This weekend, House of Hyena launches at #friezeNY with Norrie Harman’s “Blade Portraits”. Harman has created a body of work which features a host of celebrity and political portraits. These Blade Portraits challenge and disconcert but most of all, protest. Whether it is frustration at a political party or at a nepotistic art world, Harman’s protest art quietly but firmly makes it’s point. This is “Protest Art” at it’s most relevant.
From the ‘Tattoos of Mass Destruction” Tony Blair portrait through to “Madonna’s American Revolution” blade portrait, Harman’s skill as an artist takes us on a journey of satirical mark-making.
Harman’s Protest Art works so well because of it’s relevance as discussed recently in the excellent Bella Caledonia article. As mentioned in that article, it is easy for people to forget the past particularly if enough money is thrown at something. Protest Art however makes us remember because of it’s relevancy. It is literally right in your face.
Harman’s portraits in particular really force the point, whether it is with the pure tattoo portraits or Harman’s knifed and torn blade portraits. They shock and intrigue with pure visuals. Portraiture is often used to show the best of people. Harman’s Protest Portraits use blades and tattoos to show the very worst or the most extreme.
Tattooing the face is a very controversial issue. In many societies, like Japan, for a long time, the punishment for non-violent crimes was a tattoo in the middle of the forehead. Tattooing the face is still pretty much a no-go in the more fashionable Western tattooing cultures. And that is why Harman deliberately uses tattoos to make his point.
Good Protest Art forces us not to forget and maybe to make better choices for the future.
Good Protest Art should protest loud and clear and Harman’s Blade Portraits certainly do that.