Marcus Harvey at Jerwood Gallery


The English Cemetery , 2016

The English Cemetery, 2016

Fittingly, one of the first works seen as you enter Jerwood's main Hastings gallery space is an island. A hybrid white-cliffs-of Dover iceberg comprised upon closer inspection of a series of buildings and structures, sitting proud in calm waters. The sea of this work is taken from a photograph, the oils and acrylic above painted on in a more slapdash fashion. Welcome to a view of Old Blighty seen through critical eyes. That's not to say there isn't love or pride in this land, just that Harvey is more confrontational towards our sometime view of the past. 

The title takes its name from a phrase Harvey learnt working in a kitchen early on in his career. As insults and banter were thrown and exchanged, a German used the word at Harvey as a slur. It's rough translation meaning 'island monkey.' 

It positions us, our identity and geography as an island, a little apart from the Continent. It always has and exacerbated by Brexit, this exhibition toys with riffs and explores notions of Britishness that permeate the country's soul for better or worse.

Maggie Island , 2016

Maggie Island, 2016

Nelson appears a couple of times, coming across more like a Paul McCarthy totem than an icon of Trafalgar Square. Thatcher is also part of the past - cast in bronze, complete with balloon breasts, a Cameron-inspired pigs' head and another Blue Peter badge galleon; this last motif appearing in metal, on canvas and upon the sculptural busts.

Contre Jour , 2016

Contre Jour, 2016

The artist has spoken about his wish to break up the day, to not make art that merely decorates a space but confronts and challenges its viewer. There are some works here that call up evidence of slavery, colonialism and an important past enlightened and tarnished by thoughts of human rights and civil liberties; what we can see now and supposedly couldn't then have formed the basis of so much of our port side prosperity in our towns and cities. 

There are lighter notes too. A giant foot hanging down over the ocean, another assemblage imposed upon a large canvas photograph recalls Monty Python and the eccentric animation of Terry Gilliam. Another canvas depicts the word 'Dad' painted with scant regard for moderation on a canvas of a concrete fence. Looking down towards it through the gallery, it's weighted with more emotional ambiguity than it might immediately suggest.

Dad , 2013 installation view

Dad, 2013 installation view

This show represents the largest exhibition to date of the artist and the output swings comfortably between the negative and lighthearted. The Jerwood has entered into a South Coast promotional partnership with the De La Warr Pavilion and Eastbourne's Towner; hopefully the extra marketing will mean more people get to re-engage with the former YBA's work. until October 16th