Language of the Body: Painting the Figure

Can't Remember the Single Line I - Justin Harris

Can't Remember the Single Line II - Justin Harris

Figurative art is a fascinating area to look into, so much can be found in the body, the way it moves, its posture and grace, its dance, its stillness, its rhythm, elegance, age, beauty, ability/disability, function/dysfunction, whatever imperfections and perfections there may be, the body has a language of its own and each artist captures and depicts that language through his or her own unique expression.

Justin Harris’s figurative work which is part of an exploratory series in a career that is primarily built around conceptualism is interested in capturing the figure in contrasting sets: small detailed sections against large minimalistic backgrounds, or in dualistic sets: light against dark; organic against inorganic – [print technology versus paint; abstraction versus the technical; contemporary versus traditional]. These factors alongside a conscious effort to depict mood and feeling are captured within the image.

Below is a selection of paintings from The Writer Series, which when first published online last year, gained some interesting commentary on the idea of ‘The Writer’. While it is true that the artist’s aim is to capture some essence of The Writer, who within the figure in the painting symbolises this artistic vision – that is of what or who it is to be The Writer, [the scribe, the witness, the documenter, the painter…?] and perhaps to some degrees Harris captures a sense of the anguish and turmoil that both artists and writers face as they ‘crawl out of their depression’ as one commentator puts it. However, the beauty of this work is that it is open to interpretation – the language of the painting is open to interpretation. The Writer maybe the story, the art, the essential unfolding of creativity…

‘London-based artist Justin Harris utilizes a mix of media (oil, acrylic, pencil, and pastel on canvas) to create four powerful pieces for his series titled The Writer. The illustrator uses faceless figurative forms to depict an assortment of raw emotion. Each fragmented subject is seen crossing over the blank, empty canvas onto a designated grid of color, though their figure remains black and white.

‘Despite entering a small window of lively color splashes and scribbles, that artist’s figures are confined to their monochromatic state. They present this duality of creativity that writers often face—being able to entertain others with their art, yet finding difficulty in crawling out of their own depression. The images offer a dramatic visual of the contrast between the writer’s drained inner conflict versus the colorfully creative output. There’s also a vulnerability to the naked subjects who are either seeking to cover themselves or reaching with outstretched arms.’


The Writer I - Justin Harris

The Writer II - Justin Harris

‘Artist Justin Harris, based in London, creates powerful paintings that evoke strong emotions when I look at them closely.  Using a variety of materials such as oil, acrylic, pencil and pastel on canvas. His series ‘The Writer’ leaves a distinct impression of different feelings. His technique is fascinating and very precise.

‘It is intriguing to see how he uses splashes of colour to complement his work. The black and white body standing in front of a coloured background is a great way to contrast the two layers. I feel Justin Harris has the great capacity to translate his vision into clear, compelling art works. I also really admire the way he portrayed this duality of emotions that writers sometimes struggle with.’


Eternal Return - Justin Harris The Eternal Return II - Justin Harris


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