21 April at 11am, Professor Simon Olding joins us in conversation with Tim to discuss his work, practice and new solo exhibition ‘AS IT WAS IS NOW’ here at Messums Wiltshire. The pair are long-term colleagues and friends having known each other since Simon worked as museum director at Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth. Simon commissioned Tim to make the sculpture ‘Horizon’ for the museum’s garden which was completed in 1995 and has followed Tim’s exhibitions and developments ever since…read more

Tim choosing stone in Portland

Stone is central to the history of Wiltshire; a county with an international reputation for its Neolithic offerings – Sarsen stones (30 million years old) define the identity of those who live and create art here. Evidencing the significance of verticality in ancient sites such as Stonehenge, as well as Harrisson’s oeuvre, John Glaves-Smith writes: ‘The upright stone has, after all, a special poignancy within the history of sculpture: to move the stone to the vertical is the most basic act of sculpture. It brings inanimate matter into the human world both by visual metaphor and through the challenge to gravity’. Harrisson is, therefore, a key part in a lineage of artists keen to investigate the materiality of stone, reveal its innate, rather than potential artistic qualities, whilst positing the meaningful relationship human beings have had and can have with stones.

The Messums Wiltshire barn, constructed in 1279 under the patronage of the Abbess of Shaftesbury, is critical to Harrisson’s work, not least because many of his pieces are fashioned from the very material it is built from: Chicksgrove limestone, quarried only a few hundred yards from our location. Tellingly, the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral, fifteen miles down the Nadder river, is also made from the same stone. Harrisson’s AS IT WAS IS NOW, a sculpture whose name inspired the title of his show, is the most site-specific work included within the exhibition: with the sculpture’s monumental height relating to the point at which the roof joints originate in the barn. AS IT WAS IS NOW echoes the medieval architecture, comprised of a half arch (perhaps half of a whole) and is positioned as if jutting through the wall – a truly dynamic integer. The surface of this stone, puckered by fossils, is as redolent of the ancient coral reef upon which the barn sits as it augments the duality between Harrisson’s choice of cool, calm local stone and the organic – in his own words – ‘energetic’ wooden thatch of the roof. In another piece Bearing, Harrisson is able to control this vibrant, reverent space by stationing along its length five contained, rhythmic sentinels.

Artists influenced by the mid twentieth-century movement of Minimalism are often interested in the fundamentals of number, colour and material in order to create subtle resonances. The half oval arch form of AS IT WAS IS NOW, for example, is perhaps an allusion to the art and architecture of Baroque Rome; being expressive, energetic and expansive. The length of this shape, culminating in its sharp, racetrack-like bends indicates the floor-plans of great churches such as Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome. The interpretation of this specific work, as well as Harrisson’s sculpture in general and the title of this exhibition has been left purposefully undetermined. ‘As it was is now’, recognised by many as a line from the doxological ‘Glory Be’, encompasses a religious or spiritual quality, but also the geological origin of our earth and the cherishing of stone by all human civilisations throughout time. Stone, in this sense, always was and will be. A doxology, (a short hymn of praise to God in various forms of Christian worship) is often added to the end of canticles, psalms and hymns. Harrisson’s work may not be derived from, or a homage to this religious cannon, but his sculptures are certainly ‘short hymns’ of sorts, open-ended, hermeneutic odes to interpretation itself.

Harrisson cites the Singaporean-British sculptor and printmaker Kim Lim (1937-1997) as an important artistic influence. Her work is recognisable for its abstract balanced forms as well as a probing of the complexities in art and nature. Harrisson was inspired by her work’s eastern philosophical agency – especially the idea that birth, growth and death exist on a continuum, a constant ‘rhythm of life’ on an atomic, molecular and universal level. A Single Vision, a square block fashioned again from local Chicksgrove limestone, plays with these ideas of permanence and stability in micro and macro form. Here the ‘safe’ structure of a traditional horizon line has been affected by Harrisson’s slight curves. The clarity and precision of A Single Vision, qualities which belong to contemporary minimalism successful achieve a sense of motion in stillness, of a contained, rippling pulsation – and only more so in the medieval context.

Speaking about his practice, it becomes clear that Harrisson’s processes are also finely balanced; caught between instinctual and designed. At art school he experimented with all manner of materials, finally connecting with the three-dimensionality of stone, how it realised the sculptor’s language of ‘mass’, ‘form’, ‘weight’ and ‘density’ in a very tangible sense as well as how the material’s sheer age renders our own lifespans somewhat comfortingly insignificant and unimportant. Harrisson’s two-dimensional work, on view in the Long Gallery, also includes a range of techniques incorporating gouache on pastel, copperplate etchings and pencil on paper. The vertical and the horizontal are stressed equally in these on-paper works, as Harrisson’s bird’s-eye view approach affords the viewer a greater sense of geographical scale and layout. Indeed, it is the structure in and of the landscape reflected in Harrisson’s ordered mark-making which is ultimately the link between his two-dimensional and three-dimensional works.

Harrisson was born in Essex in 1952 and studied at Hammersmith College of Art (1969-79), Norwich Art School (1970-73) and Byam Shaw School of Fine Art (1975). Harrisson was Sculptor in Residence at the Red House Museum, Christchurch (). He has exhibited widely since 1981 and undertaken a number of important commissions. In 2013 the British Museum acquired a selection of his works on paper. Harrisson was elected to the Royal West of England Academy in 2013. He lives and works in Wiltshire.

Photos by David Cousins & Steven Drewett


2015   Land/Stone/Colour, Canary Wharf London
2014   Bearing, The Close, Ely Cathedral
2012   The Oldbury Chapters, Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre, Marlborough
2011   Marks through the Landscape – Creswell Crags, Creswell Crags Museum
2010   Drawings for a Geological Room, Atrium Gallery, Bournemouth University
2010   Marks through the Landscape, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
2009   Land Marks, Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre, Marlborough
2007   Sculpture and Works on Paper, The Eagle Gallery, London
2005   Prints, The Jennifer Newman Studio, Longbridge Deverill, Wiltshire
2001    New Stone Carvings, New Arts Centre, Roche Court
2000    Recumbent Stones, Dorset County Hall, Dorchester
1999    Stone Works, Galerie Sebastianskapelle, Ulm, Germany
1997    Sounding, Winchester Cathedral
1996    The Matter of Landscape, Six Chapel Row Contemporary Art, Bath
1995    Russell-Coates Museum, Bournemouth
1993    Four Stone Sculptures, New Arts Centre, London
1991    Recent Sculptures, New Arts Centre, London
1989    Artsite Gallery, Bath
1988    Halesworth Gallery Suffolk (prints and drawings)
1984    Salisbury Arts Centre, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell
1984    The Flaxman Gallery, Stoke on Trent
1984    Purdy Pomeroy Gallery, London


2016    ‘Imagined Landscapes’, The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
2015    ‘Drawn’, The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
2014    Royal Academy Summer Show
2013    ‘The Sculpted Stone’, The Garden Gallery, Stockbridge, Hampshire
2013     Stewards of the Earth’ Sarum College, Salisbury
2013     London Art Fair Islington, The Fine Art Society, London
2012     Carving in Britain 1910 to Now, The Fine Art Society, London
2012     The Autumn Exhibition, The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
2011     ‘The Figure In the Landscape’ Winchester Discovery Centre
2011     ‘Sculpture Show’ Adam Gallery, London
2011     London Print Fair, Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre
2010     London Art Fair Islington, Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre
2009     ‘An Exchange of Light ‘ Sladers Yard, Bridport, Dorset
2009     ‘Elements Trilogy’ Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre, Marlborough
2008     ‘Touching the Divine’ Michaelhouse Centre, Cambridge
2008      Stone, Salisbury Art Centre
2008      Millstream Sculpture Garden, Bishopstrow, Wiltshire
2005      Stone, Canary Wharf
2005      The Cass Foundation, Percy Street, London
2005      The Hannah Pescher Gallery, Sussex
2004      Line and Form, Stephen Lacey Gallery, London
2004      Sculpture in the Garden, Harold Martin Botanic Garden, University of Leicester
2003      Art 34 ’03 Basel, Switzerland
2002/04    Royal Academy Summer Show
2001     Bournemouth Exhibition, Artist’s Loan Exhibition
2000     Bournemouth University, Artist’s Loan Exhibition
2000     Shadows on Stone, Sherborne Abbey, Sherborne
1999    The Shape of the Century, Salisbury Cathedral Close,
              (Exhibition traveled to Canary Wharf, London)
1999     The Pleasure of Influence Deans Court, Wimborne
1998     Art 29’98, Basel, Switzerland
1998     The Stick, Southern Arts Regional Touring Exhibition
1997     Art 28’97 Basel Switzerland?
1997     Lewes Sculpture Trail, organized by Lewes Council
1996     Art 27’96 Basel, Switzerland
1994     ARCO, Madrid, Spain
1994     Art 25’ ‘94 Basel, Switzerland
1994     The Orangery, New Art Centre, Roche Court
1994     Summer Display, City Art Gallery, Southampton
1993     New Abstraction Coopers & Lybrand Building. London
1993     A Sculpture’s Landscape New Art Centre, London
1993/2008   Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bretton Hall, Wakefield
1992     Art 23′ ’92 Basel, Switzerland
1991     The Close Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire
1991     Economist Plaza, St James, London
1991      Art on the Waterfront, Southampton Civic Centre
1990/08     New Art Centre, Roche Court, Wiltshire
1987     Rufford Open, Rufford Sculpture Park, Mansfield
1987     Coastlines, The Towner Museum, Eastbourne
1987     Sculpture Open, Minories, Colchester
1986     Art for the Garden, The Hannah Pescher Gallery, Sussex
1985     Still Life a New Life, Harris Museum, Preston
1984     R.I.B.A Sculpture Court, London
1981     Salisbury Library