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Brett F. Harvey - Our Bodies

Words:

Edd Norval
August 24, 2018

Brett F. Harvey sees faces and forms everywhere. The transcendent quality of figurative sculpture, as something that's not only stood the tests of time, but is as powerfully emotive and relatable as it was thousands of years ago, fascinates him. So how does he bring something new to that in the 21st century?

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On a personal level, his work is very vaguely autobiographical. Harvey is a deeply thoughtful person, reflective of his own place as a man in the 21st century. It can sometimes be perplexing, challenging and lonely. His exploration of the exterior of the human body is a way to combat and understand all of these factors. An introverted figure, he uses his time with the sculptures as a meditative space.


Naturally influenced by the anatomical artists that preceded him, his path has been set out insofar as he has a plethora of influences, in art books, on the internet and in museums, of which he draws from. Interestingly, carrying the torch is far from being sufficient for what he demands of his artistic endeavour. It's imperative that he progresses. If the work stops moving forward, so might he.


As a human being, he cannot escape who he is. Therefore, all of his life will enter his sculptures. There are flashes of his wife, smudges of instantaneous one-off interactions and a large heap of self-doubt. His figures are expressions of all of these things. Their musculature is constantly being defined, like the finest aesthetic bodybuilders. If his life is going right for a while, so too will his creations.

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His lifelong ambition of self-improvement becomes manifest in the process of his sculptures. As a metaphor, sculptures can either start as a block where bits are being removed, or start from a basic frame as pieces are added. The goal is a common one - refinement. It's about turning something that isn't into something that is. Sculptures are at once a part of his life and are also his whole life. If he isn't a great husband, he aspires to be one. The mentality of his art applies to all.


Because there is such little separation between the man and the maker, it's easy for his whole life and outlook to be consumed. He often finds himself on public transport staring at people. The shape of their body, the pose or even the bone-structure of their craniums. He isn't the only person that looks at others and images what their life is like. It's a feeling that has been given a word, although not officially recognised - sonder. It's the mystery of looking at other people and realising their life is just as complex as your own. Only when Harvey does this, he's seeing the psychological state as it manifests physically.


These small movements, subtle betrayals of body language that cannot be avoided, all inspire the poses and postures of Harvey's sculptures. His work aims to "appeal to basic emotions", and all the spectrum of humanness that involves. The startling permanence of sculpture when compared to other forms of art places him physically in the evolutionary story of the art. There were those that came before and there will be those that come after.

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By incorporating his own personal life into his work, Harvey's sculptures often emanate complex emotions. The beauty of exploring them through sculpture is that, devoid of clothing or other markers of their place in history, they display feelings that we might think of as contemporary, yet are infinitely timeless.


Certainly, isolation has changed in the last decade. Our direct view of the world is usually filtered by the screen of a mobile phone. However, that doesn't mean that isolation is a new feeling. Only the cause has changed. To look at Harvey's sculptures is to see something very relateable. They're grappling with existential questions and allowing them to become visible through the behaviours of the sculptures. Hands on heads show a sense of disbelief. We've been there a million times, hearing bad news from friends and family. It looks new. It isn't.


Having chosen to portray his figures as stripped down, they are exposed to the harshest of critiques and perspectives of life itself. How they allow this to show cannot be hidden. The things that make him feel this way now - self-doubt, longing, insecurity - have always been issues that people must face. We've come a long way since these earliest sculptures were first created, conversely, we've not really come far at all. The style of clothes and the music might have changed, but beneath all that, at our most raw and primitive - we haven't changed a bit. Harvey's sculptures are an ode to that very sentiment.

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