Two Men in Harmony
By Sasha Grishin
Stephen Harrison and Neil Pendergast the Making of St Mark, Artspace (formerly aGOG)
Stephen Harrison and Neil Pendergast are two very different artists who attain a degree of harmony in their work which is arranged in adjoining rooms.
Post structuralist and deconstructuralist strategies which became popular in cultural debates of the late 1970s, attacked from many sides the classical humanist tradition. The French Philosopher Jacques Derrida in his The Truth in Painting (1978) argued that the visual arts could be considered as a "code" (together with other social activities, while Roland Barthes denied the relevance of authorship in a work of art.
Harrison and Pendergast in their work reject many of the assumptions of post-structuralist thought and reassert a basic humanist intent.
Inspiration resides in th artist's unique response to the physical and metaphysical worlds.
Stephen Harrison's Saint Mark :in the tradition of visionary art
Harrison's world is an internalised one of mysticism and dreams; his paintings and drawings belong to the tradition of visionary art - the mysiical ecstacy of saints and flight of angels.
In contrast, Pendergast in his array of fragile papers charts a map of an external physical terrain. The drawings trace a physical voyage, they are a record of a journey he made in 1997 in Germany and Switzerland. The brush and ink drawings culminate in the huge panel Surfing Bird "Congo" . No 10, where a marbling effect on the paper can be read as either flowing water or the slopes of the Alps.
For each of Harrison and Pendergast the primacy of inspiration resides with the artist, man is presented as the centre of the universe, a universe which can be explored and interpreted. In Harrison's paintings such as Saint in Repose and Angel in Light and in drawings including Inkangel, Saint in Darkness and Head in a Wing there is a precious quality of excitement, of form revealing itself from the darkness, where the painterly mark is pregnant with meaning. Similarly, in Pendergast's more minimal drawings and the striking sculpture Voyage, there is an individualism and sense of excitement in the process of revealing the image.
This is a modest exhibition, but one that struggles to defend the sense of magic and enchantment in art.