Through the Veil represents a departure from Nicholas Harper’s signature long neck enigmas and presents a body of work focused on the landscape. This transition is perhaps obvious considering his deep love of the outdoors and its infinite potential for arresting one’s soul.
For Harper, the natural landscape offers more than beauty and awe. It’s a vehicle for communing with the Creator and harmonizing one’s self with the Creative Principle, that spark that resides in each of us, igniting life and inspiration and calls us to participate in the act of creation.
Drawing on the traditions of Turner and Romanticism, Harper seeks to carve out a niche in the lexicon of landscape painting that is not so far afield of his noir beauties yet distant enough to be of themselves, something totally new for him and standing alone of their own merit.
Conceived from real places and genuine vistas, each painting drips from reality and melts into a state of ambient otherworldliness. The viewer can find comfort in the grounded nod to realism while allowing themselves to fall freely into a meditative realm occupied by wonder and reverie.
The rich darkness that typifies each painting hints at Harper’s previously developed and characteristic artistic sensibilities and his desire to go beyond subject matter. It’s from this same artistic well that he draws forth a melancholic body of ambient landscapes he refers to as Nocturnes.
Each painting draws the viewer close while enticing you to enter a realm beyond that of this world. It is as if each piece documents a specific portal where the earthly and the divine embrace; each painting an invitation to see through the veil that separates the two.
“I will absolutely continue to paint portraits. But just as my style of portraiture has changed and evolved and taken on many different facets throughout the past 20 years, so to this body of work is an extension of my creative pursuits. It’s a body of work I wish to continue to visit and expand upon. I think it’s important for me to continually challenge myself, to continually evolve and be reborn artistically so to speak. I think of the portraits and the landscapes as different but equal, as though they are different notes in an evolving symphony.”
“Through portraiture my aim is to use symbolism and allegory as a means of connecting the viewer with their inner spark as a form of communication with the creator, the source or what have you. I suppose it’s a roundabout way of tapping into universal truth. I think of my landscapes as more of a direct line to God if you will, no wasting time with allegory or narrative. It’s just pure divinity in a frame.”
Nicholas Harper is an Atelier trained, award-winning artist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Harper refers to his personal artistic style as magical realism. His major influences include Russian and Orthodox Iconography as well as literature and philosophy.
Perhaps most well-known for his signature portraits of women with long necks, Harper infuses each painting with the potential for story-telling, metaphor and allegory. In doing so his intention is for each painting to transcend mere portraiture, the representation and documentation of an individual, and elevate each image to the status of archetypal symbol. Much of this is achieved by distorting reality and confounding preconceived notions of what is “beautiful” or “natural” within the frame work of the human figure. It is from this place that his signature “long neck” theme has emerged over time and defined much of his artistic career. While his style, subject matter and technique continue to evolve over time, central themes found throughout his work include concepts of divinity, the search for meaning, the nature of soul and the inner struggles within the self.
Of equal importance to his pursuit of the transcendent in portraiture is his pursuit and promotion of the beautiful. “Art must be beautiful, even if it’s ugly. There must be a beauty in it for it to not only touch the soul, but to be of the soul.”
In the spirit of finding beauty and his desire to continually be artistically reborn, his creative spirit has, as of late, given rise to the exploration of nature through what he refers to as Ambient Landscapes which he calls Nocturnes.
Born out of the tradition of Romanticism, his inherent distrust of technology and his aversion to much of what modernity elevates as “sacred” and “holy”, Harper has turned his attention away from the techno-centric and toward the natural world. In doing so he hopes to create nodes of spiritual connectivity with the divine, each painting offering itself as a portal to the spiritual world, a place of meditation and an homage to the universal principle of beauty.
After being ejected from his artist co-op in 1999, Harper opened The Rogue Buddha Gallery to facilitate a cross-disciplinary exhibition program that combined two and three-dimensional exhibits with dance, theater, film, music and the literary arts. Harper has creatively contributed to and involved himself in most of these fields to one extent or another.
Over the past 20 years, while continuing to own and operate the Rogue Buddha which has gained international notoriety, Harper has continued to expand upon his personal artistic repertoire. He has exhibited throughout the country and is collected internationally in both private and public collections. He has appeared in numerous publications and media outlets including CNN where he was named as an artist to watch.
In addition to the gallery and his artwork, Harper is an avid collector himself and publishes the arts journal, Amorous Vespertine while maintaining an all-things-arts related blog, roguebuddhism.com.
The art in Unloved Creatures depicts a wide array of characters that, to the mainstream population, might be considered monsters; hideous, ridiculous, scary, grotesque or deviant. But don't we all have a little of those things within ourselves? How flat and uninteresting would the world be if we were all Pollyannas; prim, proper and perfect? The Unloved Creatures in this show run the gamut from adorably cute to campy B movie to retro Jetsons to sexually aberrant. These four artists have masterfully created something for everyone to love, fear, gawk at or revile.
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