The Shock of the Now Issue 28
Featured Exhibition Text
Harrison Pearce
'Host' Solo Exhibition
Carl Kostyál
16th February 2022

Having returned to painting as his primary medium during the first pandemic lockdown, when access to studio space and sculptural materials was scarce, Harrison Pearce‘s latest solo exhibition 'Host’ expands his practice beyond the realms of physical possibility, freed from the shackles of engineering obstacles or real-world restrictions.

Ghost, Forebear & Siphon, the exhibitions principal paintings and Pearce’s largest to date, take as their protagonists selected segments of notable neoclassical sculptures, obtained thanks to cultural conservators or museum managements newly renewed efforts to increase the accessibility of historical artefacts by making three-dimensional digital scans of the originals freely available online. Content to share co-authorship with technology, Pearce passed each fragment of famed figurine through a manufacturing software’s ‘optimized topology’ option, a function that refines objects to their most machine-made efficient. Corners and contours are smoothed to create sleek, streamlined and somewhat sexy sculptural simulacrum, complete with perfectly chiselled jawlines and taut triceps.

In Pearce’s paintings, each ghostly grey figure appears attached or attended to by mysterious machines, undefinable non-human entities of unknown function. Poking, prodding, pruning, pulling and probing, whether imparting pain or pleasure is unsure. Forgo, however, the familiar fear-mongering associated with artificial intelligence or the popular panic surrounding a possible automaton induced apocalypse. Upon closer inspection of these airbrushed exploded-view diagrams, Pearce’s machinery is less Machiavellian and more antediluvian - by today’s standards - recognisable as an arrangement of rudimentary mechanical components common in mundane manufacturing, fabrication or even plumbing. Rather than the sinister sci-fi of contemporary CGI-laden cinema, instead, they are reminiscent of the homespun ‘Here’s One I Made Earlier’ horrors of historical B movies. 

For his smaller Sentinel studies, Pearce applied that aforementioned optimised topology application to his own sketches of geometric mini-machines. The results are somewhat adorable anthropomorphic androids, all dulled edges and smooth silhouettes, named in reference to the rise in robot-assisted surgery particularly prevalent in cancer treatments requiring sentinel node mapping to locate and localise cancerous cells. Elsewhere, in the elongated Long Phrase triptych, Pearce portrays a subterranean scene where further figurative fragments are found lodged amongst the labyrinthine lengths of tubes, pipes and ducts as if discarded, consigned to the cutting room floor. Multiple gaping inlets and dilating outlets allow for enticing entry points into the prodigious painting, while the cropping of each assumedly continuous channel by the confines of the canvas is implicative of an expanded picture plane and emblematic of Pearce’s penchant for wide-ranging, interdisciplinary world-building.

Finally, Stateless, the exhibition’s sole sculptural component, was originally intended as an experimental example of the artist’s ongoing investigation of kinetic sculpture, is perhaps more indicative of Pearce’s inherent empathy towards assumedly inanimate entities, fostered through his frequent pondering of philosophical thought experiments postulating upon the contrary. Designed as a convulsing cuboid to comment upon the metastability of energetic states within a dynamical system, instead, the sculpture is rendered static by indecision, pathetically paralysed, able only to offer rude interruption to the still silence of Carl Kostyál‘s Saville Row space with the hiss of its impotent hydraulic pistons firing infrequently.