Dimensions: 210 x 210 mm
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Harvey Daniels was always busy. He was always thinking about art, always drawing, and always pushing himself to try new ways of making. Harvey explored a myriad of media: acrylic on canvas, watercolour on paper, lithographs, etchings, woodcuts, silkscreens, and even ceramics and clothing. This exhibition ties these threads of paint, print, and object together so that viewers can see the full extent of Harvey Daniels’s devotion to the creative process.
Harvey’s wife, Judy Stapleton, calls his drawing practice a ‘habit’: he never stopped. This manifests in the innumerable sketches that Harvey produced during his lifetime, some of which are on display in this exhibition, such as the work that Harvey cheekily titled Doodle in Meeting. This piece includes a name written in pen, ‘Mr. Wilkinson’: someone Harvey must have either met with or discussed in the mysterious titular meeting. The impatient, vibrant energy in this work is relatable to anyone who has sat through a meeting while perhaps thinking about something else that they would rather be doing. For Harvey, this something was his art. A work like Doodle in Meeting is not only interesting for its aesthetic value, but also as a sort of archival document that gives insight into Harvey’s day-to-day workings and thought processes. The inspiration that struck Harvey in even the most random or inauspicious moments could yield further artistic production: a compositional similarity to Doodle in Meeting can be seen in a more formal work, Untitled, a gouache on paper from 1985.
Another element of Harvey’s life, his ebullient sense of style, seeped into his artistic production also. Harvey’s love of clothing and his self-proclaimed ‘dandyism’ can frequently be read in his prints and paintings. For example, images of Harvey’s sharp, mod-inspired fashions appear in the lithographs The Very Last Tie 2 and Hats with Bands. These objects—whether they be his shoes, Judy’s shoes, his cologne, or his ties—had a special emotional charge for Harvey and helped to construct his identity as well as his compositions. People describing Harvey’s process of proofing lithographs recount a striking image of the fashionable Harvey Daniels, resplendent in a white suit, working in the studio with the bright colours for which he was known. He tempted fate with his sartorial choices, but he managed to avoid getting ink on himself during this creative practice. The product, the process, and his fashionable ‘dandy’ image were interlaced, all influencing and informing one another. Harvey was less happy with the medium of etching because there was no way to avoid inky fingers. But he got his hands dirty with the technique anyway, literally and metaphorically, to great success.
The overlaps between Harvey’s life and art are not confined to works on canvas on paper—Harvey’s obsession with colour and design stretched into the production of everyday objects as well. In 1974, Harvey created a series of ceramic plates named after the French town in which they were made, Limoges. Harvey created twelve unique pieces while working on this project; only two remain available, and both are included in this exhibition. Harvey’s designs were also used to adorn aprons. These resulted from a collaboration with Peacock Print Studio, in Aberdeen, Scotland, which Harvey was instrumental in developing into the centre of printmaking excellence that it is now.
Making or designing everything from plates to paintings and from sketches to silkscreens, Harvey Daniels was evidently a prolific artist. In the early 2000s, with an immense amount of work filling his studio, Judy suggested to Harvey that perhaps he should start working slower, or that perhaps he should make smaller pieces. Harvey’s audacious answer to his wife’s suggestion was to take on a commission in Southampton for a multicoloured, geometrically patterned walkway measuring 250 metres long. In this commissioned project, Harvey’s work became embedded into the daily lives of many people; commuters or visitors walk over his composition and engage with it in a physical manner, much as he was immersed in and travelled along the wandering path of his own artistic process every day. No matter the format—household items, acrylic on canvas, installation—the celebratory nature of Harvey’s colours and shapes imbibes his pieces with the fashionable confidence with which he lived his life.
Christine Slobogin, March 2020.