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Marcus Harvey, born 1963 Leeds, England, lives and works in London.
Marcus Harvey is a figurative painter that creates paintings of infamous figures and provocative scenarios, often using sculptural techniques, most notably with well known works, Myra(1995) and Maggie(2009). Graduating from the Goldsmith’s College in London during the late 1980’s, Harvey became part of the artist group, Young British Artists (YBAs).
The painting Myra was first exhibited at the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in September 1997. it depicted a duplication of a photographic portrait repeatedly used in the media of Myra Hindley, a woman recently convicted of being a child murderer, killing 5 children within London. Painted in monochrome so as to resemble the BW image it represented, the portrait is a composed entirely of duplicated hand prints from a child. These hand prints were made by taking the cast of a hand from a four year old girl, the daughter of a friend.
Such was the media saturation and public opinion over Myra Hindley that the public revolted against the Academy and the painting during its exhibition. various groups, including Mothers Against Murder And Aggression, accompanied by one of the victim’s mother, protested outside Burlington House of the Royal Academy for the work to be removed. Windows were smashed and eggs and ink thrown at the painting, damaging it. Myra Hindley herself wrote to the Guardian newspaper pleading for its removal, it was condemned in the press, and caused resignations within the Royal Academy itself. During this process the painting was removed, restored and re-exhibited behind Perspex and guarded by security. the aim of the Sensation exhibition was to provoke but no one imagined just how strong the reaction to Harvey’s painting would be.
The next cultural icon Harvey chose to represent was Margaret Thatcher, prominent English Prime Minister, naming the painting, Maggie. The painting is comprised of over 15,000 plaster cast sculptural objects, containing, vegetables, Tony Blair masks and sex toys. the objects used to create the BW painting represent the Prime Ministers media profile, as well as British history, identity and moments of change during Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister. The painting took over 1,000 hours to complete, costing around £40,000-£50,000 to make and weighs over a ton.
Lately Harvey has been constructing door panel paintings, looking into domestic settings, depicted in a photo-realist manner. Distorted through patterned glass, it creates the sense of being the voyeur to an audience. Influenced by Edward Hopper’s darkly painted scenes, these paintings become peeping-tom like, intruding onto a private, intimate moments, influenced by themes of domesticity and voyeurism.
The whole point of the painting is the photograph. That photograph. The iconic power that has come to it as a result of years of obsessive media reproduction.
- Marcus Harvey on Myra
…the most divisive in the Academy’s 229 year history.
- a reporter on viewing Myra
Far from cynically exploiting her notoriety, Harvey’s grave and monumental canvas succeeds in conveying the enormity of the crime she committed. Seen from afar, through several doorways, Hindley’s face looms at us like an apparition. By the time we get close enough to realize that it is spattered with children’s handprints, the sense of menace becomes overwhelming.
- The Times art critic Richard Cork on Myra
Thatcher’s image has a magnetic, dark, complicated sexual allure that’s hard for me to define – it’s not exactly feminine and it does come with a pungent whiff of testosterone.
- Marcus Harvey on Maggie
The actual painting is in a sense mechanical transcription. The exciting part is the performance behind the door.
- Marcus Harvey
THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: