Blending realistic imagery with an urban graffiti style is one of the signifying characteristics of Conor Harrington’s work. Bold colors and heavy brushstrokes go right alongside period garments and antique furniture. Bringing together art history, political history, and contemporary aesthetics marks Harrington’s creations with a unique appearance.
The piece titled “Fight Club (The Mess We Make)”, which is pictured above, portrays two men engaged in sword fight wearing the clothing dominant in the Colonial Era and painted in a style somewhat reminiscent of the French Romantic painter, Théodore Géricault. The scene of the two men in itself sounds traditional enough, but add in the checkered floor, highly abstracted palette-knifed background, and intentional blurring of one of the figures and you’ve got something entirely different. Oh, and let’s add a Francis Bacon-styled hanging pig to the mix as well.
It appears Harrington is making a statement of revolution
In another painting titled “Modern Monarchy” Harrington touches on socio-political themes. Here he portrays the figure of a well-dressed black man in Colonial French garb poised for a portrait but with an outstretched arm. Many questions come to mind when viewing this piece. What is the man holding in his outstretched hand? Is he a slave or free? Or maybe he’s a contemporary in costume? Judging by the title, the latter seems a probable interpretation. It appears Harrington is making a statement of revolution — the type remains uncertain.
Conor Harrington – Outsider or Not?
The complex themes Harrington purposefully adds to his work are certainly thought provoking and demand viewer attention. Perhaps this is one reason his works have done well in sales. In addition to mid-sized paintings on canvas, Harrington creates large outdoor murals as well as limited edition prints.
This combination plus his choice of colors and style seem to put Harrington into the fold of Outsider Art. On the subject of Outsider Art, what exactly does that refer to? In general, Outsider Art refers to that curiously titled genre with no particular visual connection but rather marked by a supposed rejection from traditional galleries and/or collectors. That said, what is its opposite? Well, that is where the conundrum begins. Because the definition of Outsider Art remains quite vague, it is hard to explain what it is not. So, is Conor Harrington an Outsider Artist? One cannot be sure, except that he has self-aligned with The Outsiders, the well known gallery and online print shop based out of the UK which boasts of specializing in the art of under recognized and underground artists.
Ultimately, any given genre title may or may not apply to Harrington, but one thing is for sure — he creates powerful imagery that alludes to time and circumstance with a keen sense of composition and design.