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
ONE/TWO PERSON EXHIBITIONS:
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
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