UK-based artist brings creative works to Encinitas

From up close, the painting appears to be a series of exotic Asian plants in a jungle. But from farther away, viewers see a Samurai warrior breaking through a fence, ready to go off into battle.

United Kingdom-based artist Andy Harper uses the varying human perceptions to create unique abstract works.

Nearly 20 of his oil-based paintings are on view at the Lux Art Institute, where he will be staying through Dec. 16 to create six new, large-scale pieces.

The paintings, which are categorized as abstract or symmetrical, on view at the Lux previously appeared in a gallery in New York and range from between one and four years old.

"Each painting comes out in a kind of language in the way that I work," he said in an interview at the Lux on Nov. 16, the day he arrived for his month-long stay. "I work with a certain process, but how and what I paint and what the images end up like in the end is very open. I hope being here has some kind of effect on how I picture things or how I use the language that I have."

The artist, who lives in the southwest portion of the UK and teaches in London, paints his works in a single layer with an oil-based paint, although from farther away, the pieces almost appear 3-D as if they've been created in several layers.

Harper, who has been painting for 21 years, said because of the resin nature of the paint, he only works on his paintings while they are wet. This gives him four or five days to paint a new piece, depending on the colors.

"Effectively, I have four or five days to work, impress myself and make decisions to change it," he said. "The moment it starts to set, because it's a resin, it becomes solid and can't return to the fluid stage."

The paintings can then take months to dry properly, he said.

From there, if Harper does not like the way a work turned out, he'll chip away the paint, add new primer and start over on a blank canvas.

Standing in front of the warrior painting, entitled "Watergate" and based off a Japanese work called "Warrior at the Watergate," he pointed out the details up close and backs up to show the groundwork for the piece in a broader scope.

He compared the process of creating such works to "trapping a mosquito in an ember and taking its DNA," referring to a scene from the film "Jurassic Park."

Each of his abstract paintings are left to audience interpretation, he said.

Before painting, he does not have the full picture in his head.

"It sort of happens with a bit of nudging," he said. "Quite often, I'll lay down a very basic composition and then I'll push my painting language into them."

For more information about Harper's work at the Lux, 1550 South El Camino Real, visit luxartinstitute.org.

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