Tomas Harker at Bo Lee Gallery

A Sea in Suspense is a beautifully tranquil exhibition of paintings by London-based artist Tomas Harker, and with the gallery located in the middle of the hubbub of Peckham, this paradox only serves to reinforce how thoughtful and slow-paced Harker's works are. Each piece is based on found images online, but there is a recurring theme of the natural environment, which can seem forced when it is executed by artists living and working in the urban realm, but viewing them is a real respite to the manic ways of the city.

Tomas Harker, Tarantula, 2019. Oil on canvas, 50cm x 60cm. Bo Lee Gallery, London.

In the fast-paced world of imagery, whether online, on television or advertising to name three, the slow and meticulous medium of painting is conflicted with the pace of life we are used to via the internet and our busy lifestyles. The premise behind the subject matter is that they were found in JPEG form, suggesting that the artist has no strong emotional connection with the source images; this is somewhat contradictory to what the viewer actually observes, especially in works such as 'Hug (Big)', which sees two friends or sisters wrapped in a blanket in close physical proximity. 

Tomas Harker, Hug (Big), 2019. Oil on canvas, 130cm x 110cm. Bo Lee Gallery, London.

Bo Lee's press release also discusses the "self-reflection" of Harker's work through this process of using found imagery online, but to me it feels more like a reflection that is less self-centred and in fact more focused on an objective feeling towards these objects or figures, whether this is two girls wrapped closely together, a chair or an orange tree. 'Tilted', one of the standout paintings from the show, has brushstrokes that are so thick, quick and dry that it leaves the viewer with a thoroughly whetted appetite, as well as a true appreciation for the medium of contemporary oil painting. At this moment it is a shame that these are fairly arbitrary images and not things that resonate stronger with the artist; as a result it is quite hard to create an emotional connection with the works. This is not necessarily negative, as it does make you think about how important or precarious emotional connections are for the public within the fairly sterile traditional gallery space. Regardless, the works are incredibly well composed and produced, and evoke a sense of calm that could not be further from the sensation of scrolling through countless images online and on social media.

Tomas Harker, Tilted, 2019. Oil on canvas, 56cm x 41cm. Bo Lee Gallery, London.

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