First appearing as the title of a poetry series by the late Romantic poet Baudelaire, Flowers of Evil has seen many different lives; later as a 1915 Italian film, again as a Shuzo Oshimi manga. Now British painter David Harrison takes hold of the title, and reinterprets Cicely Barker’s Flower Fairies to form his latest painting exhibition at London’s Victoria Miro.
Harrison was educated at Central Saint Martins alongside John Galliano, Isaac Julien and Peter Doig, and as such has a yearning for the theatrical. Forming part of the original Sex Pistols line up, there are no half measures. Here, the imagery of Romanticism meets with the mania of Surrealism, ancient mythology colliding head on with the current day.
Many of the elements that the painter employs sit separately from contemporary trends, such as symbolism, landscape and overt, earthy sexuality. These old-school images sit alongside the makers of the modern day; office blocks, roughed up brick walls and sickly bright tones. There is a conscious grotesqueness to the whole thing, both the spiritual, Romantic world and the bland modern world appearing utterly at odds with one another.
The painting style itself allows for this grotesqueness to take over. The colours are aggressive, the lines naive and the content clamourous. At Victoria Miro these intense canvases are placed cleanly on whitewashed walls, shouting manically from the confines of their four edges.
David Harrison: Flowers of Evil is showing at Victoria Miro until 18 December