The bather has been a constant source of inspiration for artists throughout the centuries. As a muse, it aroused artistic curiosity, thus making numerous appearances in the art for as long as anyone can remember.
A taboo image in past ages, yet creative expression made it an iconic symbol of relaxation that continues to stir the senses and has yet to lose its allure. Its compelling qualities are at the soul of Harry Rüdham’s practice.
A London-based artist roused by introspections of Bauhaus’s colour and shape, plus a critical interest in the relationship between the city and rest. Rüdham interplays with these notions to conceive his abstract observations of life.
I’m exploring our relationship with one another in society as a whole. Before the pandemic, I focused on interactions within the city and the sense of isolation
His findings epitomised in chromatic environments flourished with silhouetted shapes, represents modern life’s chaotic qualities that leave no time for reflection, rest, or recovery. At first glance, Rüdham’s critique appears elusive, a captivating mystery that beckons you to explore. When closely examined, your senses are induced by the details within.
Discovering these motifs are floating individuals, he has immortalised on canvas—individual identities in unison. The artist’s use of colour and formation flaunts the ocean’s hidden majesty and its habitants from a distance. On more intimate reflection, these silhouettes are people Rüdham has encountered while living in different cities, remembered in the historical bather’s disposition reclined in posture.
Rüdham has an exceedingly creative approach to his practice that yields a distinctive aesthetic, in which you relish the meticulous attention to detail and power of colour and form. An artistic encounter that must be seen to be appreciated.
I managed to catch up with Harry during his current exhibition Lubbaland at Grove Square Galleries to learn more about his practice and what’s next for him as an artist.
Q: Hi Harry, can you please introduce yourself for those who don’t know?
A: Hi ‘Art Plugged’, I’m a contemporary figurative painter based in London who uses the figure as a mode of abstraction.
Q: How long have you been making art, how did you get started, and why do you create art?
A: I’ve always been making art or being ‘creative’ for as long as I can remember, and maybe even before. My mother used to tell me her biggest pregnancy craving was the smell of turpentine, and now I spend every day in the studio surrounded by it. Although I started to find myself in my art while studying in Berlin at the Universität Der Künste for my Erasmus year.
Q: Can you tell us how you develop your style?
A: My ‘style’ appeared by accident. I developed in the background of a painting titled ‘I like to take my clothes off for you in 2018. I was looking at bathers in a far more representational aspect and found the depiction of the bather as a minute ‘cut out’ in the background of the painting to be far more exciting. Since then, the bather/cut out has become a staple of my practice.
Q: What topics are you exploring through your practice?
A: Predominantly I’m exploring our relationship with one another in society as a whole. Before the pandemic, I focused on interactions within the city and the sense of isolation one can feel in times of rest despite being in such populated areas.
However, in Lubberland, I’m exploring the idea of the mythical secular paradise. After two years of restrictions, I’ve been exploring my yearning for human interaction and feel these paintings are idealised, abstract metaphors of that yearning.
Q: Your work has a running aesthetic consisting of intersecting silhouettes intricately placed accentuated by the colourful atmosphere. That radiates an elusive appearance until closer inspection. Can you tell us the motivation behind this?
A: Of course, each silhouette is an individual figure and represents the ‘art-historical bather’. Still, through the overlaying of figures, I’m attempting to create a duality or duplicity between the individual interactions of each figure and the abstract atmosphere. Which their overlaid colour forms in the painting as a whole. It’s this relationship of colour and form that motivates my practice.
Q: Your current exhibition at Grove Square Galleries Lubberland takes the Swedish name for ‘Cockaigne,’ a land of plenty in medieval myth, and was first made famous in the broadside ballad “An Invitation to Lubberland,” first printed in 1685. Can you tell us why you choose this as the title for the exhibition?
A: I’ve always had an appreciation for Pieter Bruegel and, most obviously, his painting ‘The Land of Cockaigne’. But I believe it was the ‘Sea Shanty’ resurgence that led me to use Lubberland as a concept to work towards the show.
The concept of Lubberland as a whole felt like the perfect representation of what everyone was feeling during the first lockdown. A secular paradise of idyllic ease, abundance and human interaction to sail off too.
Q: The studio is the sacred temple of creativity. What are three things you can’t live without in your studio?
A: Frogs Tape, a Scalpel and my armchair from the nunnery I used to live and work in.
Q: What’s next for you as an artist?
A: I’m currently looking forward to pushing my work in the medium of cotton paper pulp. It’s a medium I’ve been quite obsessed with for the last three years, with the two ‘Cotton Candy’ works in Lubberland being of that medium. I’m also excited to plan out my next series of works and play a bit more in terms of experimentation for the upcoming summer group show at Grove Square Galleries.
Q: Lastly, what does art mean to you?
A: Art is my meditation. It helps me navigate and understand the world around me. It lets me process events that I or others may not be able to express normally.