Please note: I am unable to take on any commission work
Martin Harris’ World of Wonder: An Inadequate Introduction
“World of Wonder is a parallel world to the one I grew up in, as seen through my child-like mind which I believe can co-exist in our adult selves, if we wish it to be so.”
When Martin Harris explains, “Much of my creative inspiration is drawn from my childhood”, he includes toys now considered ‘retro’ or, even worse, ‘collectable’. As the 1995 film Toy Story makes clear, professional toy collectors are not always the most pleasant of individuals. Indeed, they seem to create an acquisitive, intensely limited environment.
In a world of profit and consumables, as prevalent in the art world as in that of the tinned food world, Martin Harris captures the strange duality of the child, filled with amazement at a wider, exciting world and, at the same time, permeated with an undercurrent of dread. That dread is mysterious to the child, but we as adults recognise it as well as Blake did: the borderline no-man’s-land where Innocence and Experience whirl, distinctly separate, then overlapping.
Martin’s affinity with such relics of childhood is so deeply felt, profoundly human and wide-eyed with wonder that the ‘relics’ are not things he has long discarded, but intimate aspects of his own present-day self.
Of course, we adults live in a world devoted to sudden bursts of enthusiasm for the ephemeral (often connected to our everyday jobs), while children live in an apparently eternally ephemeral world of discovery.
Television is the great unspoken influence on modern art. When Martin says, “Television played a major part of my upbringing; Dr Who, Lost in Space, The Outer Limits, Pinky and Perky, Kimba the White Lion are a few which made a tremendous, continuing impression on me, flowing through my art”, this should partly be regarded as an acceptance of the super-real world upon the real; Martin’s work may appear on first examination to merely reflect his influences, yet the positioning of his symbols, his creations, reveal simple and elegant truths which we, so enwrapped in our important adulthood, can no longer fully comprehend.
Television shows in the 1960s and 1970s assumed interactive intelligence from children, engagement. Yet, like children’s books, they were considered essentially disposable consumables along the path to adulthood.
Martin’s love for “vintage children’s books, especially the Little Golden Books and children’s encyclopaedias from the 1960s and 1970s” is both particular and emotional; “I admire the detail, the design of the layout, the fonts, the illustrations and even the paper itself. The artwork in these volumes, devoid of computer graphics is very alluring, imaginative and inspiring - most remarkably, all these artworks were all drawn by hand.”
It is the natural artist in Martin which arouses a powerful appreciation in him for the things we take for granted, the things which rush by us so quickly we can barely recall them an hour later, which provides his inspiration; “I am drawn to the simplest of things such as a title from an old school textbook, to the beauty of animals, the microscopic world of the tiniest insect, and the Zen-like calmness of the natural world in my garden at home, or walking with my miniature Dachshund.”
Discussion of Martin’s physical methods, his structuring and the interaction of his metaphors which stand, challenging us with their perky, poised expression within the paintings, of the implied conflicts, even the nature of the looks his characters throw at us… these must wait for another day. Someone else can use Martin Harris’ glorious, extraordinary works to coin learned phrases and invent non-existent significances. Pronouncements can wait. Today, we examine Martin’s works with a thrilled intensity, perhaps similar to Martin's.
Robert Brokenmouth, October 2015