The work of British artist Darren Harvey-Regan mediates between photography and sculpture. An ongoing investigation into the relationship between representation and objecthood, since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2010, Harvey-Regan’s practice has self-reflexively explored the conventions of the art object, forming a body of work – divided into ‘chapters’ by the artist – that has been exhibited at international galleries and institutions, and was acquired for the permanent collection of the V&A Museum in London.
Developing themes from the artist’s earlier series – such as his playful ‘rephrasing’ of Walker Evans’s 1955 study of hand-made tools (first splicing and pasting together the original photographs, and then creating three-dimensional versions of the tool hybrids) – The Erratics is Harvey-Regan’s most recent work, and perhaps the most emblematic of his practice. Published as a book in 2017, the series of large-format photographs of chalk monoliths in the Egyptian desert, and rocks carved and photographed in Harvey-Regan’s London studio, examine authorship and abstraction, medium and discipline, with a contemplative, graphic clarity.
Speaking from his studio in the white, reflective, fading light of the late afternoon – as he describes it – surrounded by a few works and looking out to the Canary Wharf financial district, Harvey-Regan explored the role of image and object in his work with PARCEL.
How did this dichotomy of image and object develop in your work?
It really came off the back off my MA. I was making landscape-based works, thinking of landscape as a construct – in the sense that landscape denotes our own perspective and our own way of talking about it. There was an awareness of the photograph as being constructed, but also as a constructed object, and I started using the photograph in more of a sculptural sense – mounting it, placing it on the floor, hanging it loosely. This focus on presentation gradually tipped into an awareness of the photographic material, of the photograph itself as a material object.
How has that continued to evolve?
In the work that I did straight after my MA, I wanted to explore that sense of the photograph as an object, and the translation of the object in the world onto the two-dimensional surface of the photograph. I think the main bodies of work I have produced recently Metalepsis and The Erratics, have then started to draw in more subject matter from outside, more poetic readings and more of a personal narrative. Now the emphasis isn’t so much on the medium, but there is still an awareness of the materials I work with, and how that relates to the nature of photography.
There’s a dichotomy in your work between the found and the man-made that reaches a head in your Walker Evans-inspired series. How do you understand the intersection of the two?
With the Walker Evans series it’s almost an appropriation of his work, which is a slight departure for me, but there is a trajectory there which I thought was really interesting. I started with his images, montaging them on photoshop, but eventually made my own objects in reality from the montages I’d made, having the tools physically cut in half and joined together. In that sense it had a different trajectory than what you usually get from a photograph, which takes something from the world and makes an image, whereas for this I’d taken this image from Walker Evans and made an object in the world, even if it then becomes its final form again as a photograph.
The Erratics, for example, uses a lot of found chalk and then works into that as an object. Generally I’ve incorporated lots of objects that are freely available out there that are like readymades, because you re-contextualise them, not dissimilarly to the way a photograph turns something into an object, the way you remove something from its context.
The way I take an object from its context and put it an artwork or gallery is similar. It conceptually re-contextualises things, the way a camera decontextualised things by translating them into an image.
Your work is quite graphic – how did you develop your style?
I’m not sure, because it’s something I almost want to fight against, but the work keeps going that way. It’s the space and sense of quiet – a kind of photographic way of resisting the noise and clamour of all the photographic approaches you get in the world: jazzy focuses, playing with depth of field, the composition, light effects. I photograph very straight and, for want of a better word, truthfully. It’s a very direct gaze – the camera placed in front of an object – which, in a way, is making the photographic process more invisible. It’s not drawing attention to the idioms of the medium, or the characteristics that the camera could have drawn. It’s making the medium less conscious when you’re looking at it; the photograph makes you feel as if you’re looking at the object.
What are you working on now?
I’m at the stage where I’m starting to make new work. I’ve got my subject matter – I’m interested in pursuing around ideas of iconoclasm and my own experience of religion, from when I was younger. Iconoclasm is to strip something of its meaning and return it to its material state, to expose the materiality of something that has been given value. But quite how that manifests, I’m not yet sure. I’ve got to find my way in and see where the form goes.