David Harper: Canary Wharf Exhibition
Biography written by London Art Gallery critic:
David Harper was born in 1967 in England. He is a modernist painter, an antique and art broker, BBC Antiques and Classic Car Presenter and published writer.
His paintings have only been on the open market since 2014 and already they’re in private and corporate collections around the world, including museums and since his first public exhibition, his art has been shown and sold alongside work by artists such as Damien Hirst, Ai Weiwei, Henry Moore and Sir Peter Blake.
Harper lived and went to school in Zimbabwe, has run an antique business in the USA and at the age of 23 as an already recognised expert in the world of antiques became one of the UK’s youngest directors of a PLC company importing ‘antique’ style reproduction furniture from the Far East. Employed because of his knowledge of antique periods, styles, shapes and design.
With his family’s love of Africa, Harper grew up between Zimbabwe and the UK, a childhood that greatly influenced his explorations in colour and form, blending traditional African shapes and pigments with abstract observations of people passing by in the street. This, along with a lifetime of studying art and antiques, especially their colours and shapes, inspires Harper’s unique work, which is unlike any current artist
From as early as he can remember, Harper would dream of being an artist and painting his thoughts and ideas onto canvas, but painters like this are quite different from traditional artists with traditional skills, who paint exactly what they see in front of them. Painting a landscape as it looks is one thing, but laying your soul bare for all to see, which in effect is what he does is quite another and this, as in the case of Harper can take a lifetime to develop
Harper says showing your work to the public is a very difficult thing to do because ‘there is nowhere to hide, it’s like standing naked in the street, with all eyes on you’ Working on TV is easy in comparison he continues, you’re talking about art that someone else has created, so you’re removed from any responsibility for it, but showing your own artwork, where not only your style and methods of painting are critiqued, but your feelings, inner thoughts, ideas and emotions are laid out on canvas, hung on a wall for all to see, to criticise, comment on and judge is something that for many years whilst thinking, planning and dreaming about becoming a painter, he didn’t relish. This, he says, along with a memory of one old art teacher who not only once punched him in the chest for continually taking no interest in following traditional drawing methods, but also commented that ‘No one in their right minds paints like Harper’ delayed him taking the leap that must be taken for an artist to show their work. So, his artistic aspirations were hidden for many years whilst he built his career as an expert in the world of art and antiques…yet still he dreamt of being a painter.
In 2008 he began painting a series of pictures with the intention of showing them. All fauvist in their style and focusing on antique objects he’d handled over the years. By that summer, a collection was put together, but not being happy with them, they were discarded and the majority destroyed. Then, in 2012 in his mid 40’s and well established as a regular face on BBC TV, a change in his personal circumstances found him single and living alone. This began a period of prolific painting, often for several days morning till night. Hundreds of works created, destroyed and recreated and what was once a large open plan antiques showroom slowly developed into his painting studio.
In 2014, a chance meeting with a modern art dealer who saw and liked his work, eventually culminated in his first public exhibition of his paintings. The timing was perfect, he felt ready, mature and confident enough in his art to exhibit and over two years he’d created enough work to put on an exhibition of over 30 pictures. And even though he describes the experience of walking into the exhibition on the opening day as the most difficult and petrifying work related venture he’d ever been through, it changed his life forever.
Today, Harper’s career is incredibly varied. One day advising a client on the sale of antiques, the next filming for the BBC, giving a talk, or he might find himself in a noisy, crowded gallery, opening an art exhibition. All of this activity though will be followed at some point by days of complete silence, completely alone, painting furiously in his studio. He says, he couldn’t live without this variety and in fact each area of his work life helps the other invaluably. ‘What ever I do one day, helps, or at least prepares me do something else the following’ he says.
Painting is a release for me, sometimes after days away on the road, I can’t wait to get into my studio where I can paint furiously for hours on end without knowing or caring the time of day, or what on earth is going on in the world around me…it’s complete escapism and the pouring out of ideas onto canvas is to me the most wondrous thing. It doesn’t always go to plan of course and the studio can be a place of terrible frustration when a painting is disregarded, painted over or even thrown into the wood burner, but when you sense the final brush stroke is coming and you know a picture is finished and you’re happy with it, its a strange sensation, a mini victory and a mini celebration. But do you know what he continues, ‘I couldn’t paint everyday. As much as I love painting and think about it all the time, it’s actually exhausting and I need the antiques business, the playing about with classic cars and of course my TV work to drag me away from it. And this is where I get the benefit of all the things I do, because in my antiques business and TV work, I find the people I meet, the objects I see and the places I visit, give me the inspirations and ideas for my paintings’
David Harper’s painting studio is the market town of Barnard Castle, Durham.
For TV enquiries, talks and appearance, please see www.david-harper.co.uk
Commission or sales enquiries 07711 639035
David Harper’s work has been exhibited and sold alongside artists such as
Sir Peter Blake