Born 1977 Edinburgh.
There is an undeniable rawness about Norrie Harmans work. The work is dark and brooding, jaggedy and sometimes representational. Images are often left in an unfinished state; surfaces are scratched and streaked giving them a sense of freshness and urgency. And thematically, Harman is not interested in niceties either. Like Francis Bacon, or German expressionists such as Max Beckmann, he brings a grotesqueness to his work that makes it powerfully haunting, mysterious and accentuates the rawness of his technique. He is interested in displacement, people on the edge of society, the fringes, outcasts. He paints discarded places and discarded people. It is likely that the urge to confront this subject matter comes from a childhood spent growing up on an estate at the outskirts of Edinburgh. I get fed up of the way that people think of Edinburgh as this genteel middle class city, but all these things are there, at the edges, on the fringes. Strip joints, estates. he says. So he paints tenements, a Polish stripper, a guy giving head in an Edinburgh gay club, a female addict with the bandaged stump of a recently amputated hand. Indirectly, then, Harmans work is also about social constructs, and barriers; the literal natural or manmade boundaries that exist between poor and affluent areas of Edinburgh, for example, but any city, and also social and racial barriers. And just as Harmans human subjects are rejected outsiders, he also often paints greyhounds. You see them around, on the street, this sort of dog. They always have the same look in their eyes. That look is vulnerability, a quality that characterises much of Harmans work. For all its rawness and edginess, there is also a sense of fragility, which adds to its complexity. Harmans portraits are beautifully executed: he combines a great talent for draughtsmanship with personal narrative. His cityscapes, though, are unpeopled places, dark, punchy and bleak. Says Harman, I find a tranquillity in them. Elsewhere, in this body of work, there are paintings of caravans. In 'Caravan Abandoned' Harman depicts an array of chairs outside the caravan, making it look as if everyone had just left and leaving the viewer wondering why. The idea of the caravan as a narrative symbol, a leitmotiv within his work is a fascinating one to Harman, The caravan is a symbol of people in transit. ..I have both good and bad memories associated with caravans, he says. like going to the seaside with my family in the summertime, but also the perverts who lived in caravans on the estate. Rarely using brushes, Harman instead prefers to apply paint with bits of card or CD cases, sculpting into it and letting it dry before applying again.. This makes the process as raw as the subject matter, and makes Harman able to work with his surface in a more personal and direct way. Similarly, he will paint on found pieces of cardboard, enjoying the battered and raw quality of the surface. Harmans work portrays an evident joy and instinctiveness for mark making. While Harmans work is in many ways subversive, it is however firmly grounded in skilled traditional craftsmanship. Harman is proud of his Scottish artistic heritage, and is aware that his training at Edinburgh school of Art taught him the same core skills that Scottish artists before him have learned, which he says allowed him to lay the foundations of his practise with a traditionalist edge. While I was at college, I spent a lot of time in the Life Room, drawing form, drawing from life. This has, says Harman, left him with the ability to look at a figure, establish it and reduce it. He feels confident with his ability to do this, and then to edit the form, too. Which means that amongst other things, Harman is a highly talented portrait artist who often works to commission. The work in this exhibition shows not only more conventional portraits, but also the darker, moodier portraits that epitomise the artists ever strengthening personal style. Justine Gaunt…Read More