November 2016

the arts21 Nov 2016 08:06 am

harris1John Harris has produced book covers for many science fiction authors including famous names such as John Scalzi, Ben Bova, and Orson Scott Card. In fact, Scalzi himself, calls the artist’s work highly iconic, the phrase he uses is “Bookstore Iconic – which is to say it can be seen from across the bookstore.” (Harris p4) It is bold, striking, intense art that guarantees a good read. John Harris has also illustrated online fiction and produced artwork for NASA.

Harris is one of the few commercial artists working today who dislikes the nature of computer enhanced art (he calls it a bloodless medium) yet he has, however, produced some pieces in this manner. By taking the richly coloured roughness of his pastel sketches as starting points, so that the full bodied nature of his tangible pieces shines through, he develops them digitally by only a little. He is particularly fond of pastels as a medium, due to their hazy, atmospheric quality, which is, in fact, one of the key aspects of his art – the heightened sense of atmosphere his pictures evoke.

harris2In the forward to a recent book on his work The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon, the Author John Scalzi, whom the artist had painted book covers for, comments that: “quintessential John Harris art [is]: vibrantly coloured, impressionistic, yet technical, implying a whole universe outside the borders of the cover.” (Harris p4) In fact one of the most powerful aspects of the artist’s work is its obvious impressionistic influence “recalling, oddly, the romantic tradition of the 19th Century artists.” (Harris p4) John Harris is, perhaps, what Turner might have become, had he lived in the space age, or some future world.

The artist is particularly interested in the depiction of mass and in capturing the sensation of “floating yet having weight.” (Harris p16) This can be produced in many different ways; by a juxtaposition of motifs, such as lines of steam escaping from a spaceship which implies a sense of falling, or by using a background of ‘hanging’ curtain-like nebula, in front of which a spaceship may a appear to rise (its nose tilted up).

Yet, the believability of his paintings of massive objects hanging in space “are not simply the result of knowing about the lack of gravity in space, but are the result of actual bodily experiences of weightlessness in transcendental meditation…[other images] were provoked by things witnessed in lucid dreaming.” (Harris p8) In fact John Harris studied meditation for six years after graduating from art school in Exeter. (Eldred)

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poem14 Nov 2016 08:00 am

V0042744 Heliotrope (Heliotropium sp.): entire Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images 1 print : etching, with watercolour ; platemark 36.7 x 22.7 cm. Heliotrope (Heliotropium sp.): entire flowering plant. Coloured etching by M. Bouchard, 1774. {Romae (Rome) : Bouchard et Gravier, 1774} 1 print : etching, with watercolour ; platemark 36.7 x 22.7 cm. 36.9 x 22.9 cm. BOUCHARD, MAGDALENA Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Better that he came to me
     than his mother. Her soul
     threadbared by grief
     could not have carried the miracle.

The girlfriends have all
     moved away or moved on
     and that one boy (“Why not?
     A mouth’s a mouth,” and he was
     so wrong, embouchure and enthusiasm
     leagues beyond any bad girl’s)
     now he’s a star who hates to talk
     about his hick hometown.

Better that he came to me
     the girl next door
     ten years younger than he
     and unburdened by memory or

I inherited this house
     with the overgrown hedges.

I inherited him too
     I guess.

Hidden by towering boxwood
     he sits on my back deck
     low to the ground, legs
     sprawled and hands spread wide
     behind him as he absorbs
     the honeyed hours.

And wherever he was before
     (“With the angels now,” my mom said
     eyes teary at the tragedy
     and she was so wrong)

I know it wasn’t heaven
     not the way he lifts his face to the sun
     not the way he hungers for the light.

poem07 Nov 2016 08:02 am

By Nils Dardel (1888-1943) ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

our dad could produce five thousand starlings from a folded bus ticket
once he even pulled forth a dragon made entirely of silk from his top pocket
in the summer when the grass grew long he would weave it into a coat
and we would climb into the pockets of the lawn and sleep beneath the stars
once he leant a ladder against the moon and we climbed all the way to an ice landing
from there we threw coins from our mother’s purse and ruined several cities below
he showed us how to float to the top of Mount Everest by overfilling the bath
how to collect the individual flames from eleven matchsticks to make a football team
who would then challenge the national team of the republic of click beetles
once we all climbed into the held breath of a whale and travelled through the ocean
and mum was mad at us because we missed our supper by seven weeks
but not as mad as she was at us when dad made us suits from elastic bands
and we all bounced to the moon and back down again and were late for October
and dad invented Table-Football-Chess and Elephants-and-Elevators and Terrible-Pursuit
and he showed us how to remove the shadow of a scissors from a scissors
and then we could cut loose our own shadows with the scissors and set them free
and we went to the zoo and freed the shadows of the lions and the leopards
and the hippos and the bison and the monkeys and the emus and the camels
and we took them home and had a zoo against the wall and our zoo never got hungry
and never got angry and lasted all day until the sun went down
and dad and mum grew tired and sleepy and slept and their hair went grey
and grew into the clouds and then it rained and rained and rained them away

picture by Nils Dardel (1888-1943) ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons