Destruction For Lift - OffThis collection began with a piece called “Paper Flowers”. It is a room I used to live in a long time ago: a room in my head that enclosed and puzzled me. The only flowers that could grow there were made of paper. The only stairs there to climb led somewhere out of the frame. We all have a dual existence: the physically perceived way of living that runs alongside an internal dialogue. These two reels often play the same piece of film, but at times they digress from each other, neither one switching off but the outer one certainly not representative of the inner.
Old Oven Stories
Philomena Harmsworth’s exhibition at “Le Vieux Four” patisserie, in Beaminster, is about the twin themes of food and stories. Working directly from life reveals insightful behavioural characteristics and hints at the kind of stories being told. This intuitive method feeds into the narrative, contemplative pictures and consider deeper dimensions. The building is the people who frequent it and vice versa.
Philomena’s paintings are extraordinary, making you feel like you are taking part in a novel.
The Silence in Thunder
Artists tap into thunder, like a conducting rod, and translate it into sounds and images. There’s not just thunder in Philomena Harmsworth’s pictures; but also music, movement, light and colour, darkness and silence. The silence exists in the eye of the storm, the absence of light or sound between lightning and thunder, and the thrill of expectation. Philomena’s new exhibition at the New Steine Hotel, Brighton, explores this dichotomy between thunder and silence.
She describes herself as a ‘method artist’. “I sketch and paint whilst immersed in the subject matter. Not until I am dreaming the images that I am painting do I feel it is a success”. Her new series of musicians stem from an impromptu concert she was invited to; “it wasn’t my immediate choice of music. What happened was incredible. I was sitting in the front row and felt surrounded by, and part of, the music being created. My response was the painting ‘First Violin’.
Sometimes people say to Philomena that going to an art exhibition of hers is a bit like going to see a film. Philomena trained as a set designer and worked on films such as Sleepy Hollow and Band of Brothers.
Sugar and Spice
This innovative collection has some very unusual pictures in it. The thread that runs through all of them is “women”, and the many overlapping aspects within that theme.
There are strong archetypal woman figures; from earth mothers to girls in frilly dresses playing with dolls. There are pictures of domesticity, mothers and newborns, interior furnishings. Some of the pictures are firmly grounded, some are floaty and ethereal.
Several of the paintings toy with metaphysics; exploring the interplay between surface appearance of manners and civilisation, and the truth of the dark undertones that can lie beneath. For example one picture has two women having tea and cake around a table; one with Francis Bacon-like grotesqueness, the other with a sunny landscape and a pink, gauzy void.
There are pictures relating to story themes and poetry, such as the serpent Lamia, from Keat’s romantic poem, then a girl playing with a doll’s house, with her big godly hands, part of the house is in Hitchcock-like darkness, or a Lorcaesque mother embroidering a story onto the dress of her daughter.