The Story of Us and Them is a new exhibition of paintings by the Irish-born, London-based artist Conor Harrington. Set against the backdrop of a fictional nation-state, Harrington explores the idea of patriotism, as well as the divisions that arise from it, in his signature style that encompasses abstract, baroque and graffiti-style painting.
“At a time when walls are being built, borders are closing and countries move towards isolation, a post-globalisation society is emerging,” says the HENI Gallery in Soho, London, where the show takes place from 14 September. “For Harrington, the mentality of ‘us and them’ is rising.”
Harrington drenches historical portraits of forgotten generals in vivid hues of red and blue, exaggerating this idea of ‘us and them’ through various political and cultural tropes. He stages photoshoots on which he bases the scenes in his paintings and utilises fire extinguishers, brushes, squeegees, hand painting and more to build up an image on his large canvases.
For this series, Harrington had two flags made, one red and one blue, which he reproduces in paint and through which he has fictionalised the idea of a nation state to examine ideas on tribalism and patriotism.
Harrington is known for his expressionistic oil paintings and murals that draw a fine line between the classical and contemporary, the ethereal and hard realism and examine themes of masculinity, military history and urban culture.
Born in 1980 in Cork, Ireland, Harrington began tagging walls as a teenager after hanging out at hip-hop clubs. He went on to attend the Limerick School of Art and Design, where he received a BFA in 2002. Now equally synonymous with both large-scale studio compositions and outdoor murals, his provocative, dreamlike work draws a fascinating line between the street and the canvas. The artist has exhibited internationally, including at Lazarides, New York and HENI in collaboration with Pace London.
Conor’s bestselling book Watch Your Palace Fall, first published in 2016 by HENI, will be available to buy throughout the duration of the show, which launches on 14 September and runs until 12 October 2018. Discover more at conorharrington.com.