Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Adrian Harley. I make drawings, prints, and paintings. There are about six major streams in my work including Landscapes, Portraiture, Abstractions, Narrative Illustration, and miscellaneous pieces including commissions and works relating to language.
I’m not sure that I have a particular style and my repertoire of mark making covers a rather broad spectrum. I have been making work professionally in the visual Arts field for more than twenty years.
I am interested in making works about being human and what it means to be alive. In some ways my work is an attempt to engage in a visual dialogue about my understandings of life.
What is your creative process like?
My process is probably what most people would imagine in the traditional sense, that is to say I make sketches and studies of subjects that interest me on site where I find them.
I operate a studio where I develop the studies into more formal works. I like to layer a range of painting, drawing and printmaking techniques to produce a body of work.
I work alone and I usually work on many pieces at the same time because I find the ‘dialogue’ between works in the studio, in terms of colour and processing, to be very helpful. This is also important in terms of ‘studio practice’ too, because it allows me to continue working beyond where a single piece would require appropriate drying time. Most of my images are made up of very many carefully applied layers.
I find it to be very important to live your work. I mean that your everyday life and your visual practice need to happen together as opposed to being divided into time slots or happening in separate designated places. Such dislocation to me seems to trivialise true practice because, as most people know, some of our best creative ideas come when we are doing unrelated things.
Finally, I think it is important to mention the habit of continually writing and producing visual diaries whilst I work. This is the practice that generates not only the titles and related writing, but also is very progressive in terms of the development of future directions and related works.
How do you choose the subject?
For the landscape pieces it seems that some places have a particular resonance that demand a visual exploration. These places are usually so obvious that it is like being slapped…but in a nice way.
The portraits are usually prompted by a visual and mental fascination with the characters themselves, and are an attempt to depict that perceived ‘inner’ self along with the physical representation.
If you’ve seen the work then you’ll know that some images are allegorical stories or comments about things of interest, for example some of the time-lapse experiment paintings, where I have wanted to depict the action in a particular place across time. This is how a fairly ‘old school approach’ becomes contemporary. I am usually inspired as I work too, so the intention or the subject itself is progressed during the developmental processes.
Having travelled a great deal I am often inspired by anthropologic or cultural prompts, for example the shape of a strange alphabetical character, or perhaps simply a foreign or unusual way of looking at the world. In Korea I have been working from cultural practices that are visually fascinating, such as the seasonal drying and preparation of Seafood in the Eastern Coastal villages.
How do you work?
Most often I work in Mixed media on canvas, beginning with a drawing, which is then sealed and worked over, eventually to become obscured beneath the final image. I like to allow some layers of work to come through to provide variation of surface treatments or moods. In the development stages I use water-based materials such as acrylics for their drying speeds and the final treatments are usually in oil-based media because of the richness of colour.
How has your practice changed over time?
I think as I get older I have become more playful and more abstract. I am generally less concerned with the image as subject and more interested in exploring ways of dealing with materials and surfaces.
My work is also usually in smaller formats nowadays too, because it is often necessary to transport them between countries during the processing stages. Speaking of which, I guess there is a greater international influence too, as I travel more for my work as an independent language consultant.
I would like to think that I am making artworks from the point of view of a global citizen, rather than the perspective of someone who comes from one specific place. As I have learned more languages and encountered more ways of understanding the same thing, my ‘visual intelligence’ has been naturally educated and expanded.
What are your plans for the future?
In general I intend to continue to exhibit works that hopefully indicate a rich sense of intriguing progress and contribute to the visual education of my society and my Milieu.
There has been a natural progression in my writing associated with the visual practice that I would like to develop into a film.
Having been practicing so long now I would like to fast track younger artists with and an illustrated educational/instructive text too.
There are plans in the works for a series of enhanced prints and also some commissioned illustrative projects.
I am interested in collaborations with selected practitioners and companies to generally make more civic contributions to the positive advancement of our societies, for example, promoting international exchanges in the areas of the arts and culture. By way of explanation, imagine the potential positive outcomes of an exchange between North Korean, Japanese, British, and American Artists.