As an artist, Tomas Harker’s practice engages the history of art as an unreliable and inaccurate documentation of the past. There is a personal subjectivity in his painting; but rather than offering an answer, he is exploring his own uncertainties.
“My paintings are appropriated from images throughout art history and contemporary media”, he said. “I’m repositioning these images to explore classical themes from a contemporary perspective. The often relates to my own uncertainties”. Like I, you might be uncertain about why uncertainties are being explored. “Art becomes interesting for me when it stops affirming meaning or a certain position and instead raises questions”, he continued. “My unease about our image culture is to do with how these images confer meaning, shaping our understanding of the world”.
His life as a self-taught artist began from a young age. He always enjoyed creating, and had a very questioning attitude towards the world. From today, until the end of the weekend, alongside artists like Corrine Natel, Alberto Petrivelli, Francesco Jacobello, and Suzi Pindar, who we spoke to late last year*, Tomas Harker will be showcasing his work at the latest FLUX Exhibition.
Tomas Harker uses the material qualities of paint as a way of reinterpreting images. His preoccupation with meaning relates to how images inform our understanding of present day reality and our history. Tomas Harker’s paintings leave out information. In doing so, they create an uncanny sense of ambiguity, both relative to personal insecurities and the unreliability of the spectacle of image culture.
There will always be a gap between human understanding and our existence. “These ideas liberate my work”, Harker said. “It frees me to paint the surface of reality, without necessarily attempting to understand anything deeper. Things are what they are, to explain them any further is to distort them, although painting is always a distortion, and part of my practice is to embrace that, to accept the confusion and lack of clarity”.
Truth and meaning are obscured in images. “Throughout history, images have served a particular discourse or ideology. From religious painting to the iconography of the current world economic system in contemporary culture”. Futher to this, the amount of images we see today leads to a kind of information overload. “Images start to lose meaning and become incredibly transient. To me this creates a distorted of false reality. And, a difficulty in determining between fact and fiction”.
Tomas Harker said that his paintings accept the lack of clarity without conferring meaning. Through painting, he represses the original image. It’s distorted, with the intent of purposefully leaving out informationl; “This acts as an allegory to the unreliability of the spectacle of our image culture. The difficult reading allows for a subjective reinterpretation of the image, disturbing a comfortable viewing”.
There is no particular narrative behind the works on show at the FLUX Exhibition, but there is a relationship that can be drawn between the images. “This is left open to the viewers interpretation”, Harker said.
Having been part of exhibitions before, there are inevitable challenges to be faced. “Work can sometimes clash with other artists’ work”, he continued. “It can be disparate, devaluing and confusing. Curators have many considerations to make and when they get it right they create some interesting new ways of seeing the work”.
We spoke about the relevance of FLUX for upcoming artists. They provide you, us, with an opportunity to see some very exciting work that you may not otherwise be exposed to. “Exhibiting the work of upcoming artists is risky for galleries. Lisa Gray has taken a very bold step with FLUX in creating a democratised platform for upcoming artists to show work. It’s an opportunity for collectors to support artists working outside of the norm, and giving access to artists at the start of their career”.
We went back to the notion of exploring uncertainties, and I wondered if he ever found a sense of peace within himself. Or whether he learnt anything about himself that he didn’t know before. “It helps to start to make sense of things. To see things in a new way”, he said. “Painting in that way can sometimes act as a kind of meditation. But also, there is a consolation in accepting that some things remain unknowable“.
One thing Tomas Harker will always believe, is that there will always be a gap between human understanding and our existence. “I’m inspired by existentialist writers like Camus and Sartre, and believe there is no intrinsic meaning to existence other than what we make for ourselves. The gap relates to the absurdity of life and the desire to apply our reasoning and meaning to an existence that is illogical and largely unknowable”.
From here, Tomas Harker has plans to move to London to start an MA in painting at the Royal College of Art. This will be another influence on his work; “I’m planning on using my time at the RCA to continue my research into the presentation of meaning, reality, history, and its relationship to painting. Things also evolve naturally when you’re just enjoying painting, it develops in surprising ways when you allow it to. There are no shortcuts, you just have to work hard”.
Tomas Harker will be taking part in FLUX a contemporary art exhibition which takes place at Chelsea College of Arts from 11th-15th April. This showcases the work of 100 gifted artists, on the path to being the big names of tomorrow.
For more details see www.fluxexhibition.com
* Other artists include Corrine Natel, who investigates colour, space and texture within her work. Through the expression of energy the work Natel creates develops a life of its own; it becomes a new entity, aiming to create a vibrancy that alludes to another world. Alberto Petrivelli explores abstract and expressionism. He presents personal, emotional experiences and his subjective perspective of reality and of the surrounding world.
Francesco Jacobello grew up surrounded by art and artistic expression. A core inspiration behind his works comes from the personal connection within his environment and the wish to immortalise expressions. Suzie Pindar, who we interviewed last year, constantly evaluates the world. She feels the need to make sense of everything and capture her observations in a way that she can express and later process. This is work that is honest, that is bursting with feelings and memories, making the ordinary interesting.