Harriet Bright - Kapiti Artist
Harriet Bright was born in the U.K. in 1973 and attended Falmouth College of Art, 1991-92, and Brighton College of Art, 1992-94. She moved to New Zealand in 2005 and now lives in Paekakariki where she is raising her children.
At art college the teaching emphasis was predominantly on conceptual work, but Bright has ‘always loved the freshness and directness of drawing, and found that the absolute focus required for drawing from life allows a space for images to appear with an immediacy and vitality which is both a translation of my experience of the world and always slightly out of my control.’
She has been influenced by artists who have given as much weight to drawing as to other aspects of their work, in particular R. B. Kitaj, Egon Shiele, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Kathe Kollwitz, Marlene Dumas, Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Brett Whitely, Lucien Freud and David Hockney.
‘It is when drawing people that I am usually most engaged, and the more regular and committed I am in my drawing and painting practice, the more I find that it is a process in which I feel fully and deeply alive and at play.
I am always curious about the way we look at each other: as objects, as patterns of light and shade, as complex emotional people, as the ‘other’, as reflections of ourselves or as manifestations of spirit. For me, drawing is a translation of these ways of looking.’
Primary School years
"I have drawn from a lot ever since I was a small child. I was at a school which was mostly for boys, most of whom boarded. I was shy and often alone. I drew, read and wrote a lot, and spent playtimes in the woods. I was a daydreamer, forgetful and disorganised."
Secondary School years
"I was at an all girls boarding school, which was competitive, socially focussed and very academic. I was, (surprise!) shy, often alone, forgetful and disorganised. I did make some good friends, and I loved the art rooms, where I would work when AWOL from morning assemblies, and evening homework time. In retrospect, I realise the art staff must have been complicit in not reporting me"
"Between school and art college I taught in a girl’s orphanage in Madagascar for 6 months. Then I spent much of the rest of that year in London, spending days at a time in the big public galleries there, The national Gallery, Tate, Courtauld, Portrait Gallery, the Barbican and the British museum have all left lasting impressions on my taste in art. I also spent a lot of time in small contemporary and commercial galleries.
Age 17 I would sit on the circle line of the tube, going round and round, drawing people. Sometimes they would buy my sketches. Then I would be off to another gallery for a few hours. I stayed with patient friends, and a godmother in London, who seemed at ease with my unannnounced comings and goings.
I then went to Falmouth College of Art for a foundation year, and then Brighton College of art to study ‘Critical fine Art Practice’. A course which appeared to encompass a wide and inclusive view of art. The course focused on conceptual work, and so did I, but I continued to draw ‘on the side’.
I left the course after 2 years, after a disagreement about the value of figure drawing, something which I have always had central to my work ."
Life after Education
"After leaving college, very dissillusioned with the art scene, I started an organic fruit and veg stall. Later I rented land in Sussex, and grew organic herbs, which I sold to shops and restaurants in the region. I wanted to do something useful.
I had two children, and didn’t return to artwork until the youngest went to kindergarten. After that, having separated from my husband, I worked as a careworker, cleaner, dogwalker and gardener alongside my art practise. I became a full time artist with no other work only a year ago.
These things have all contributed to how I see the world. Ways of seeing, of viewing each other in particular, is the driving force behind my work. A delight in people, and being alive, good times and hard times, and choosing how to view them is a recurring element in my work."
Working Life now
"I teach art classes, and run life drawing groups, and I sell my own work. I make cards, and do some illustration work too.
I work mostly in painting and drawing, although I have begun to work in pottery in the last few months.
I have been life drawing since I was about 15, and still find a challenge in trying to capture the fresh, unique vitality in the human form.
I work in oil paints, often on a larger scale, also focussed on the human form, although occasionally I work with landscape."
Influences and inspiration?
"My mother, who was my first and most influential teacher, said again and again,’ draw what you see.’ The issue was how to see. Every time I look at something, I see it slightly differently, with different influences on my viewpoint, or a different element stands out. I suspect we are almost all in this confusing, always changing state of uncertainty about how to see the world and each other. This is what I try to address with my paintings."
"I admire so many artists it is hard to pick. For wonderful, magical simplicity of line, Schiele, Picasso, Matisse, Rodin, Klee"
"For honesty and bravery and in their work and way of seeing, Tracey Emin, Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, Van Gogh, Marlene Dumas."
"For painting brilliance, Freud, Rembrandt, Brett Whitely."
"I like working with other artists. Collaboration does not, for me, necessarily mean making a piece of work together, but discussing ideas, influencing each other, sharing views. For several year I was part of a group in Raumati who worked very closely, sharing a model for a few days a month. The support and encouragent was a good thing for us all."
In the Future
"In the future I would like to work daily, with less panic about whether income will cover costs. I would like to work in a space with other artists who I admire, as well as having my own studio. "