Associated with the Young British Artists, Harvey shot to fame with his controversial work, Myra, an image of the child-murderer Myra Hindley exhibited at the infamous 1997 Sensation exhibition in London's Royal Academy of Arts. A giant grainy monochrome portrait, from afar it looked like a painted reproduction of the well-known media image of the criminal, but up close it was revealed to be composed of children's handprints.
In his solo exhibition, Harvey will exhibit a selection of recent, uncompromising work in a variety of media that continues his investigation into ideas of Britishness–which now, more than ever, has come up against an identity crisis.
For several years now, Harvey has in his work explored the notion of British icons–from Thatcher to Tony Blair, as well as Nelson and Empire, but also lower-brow symbols, from tattoos, to junk-shop knick-knacks.
Often, these ideas are amalgamated in his extraordinary bronze sculptures–as if a magnetic centrifugal force has pulled together busts of Thatcher, policeman's helmets, Britannia, galleons and other maritime bric-a-brac. The result is a series of powerful, humorous three-dimensional state-of-the-nation collages.
Harvey also considers received notions of masculinity. In overlaying photographs with painted provocative tattoos of naked women, ships, and other nautical imagery, he highlights a set of clichéd national motifs that never seem to lose their appeal.
'I like to go for the cheesy symbolism–I'm trying to break the parodic mould,' he says.
These oil on inkjet paintings are, 'a musing on a theme of imagery and reality. By painting on photographs of actual people, they carry the narrative of the painting–bonding art history with a lower form of culture [the tattoo].'
This is cultural archaeology at its most exciting and irreverent and real. This has been an exceptional year for Britain–and the consequences of the Referendum vote will echo through the decades.
Harvey is an observer, not a judge. 'I am offering the imagery according to what is unfolding in terms of topical debate. People will read the extreme sentiment into it. It's a nagging theme to me that I mean to explore artists don't conclude. Politicians and philosophers conclude.' Harvey's work has never been more resonant.
Marcus Harvey was born in Leeds, attending Leeds College of Art and Goldsmiths College, London. He exhibited in the seminal Royal Academy exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection. Harvey's painting of child murderer Myra Hindley, composed of a repeated child's hand print and created as a critique of the media's exploitation of the Hindley story, remains the most divisive work in the RA's exhibition history. Harvey is the co-founder of the Turps Banana art school, gallery and magazine, which is devoted to painting. His work has been exhibited at MOMA, Oxford, The Serpentine Gallery, London and the Brooklyn Museum, New York, and is held in collections around the world, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Burger Collection, Hong Kong, the British Council and Saatchi Collections, London.
Press release courtesy Reflex Amsterdam.