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Caring for the Lost Body

Pascal Harris

Gallery 85 - 12 January – 3 March 2024

Caring for the Lost Body

Making this work, I have not for one moment consciously thought of the death of my mother, but now that it is all laid out, rather, just as all the work was shaping itself and I saw it there, I realized that at an unconscious level the death of my mother was there too.

It was in this town that I grew up, with my mother, on the hill with the tower. She died at the same moment my childhood ended, when I was 20, and since then I have never lived again in this town. I have only visited for days at a time and stayed with close friends of my mother's who had become close friends of mine as well.

That is until, 20 years later, I came to stay here again, for this residency in August last year and now in January this year. The idea of a residency in my childhood town had been an enticing one for a number of years. I thought that I would be revisiting my childhood. But when I actually came to stay here in this residency for a more prolonged period of time, those warm childhood memories weren't there anymore. What I was faced with was a sense of barrenness and desolation. I became attracted to a number of sites, abandoned, burned-out houses, wastelands. I found these garments in a corner of one such wasteland next to the Countdown and instantly became fascinated by them. I revisited the same spot 5 times and each time found a new garment which I sometimes had to unearth, it being half-buried in the ground.

I didn't know until now, that in coming to stay here again, I was revisiting not my childhood, but the loss of my mother, in this town where both lie entombed.

Pascal Harris, Whanganui, January 2024


Death and Transfiguration: Recent Works of Pascal Harris

Pascal Harris is on a great adventure. It is the intrinsic discovery of his life. He has become immersed in a kind of spiritual quest, the searcher finding objects large and tiny, fragments really of the detritus of 21st century life.

His keen eye for half-buried objects, clothes, books, toys and the myriad of used up materials, is totally remarkable. Pascal often thinks of himself as a contemporary urban-centered archaeologist, but he is also thinking contemporaneously of his big favourite artists who worked and work to transform and rehabilitate material. He talks of Joseph Beuys and Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois as well as Anselm Kiefer

Redemption is a big theme in Pascal Harris’s presentation of clothing that has once graced the human, most often female, form. The idea that he snatches back these clothes before they are totally lost to us is done and celebrated with simplicity and lucidity. Art Brut teaches us to revalue the abject and discarded material. Pascal Harris in this formal tradition is engaged seriously in the redemptive quality and strange funereal beauty still potent in garments. The dreadful becomes real and art retains formal power once more in these arrangements and shocking displays of rotting vestments.

The contemplation of Pascal Harris’s recent work takes time as it is indeed a conversation with our especial mortalities. But the calm and gentle respect that Harris has for these fragmented pieces is akin to the listening of Schubert, the music that is so expressive for Harris’s own former abilities as a highly respected concert pianist.

Pascal is indeed engaged in his own compositions now. His excitement over his reclamation is evident in each arrangement. He is involved in the art of transfiguration where memory plays a big part as a very special kind of aesthetic devoted to our world of displacement. This is a temple space and we are asked to go beyond the shock of the rotting substance to reach towards a new insubstantiation.

Michael Haggie

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