The Shock of the Now Issue 16
Featured Exhibition Text

Tomas Harker
'Third Nature' Solo Exhibition
Bo.Lee Gallery
3rd November 2021

John Paul Getty III, once the neglected grandson of the world’s richest man, greets you upon entering Tomas Harker‘s latest solo exhibition 'Third Nature’ at Copeland Park, presented by Bo.Lee Gallery. Based on the infamous photo of a one-eared Getty post-kidnapping and ransom-motivated mutilation, JPG (2021), see’s the haunted heir stamped with the unmistakable Getty Images watermark. Besides an unavoidable analogy with the earless painter of Ayles, here Harker comments on ideas of identity ownership, the commodification of likeness and the dissemination of images and, by association, information. This particular painting typifies a practice that draws upon a wide and indiscriminate range of source material - screenshots from social media, casual moments captured by camera phone, stills from cult films or news narrative agitprop - all amalgamated akin to how we naturally encounter images in everyday life.

Ethereal oversized trainers (think Balenciaga); a shapely, sexualised strawberry; a two-headed figure mirroring his double-necked guitar and an anonymised figure, besuited and sporting a Rolex wristwatch yet with skin stained sickly green; each invites interpretation, with Harker not precious about viewers’ perceptions. A prolific painter of swift studies and sketches, Harker’s final, considered compositions are imbued with knowing art historical, literary and cultural references. In Midas Touch (2021), Harker puts a punny spin on the mythical monarch as a disembodied hand delves into a well-populated fish tank (complete with to-scale, ornamental slot machine), the implication perhaps that everything the unseen figure touches turns to gold(fish). Elsewhere, a trio of live lobsters await their inevitable fate amongst an elegant dinner service, the memento mori’s table cloth marked with symbols and silhouettes from Picasso’s Guernica.

Each uncanny, unsettling depiction, however incongruous, are united by Harker’s earthy, muted palette and watercolour washes overlaid with brisk brushstrokes. Finally, an alligator lies spread across CHLORINE in bold, capitalised script, readily recalling the reptiles’ repeated occupation of backward swimming pools in Florida. However, considering chlorine more metaphorically, Harker is able to additionally expose and examine the contemporary culture of sterilized and sanitised online imagery, increasingly manipulated and misrepresentation of real life.