UK-based artist Harry Hancock is also a musician. He finds all forms of art meditative. His latest collection of artwork consists of people & buildings. It will be exhibited in the city till Feb 16.
CHENNAI: The title of one of Harry Hancock’s sketches, featured at the Artworld in Teyanampet, reads An old man in Madras. It is the sketch of a man we would see on the streets of Chennai. He holds his lungi with one hand, and points at someone with the other, and on a busy day no one would stop to find out more.
Harry’s sketches of street life in Chennai don’t tell you more either. They are immediate and unfinished moments, sketched on maps from his old atlas. A part of them were made during his time in Chennai, and the rest comprise a collection from his days in New York City and Barcelona.
On his first day in Chennai, a week ago, Harry got on a scooter with a camera, and was overwhelmed by what he saw. “I love colonial architecture and the history in buildings. But here, I was first fixated by the traffic systems. Only then the marvels appeared on the horizon — buildings like Egmore Station and Fort St George, which I saw through the golden flow of the sunset,” shares Harry, during the opening of his collection.
His sketches have both large and small strokes. Most of them are precision drawings of people set against buildings. “As an English man in India, I thought it would be interesting to see old buildings in modern-day Chennai,” adds Harry. “The people you see in front of the buildings don’t just give a sense of depth. They also sweep you into the story.”
Some of Harry’s works was first captured as photographs and then sketched. He believes it is important to work from both life and observation. “The immediacy in sketching brings back my years of practice in figure drawing. And photographing it first helps retain some glimpses of eccentricity and humor that I see,” he says, referring to a sketch of a security guard conversing with Alvin, a friend who drove Harry around the city on his first day here.
His training is in historical media from Florence, and art history from the Courtauld Institute in London. In 2006, he moved to New York, and worked as a professional artist and teacher of Latin and Art. When NYC became overwhelming, he moved to Barcelona in 2017, and became a full-time artist.
He also composes music, and believes that any practice — music or art — is meditative. “Musicians have a different relationship with their audience. They compose a piece of music, rehearse it, and then perform it. In a painting, the performance part is often left out. For me, the process of watching the picture build, while the surface beneath gradually disappears, is the greatest of pleasures,” he shares.
Harry has lived in four continents, speaks six languages, and calls himself a global citizen. Talking about travel as a part of his creative process, he says, “It seems a great way to express oneself, by confronted constantly with something new. Those first impressions of a place are so potent.”
But back at home, his work builds on his portrait practice. “I am working using a project called Faces of the neighbourhood (name subject to change) to get to know my own neighbourhood in Barcelona, and build community,” he says. “Portraits are time consuming and well rendered. I do a lot of them. But collections like these are about taking a brush and sketching quickly. It has unfinished areas, and that is what is exciting.”