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Lazarides Rathbone welcomes back Irish painter Conor Harrington with a new exhibition from 2 March. Entitled ‘Dead Meat’, Harrington's feast has the air of a last supper, ostentatious in its excesses and debauched in its crumbling beauty.
Making a departure from the battle scenes, posturing, and overt masculinity of his previous work this new body takes a step indoors with a behind-the-scenes look at men of power. From an elaborate photo-shoot involving six models, costumes, taxidermy, and props Harrington has recreated an 18th-century feast. His interest in this period refers to an era when European power was at its peak and examines its heritage in contemporary society given the uncertainty within the Eurozone, as the Asian markets’ rise and established power structures shift.
Harrington raids art history, particularly the tradition of painting, as he samples classics and reworks with free association. The largest canvas from his show depicts a female nude reclining on a table, observing both herself and the view through a mirror — a direct nod to The Rokeby Venus by Velsasquez. Referencing Manet’s Déjuner sur L’Herbe, the artist has clothed his male subjects in traditional 18th-Century garb in contrast to their female counterparts who appear in the nude. While prostitutes from the street have been traditionally employed as models, Harrington has opted for a 21st-century approach, sourcing his girls through topless model websites in search of exemplary post-feminist beauties with no qualms about profiting from their physiques in what has become an increasingly body-conscious and pornography-soaked culture. Subtly reworking historical narratives and replacing ethnicities, ‘Mary’ is displayed as a young topless black woman, and the offerings from the ‘Three Wise Men’ lifeless birds and the gift of flesh: death is at the centre of glory and finery.
Harrington’s choice of materials — oil on canvas paired intermixed with spray paint — highlights the establishment and its downfall, a consistent theme from his previous work. His scenes so carefully constructed and beautifully rendered, Harrington thinks nothing of brandishing a can of bitumen black spray paint and vandalizing his own careful creation. The dialogue between graffiti and traditional fine art, abstraction and realism, form the backbone of his continuing output.
Lazarides Rathbone, 11 Rathbone Place, W1T 1HR + 44 (0) 207 636 5443
Tuesday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., admission free