A Wilder Place04 Apr 2018 - 28 Apr 2018
Claire Harkess has all the expressive and technical gifts essential for the wildlife painter and her powers of observation and recollection are given full reign in her latest exhibition. But as the title suggests in A Wilder Place she accesses past, present and future; the shared, romantic idea of our country once fully inhabited by ancient lineages of wild animals; the reality of the survivors we have seen or at least know are alive in remote vastnesses and the possibility of the return of lynx, wolf, boar and bear in the visionary rewilding programmes in which she has become involved.
In a Harkess painting the animal is real, as experienced; a silhouette, camouflage patterns against patterned background foliage, seldom the whole animal but always its whole spirit. She has engaged with the ecology of the animal’s histories, once inextricably linked to our own, ritually recorded by our Neolithic ancestors on cave walls, brilliantly realised in her Regeneration series. In other paintings like The Eagle and the Wren she draws on the folk tales of the Highlands to add poetry to her subject. The deft certainty of her mark has an oriental sensibility whether framing the forest presence of the wild boar or the etiolated delicacy of a pair of common cranes. The value of these animals is in their ecology and also in their presence, often just a trace, their very wildness and inaccessibility defining their value, and it is this trace which is so poignantly and beautifully encapsulated by the artist.