The Others

Meet the Others: Cheryl Harrison

The Game Changers. The Rule Breakers. The Innovators. Discover some of the fantastic emerging talent showcasing their work at The Other Art Fair.

Whether it was soaking up inspiration on the coastal town of St. Ives, England or the altogether different coastline of tropical Queensland where she now resides, painting has always been a part of Cheryl’s life. The freedom she has discovered in recent years drives her current work and the creation of what she terms her ‘lifescapes’. But this freedom was hard fought for after years spent “in cramped, damp studios agonising over…the big questions”. Introducing Australia-based artist Cheryl Harrison….

Tell us about who you are and what you do. What’s your background?

I was born in Victoria, Australia and later as an adult I moved to the UK and became a British Citizen. I have been an Artist most of my life and for the past 25 years I have split my time between two countries studying, building my arts practice and working in television. Although I have fingers in several artistic pies I am best known for my painting; which has lingered between semi-abstract land and seascapes through to abstract expressionism.

Discovering the ‘art charged’ town of St. Ives in Cornwall was my creative apprenticeship and certainly my greatest influence as both a person and an artist. I lived there for several years, surrounded by the legacies of British Modernism. Just a walk for coffee took me past the Tate Gallery and Barbara Hepworth’s museum. Heaven!

After returning to Australia in 2007, I gained my Masters at the Queensland College of Art under the mentorship of Jenny Watson. It wasn’t long before the ‘inner gypsy’ in me inspired yet another relocation to the far northern tropical edge of the Great Barrier Reef, where I currently live. Free of boundaries and expectations, I am where I need to be surrounded by inspiration and a big arse swimming pool.

“I have spent my share of time in cramped, damp studios agonising over big themes, the big questions.”

Where do you draw inspiration from and what does your work aim to say?

As most artists can relate to, I have spent my share of time in cramped, damp studios agonising over big themes, the big questions. And whilst the niggles will always be there I can now say – with a bucket load of life experience to draw on – my current work comes from a place of freedom. I often include text in my work referencing memories or popular culture and fuse this with elements from nature or sometimes urban environments. It’s about creating work that like us, is complex, beautiful and sometimes moody. I call these my ‘lifescapes’. …and I hope they say, come roam with me.

Can you walk us through your process for creating a work?

I immerse myself in music, a moderate dose of popular culture and a disproportionately large dose of life’s everyday events. I start with coffee. Then images, sketches. More coffee. I take that to colour studies and often work them up on my iPad, before building up multiple layers of paint on a new canvas. Triggered memories and the elements are a big part of my current work. I have dozens of visual journals from my travels, they are a great and often tragic insight into my reactions of the time. With the world being on pause I’ve managed to procure some fabulous cardboard from a local retailer (former retailer 😢) which has opened new possibilities. These are frugal, difficult times yet can I say I’ve found inspiration?

Who are your biggest influences and why?

Wow, that’s a big question to which there’s an endless list. Music – it takes my painting somewhere. Frida Khalo for her strength and perseverance though physical pain. I’ve always loved the technical mastery of Turner and Rembrandt. Having the opportunity to paint in Monet’s garden (after studying his use of colour), gave me a lasting appreciation of observation. Then add colour to sheer power and you stop me in my tracks for hours in front of any Rothko. Without a doubt the St. Ives school of artists has been a huge influence on my practice. Barbara Hepworth’s sculptural work, like Rothko’s, fantastic examples of what it is to create work that evokes a sense of connecting – something I continuously strive to achieve in my own work. More recently I’d have to credit Jenny Watson as an influence to opening my eyes to ‘conceptualism’.

“The coronavirus has us taking stock of what’s important. I’m keeping sane by creating a body of work on cardboard; which in itself is a fragile medium, so it’s kind of perfect.”

What can people expect from you next? Do you have any exciting projects/opportunities coming up?

Like the rest of the world, my plans took a bit of a tumble. The goal was to showcase my work to a larger audience via The Other Art Fair Sydney, instead I’m using this time to reflect and be open to developing new work that looks at how fragile we are. The coronavirus has us taking stock of what’s important and given my own restrictions faced in self-isolating (due to my suppressed immune system), I’m keeping sane by creating a body of work on cardboard; which in itself is a fragile medium, so it’s kind of perfect. I look forward to (fingers crossed) showing later this year at the The Other Art Fair Sydney, and perhaps attending The Other Art Fair abroad as well, but what I’d really love is to establish gallery representation and gain an exhibition opportunity for 2021. Now open for EOI!

Can you tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to hear?

In a former life, I wrote an editorial for an extreme sports magazine – ‘Forty Fat and Trying’ (please note this was 45kg’s ago…. felt compelled to validate).

Shop artwork by Cheryl and other trailblazing artists at The Other Art Fair’s Online Studios.

Introducing The Other Art Fair Online Studios, a new online platform offering art lovers around the world access to over 800 Fair artists. The Online Studios will keep our community feeling inspired, engaged, and continue to spread joy through art.