Exhibition: Harley Manifold, Gateway City
Initially inspired after returning from Hong Kong to Torquay and feeling isolated and alone after being amid such a frenzy of life in Asia and leaving a partner, these paintings explore Geelong – The Gateway City and its people. The titles of the paintings come from conversations overheard by Manifold while in Geelong seeking inspiration. The scenes are reminiscent of an everyday walk to and from work, a glimpse down a laneway, a glance over a shoulder. These seemingly insignificant moments in time usually pass by without much notice. In this latest body of work by Manifold, the everyday becomes immortalised in paint, small intimate shrines to Geelong and its inhabitants.
Harley Manifold was born in Camperdown, Victoria in 1982. In 2003 he completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Deakin University in Warrnambool. He then went onto complete his Honours in Fine Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. He has been included in numerous Art prizes and group exhibitions. On three occasions he has been a finalist in Australia’s richest art prize for emerging artists, The Metro Art Award, and consecutively for the previous two prizes. Also two time finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize (2015 & 2017) as well as the Salon Des Refuses of the Archibald Prize (2016).
Manifold’s oil paintings depict the lone figure ambling through life – in alleyways, dwarfed by skyscrapers and highway overpasses, quiet places like bathrooms and the countryside to which he has returned. A dark, saturated palette details hard geometrical surroundings, bathed in the soft liminal glow of dusk and the night-time sky. Sometimes adorning the figure’s torso, a flimsy upturned cardboard box, mimics yet contrasts the impenetrable vast, heavy buildings – yet provides camouflage and protection and paradoxically severing the connection with the outside. This recurring motif’s vulnerable transient interior is accentuated by the sturdy veneers of the surrounding concreted architecture and questions the influence of the modern social delineations, boundaries and interfaces we traverse daily. Manifold’s paintings tread the discourse of unnoticed physical and psychological terrains. City landscapes, constructed by people yet cluttered by ‘anti-spaces’, Manifold’s paintings reflect tensions between states of camouflage and discontinuity in an era of increased communication and alienation.
It’s quite likely that people might recognise themselves in these paintings or the conversations I overheard while walking about Geelong.