Bold: that might be the word that describes the work by the Luxembourgish artist Thierry Harpes (*1991) most poignantly.
From the colour choices to the brushwork and the treatment of the picture plane, Harpes’ visual language shouts rather than whispers.
Yet, it is not a dissonate sound, somehow the colours bounce off each other, causing a stimulating vibration.
The artist invites us to explore the image surface, to feel the texture of the paint, by celebrating the materiality of colour.
The primed canvas houses layers of carefully placed fields of glossy and matt paint. The saturated surface allows the colours to fully develop their luminosity creating a tangible colour density.
It is this haptic approach to the medium which captures the viewer and calls them to delve into the picture plane and to feel the refreshing nature of his colour combinations.
Through the impact of the pandemic, the artist felt the need to rethink the role of confined spaces and rooms. Being limited to an enclosed space – just like paint is limited to its picture surface – it resides within the power of the mind to explore these boundaries without having to physically cross them.
It is thus unsurprising that dreams are an important source of inspiration.
It is this link to the dream worlds and his daring use of colour combinations, as well as colour blocking and the use of shaped canvases, suggest the artist’s potential affinity towards past artistic movements, such as Hard-edge or colour field painting.
Simultaneously, Harpes’ work seems to evoke something more organic and even symbolic, evoking the provocative colour application of the Fauve movement.
Indeed, Harpes’ abstracted figuration brings Henri Matisse to mind. His scissor cuts are reiterated in the Luxembourger’s cut-out canvases (It’s (a)rose, 2021) and filigree balustrades (Hidden Bird, 2022).
The picture planes thus become multidimensional: the eye is led on a journey between bold colour panels and broad black brushwork.
The play with dimensions is further explored in his Plexiglas sculptures, where transparency and opaque colour transform the translucid medium into an enlivened structure.
As such, the sun becomes an active agent: through its impact the hues change – flooding the whole structure, as well as the adjacent floor, with colour, creating a colourful patterned shadow: an inverted sculpture.
Thierry Harpes’ work is indeed bold, whilst linking visual traditions with an innovative take on colour, saturation, and transparency.
Text: Dr. Lisi Linster (curator, Kunsthalle Trier)