Claire Harvey (b. 1976)


Image from Overlaps by Allen & Overy
Year: 2004 – 2005
Material: Oil on transparent sheets
Dimensions: Variable

Sometimes an art gallery fails to sell an artwork during an exhibition. This can have countless reasons: lack of quality, overpricing, eccentricity, the colour doesn’t feel right, or simply poor positioning. At times, however, it concerns an utmost exceptional piece of art that is literally too big for the average Dutch living room. Due to these practical objections, an artwork fades into oblivion, spending its days stuck in storage. This is what happened to Overlaps, which, thanks to its size, didn’t find the right owner for a very long time.

The British-born artist Claire Harvey has been living and working in Amsterdam for years. During her stay at the Rijksakademie (State Academy of Fine Arts) in Amsterdam from 2003 to 2005, she attracted a lot of attention at the yearly Open Studios with her larger-than-life-sized installations, made of countless small drawings on post-its. The signature yellow, self-adhesive pieces of paper were decorated with beautiful, black-only, hand-drawn copies of photos of various subjects.

The success of these pieces and their constant demand by collectors prompted Harvey to slowly say farewell to the memos and choose a new direction. She started making tiny paintings (also in black and white) and discovered the use of transparent, plastic presentation sheets originally made for overhead projectors. The oil paint figures, animals and objects painted on them interact with one another. It is important to carefully arrange the transparent sheets so that they overlap in an ingenious manner. This way, the figures “supported by” the adjacent sheet. They stand on or lean against it.

The artist installed the artwork in the Apollo House herself. As she had done so before and because she had brought a precise technical instruction, she had assumed it would be done sooner rather than later. It didn’t go as planned. The space proposed at the Apollo House turned out to be somewhat smaller than where the artwork had been on show before, needing a drastic change and an entirely new composition compared to its original formation. In the end, it took Harvey over seven hours, including obligatory smoking breaks. It wasn’t until 8pm that she left the building, completely satisfied with the final result.

Image from Overlaps by Allen & Overy