Harold David

Harold David's recent suite of paintings, completed over the last year from his Blue Mountains home, are at once art-historical explorations of abstraction and Expressionism, and documents of something more universal, timeless.

Having been known primarily as a photographer for most of his practicing life, Harold David has turned more and more to painting since 2017.  Even with photographs, an interest in the fields of flat colour and expansive non-representational form indicated David’s inheritance from Abstract Expressionism. As a painter, Ohio-born David works within this heritage even more clearly: his fields of mobile, affect-laden colour are layered onto the canvas in oblique gestures to form which never quite arrive at the comfortable resting place of mimesis. He has often referred to his inspiration by Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Rauschenberg, and Joan Mitchell. However, his understanding of painting as a field for universalising, unifying emotive experience places him within a longer American tradition of transcendentalist thought and art, as well. David speaks of his work as testament to the connectedness of individual subjects, and of those subjects to their objective environments. His painting partakes, that is, of an American idiom of simultaneous one-ness and many-ness which stretches many decades back beyond post-war abstraction. 

In ‘This and the Edge of the World,’ at Fox Galleries, David paints a place ‘between the internal landscape and the physical world.’ ‘Landscape’ is a useful idea to hold in mind in front of David’s work, though one which is refracted – rather than simply reflected – in the paintings themselves. In David’s fields of colour, lines and flashes of shape begin to indicate features set out as landscapes. Elsewhere, figuration of features like ‘mound(s)’ is accomplished through text. David’s, then, is a figuration without representation, and a landscape which is haptic, mercurial, and as much about the viewing (or painting) subject as it is about the land laid out before them. 

David also cites the influence of music on his painting, and this is clearest not only in his expressive handling of paint, but in the rhythmic layering of materials onto his canvas. In Finally Through the Roof, for instance, an electric, buzzy wash of pink is punctuated by specks and trails of black dashing through the space, as well as more tempered swathes of cream. As the viewer moves through the painting, its durational quality comes to the fore: there are fast spaces and slow spaces, suddenness and silence. Colours fold over each other like chords, and call to and echo each other from across the picture space.

David has spent the last year working on these paintings, from his home and studio in the Blue Mountains. With quietness and space to look, to hear, and to make, he has arrived at a body of work which reaches beyond the contemporary moment. These painting stretch back through histories of abstraction and Expressionism, American transcendentalism and music history to a place, ultimately, of universal phenomenal and affective experience. 

This and the Edge of the World
5-30 June 2021
Fox Galleries, Melbourne

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