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Claire Harkess RSW

Claire studied from 1988-93 at Glasgow School of Art, graduating with a BA (Hons) Fine Art (Environmental Art). This involved site specific work, emphasising on public art, art in the community and installation work. Studies included drawing & painting, photography, film & video, casting, wood, metal and glasswork. In 1991 she spent some time in the Student Exchange Program studying Drawing & Painting at University of Ulster, Belfast. She won 1st Prize in the Arches Winter Painting Competition (wildlife) in 1996. Claire was also awarded the Windsor & Newton prize at the RSW's annual exhibition in Edinburgh.

She has exhibited widely throughout Scotland, including Solo Exhibitions in the A.K. Bell Library, Perth, the Perth Theatre Gallery and the University of York. Claire has also shown her work in Belfast, New York and Sydney, Australia. She has work in Public Collections including Perth and Kinross District Council and the Perth Museum & Art Gallery. Claire completed the Artist in Residence assignment at Edinburgh Zoo in August 1998 where she was featured in a TV documentary by the BBC (shown in November 1998) which showed how she interacted with the zoo staff, the public and, of course, the animals. Her feelings for animals come across strongly in her spontaneous ability to capture their characters in her paintings and sketches. In 2002 she featured on the BBC art and nature programme "Landward".

In 2001/02 she was commissioned to provide work for a book "A Highland Deer Herd and its Habitat" published by Red Lion House, London in 2002. Claire spent many hours crawling through wet heather with the stalkers and followed all aspects of the hunt. Claire has been invited to demonstrate her techniques and also teaches in selected venues throughout the country. Mostly when she is not committed to exhibitions she is travelling to source her inspiration for her next body of work. Claire's painting has taken her around the world in search of wild and fragile lands - Australia; travelling the Eastern and Central regions for three months, Mexico to follow the migration of the Monarch Butterfly, the Caribbean Islands; Dominica, Barbados, Trinidad and Cuba, South Georgia and Antarctica, and the Galapagos Islands.Earlier this year she travelled to Kenya, her first time in Africa. A three week study visit took her to several National Parks, notably Amboseli, Samburu, Lake Nakuru and The Masai Mara. The trip gave her small glimpses on a foreign world where timing is everything. Kenya is a land where the balance of life is delicate and survival is key. The patience of watching and waiting is crucial both in the gathering of source material and back home in the studio.

"Working predominantly in watercolour, to know when to paint is good, to know when not to - even better. Echoing the balance and rhythms found in nature, her paintings seek similar harmony. Sometimes it is the emptiness of a page marked by a single brushstroke, others, a slow build up of repeated layers, put down and scrubbed out, leaving traces and shadows, memory stains of paint and place. Nothing is truly erased: Worn tracks, new marks."

Diary extract Samburu National Park 23.01.09

The early morning chill is lifting.On first glance- dry bush scrub, acacia trees, distant hills and a few scattered impala groups. Then look again and weaver birds sit by their suspended tree top nests. Keep looking and there is a flash as a bee-eater snaps up a bug. Then look closer, attention drawn close, soundless it's nothing. Closer still, a presence is felt and there is the slightest of movements, a contour revealed- a broad head, thick mane. And suddenly the eyes are sharp and clear. Only a few feet away a silent shadow sits. With a mixture of excitement and unease I wonder how long has he been watching. We respectfully move on. I am very new to this land.

"Painting in watercolour offers a unique directness. The essential qualities of light and energy ever present in the natural world are the very essence of the medium itself. In search of a simplicity and beauty through the painting of a line, shape, colour, the process is immediate and instinctive. Remaining true to both medium and subject, with every brush mark visible, I strive to allow the paint the freedom to speak for itself thus creating a dialogue between myself, the viewer and the ever evolving work.Concentrating on the natural world, wildlife is a dominant theme. To keep the subject alive, the necessity for speed and directness has drawn me to watercolour as my preferred medium. The process is immediate and instinctive, offering a mirror to this intuitive world. Every brush stroke visible, I strive to allow the paint the freedom to speak for itself thus creating a dialog between myself and the ever evolving work."

The Strathearn Gallery | 32 West High Street | Crieff | Perthshire | PH7 4DL