Claire Harkess was born in Ayr, Scotland, graduating from Glasgow School of Art in the early 1990s. In recent years her painting has taken her to fragile lands to study and interpret life on the edge. Antarctica, Outback Australia and St Kilda are all places where, in such extreme environments, survival is difficult and the balance of life is delicate. Six hundred miles due west of Ecuador surrounded by the Pacific Ocean lie the Galápagos Islands, made famous by Charles Darwin’s ‘The Origin of the Species’. This isolated volcanic outpost remained relatively untouched by man, evolving to become one of the World’s unique ecosystems. The balance present in nature is clearly communicated through the paintings. Painting in watercolour offers a unique directness; the essential qualities of light and energy present in the natural world are the very essence of the medium itself. The delicacy of her palette and oriental economy of her mark-making creates a subtle tension representing a world that is ‘holding still’, giving a sense of freedom, spirit, time and place.
Claire exhibited at The Scottish Gallery in April 2018, exploring the idea of A Wilder Place. In July 2020 Claire presented an exhibition Into the Wild, featuring works created in the Arctic Circle and rewilding centres in Scotland. In March 2022 Claire’s exhibition The Garden, opened in The Gallery. The exhibition explored her immediate surroundings in Perth from a collection of borrowed gardens. Claire carefully and joyfully captured the visitors: the birds, the squirrels, the badger, and for the first time she brought the flora to the foreground while a butterfly or a tiny snail might be found in the detail. This close-up of the familiar natural world, so easily overlooked, has expanded her practice. Her work has a delicate, oriental sensibility, suiting longer formats, and employing kintsugi techniques, adding to their sense of fragility. This September Claire is also showcasing a series of miniatures in The Gallery, Miniature Menagerie.
‘I return again and again to wildlife and the natural world. It surprises and inspires. No two encounters are the same. Being present in something greater gives perspective. There is always something new to learn. It is an anchor that holds all of us and it must be protected.’ – Claire Harkess