Holding Hands with my Death Star

Holding Hands with my Death Star as about coming to terms with my destructive streak. How did she get inside me? Has she always been there or did I make her...? I know she is terrified and that is how she grew her crown of spikes, occasionally they rise up on the back of her hands crystallizing into a beautiful coating of armour.

Destruction For Lift - Off

This 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.

Three Policemen

This latest body of work is inspired by the book “The Third Policeman”, by Flann O’Brien. He wrote the book at the same time Picasso and the Cubists were painting three dimensions onto a flat page in a semi abstract way. The book is written in a very visual way; when reading it image after image flood my mind.

The middle part of the book features an other-worldly pair of policemen, who have the theory that a bicycle, a rider and the road will become each other, in different percentages, according to how often the bicycle is ridden. I find the idea of the bicycles interchanging personality with their rider and the road, a wonderful one. Anyone who has done an activity to any great extent will understand this idea.

The third Policeman is never seen, but they know of his existence by his nightly visit to sign in the book.

Philomena At Home with the Surrealists

The painter Philomena Harmsworth had her first “awestruck about a piece of art” moment at the age of 17, looking in a school textbook at the collection of sculpture in the garden of Farley Farm House. She realised that she was looking at something that she did not fully understand, and was deeply moved by.

It is fitting therefore that she is now holding an exhibition of her own at Farley Farm House this August and September. It took until last year for her to completely understand the sculptures. When she was touring the house and garden in preparation for her exhibition, she was confronted by the actual sculptures, and suddenly had an epiphany. She saw the Penrose enjoyment of life.

The paintings in the exhibition are a Celebration of Sussex, and Sussex’s Celebrations. In particular the Fire Festivals – Bonfire Night and May Day – and the links and the differences between them. They are both about ritual, fire and dressing up.

So why is Philomena painting Sussex? The answer is that although she has now been here for a couple of years, it still feels like her new home. She also feels that the best way to understand something is to draw it. When she first arrived in Lewes, she could feel the medieval ancientness of the place, from something like a wrought iron gate standing like a ghost at the entrance to a school, or walking where the hoards have processed during the famous Lewes Bonfire festivities leaves that happy party feel. She wants to convey the feeling of discovering the mysteries and secrets of a place when you are a newcomer.

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.

Series of Four

The Series of Four are a continuation and deepening of the Coming Home and Moving On theme. This Series of Four are autobiographical of the last four years of her life, centred on the pivotal event of moving back to Dorset two years ago and what it has meant for her. The first three are a prequel to the previous show. The final piece is about a feeling of freedom, “but I have an idea that I may be filling the gap between piece 3 and 4 with sub headings for the rest of my life: it has unearthed huge possibilities…”

Forever Shifting

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