Artist Gregor Harvie uses his creative practice to push the boundaries of understanding, tackling the most complex and controversial questions of our time.
Academically trained to the highest level in both art and science, he harnesses the power of thought experiments, visualisations and material expression to create bodies of work that are both seductive images and rigorous investigations of the unknown.
In his current work, Gregor questions society’s sole reliance on physics to uncover the mysteries of the universe, arguing that we also need a leap of imagination.
The extreme complexity of modern physics makes it more and more difficult to make progress with questions about the nature of the universe. The answers to those questions, the theory of everything, remain forever just out of reach; each new discovery leading to new questions.
Gregor’s work asks whether art can make a leap forward. Whether we know enough now to imagine the answer. Throughout history, societies have used art to map the heavens, reveal the gods, conjure the past and predict the future. Art has evoked emotions and spread beliefs. It’s extraordinary power is its ability to extrapolate from what is known to conject what is not.
His large-scale works take the few principles that can be undisputedly accepted and from those, conceive visual expressions of fundamental structures that could be the basis of everything, the underlying truth.
Gregor's paintings are accompanied by logic poems exploring the relationships between unresolved and sometimes contradictory concepts. These word equations, unconstrained by grammatical structure or the dogma of numbers, help steer the creative decision-making process and open a second path for the viewer to understand the images they accompany.
Gregor is being supported in his work by the Quantum Theory Group at Glasgow University, who are helping him understand current thinking about physics and offering a sounding board for the ideas he is developing.
“Something indescribably beautiful must emerge from all these terrors and wonders. It always has; it will again. Artists create their visions of beauty out of the machinery of the imagination; the beauty of science lies in the sightings of nature’s grace.” Leon Ledermann, Quantum Physics for Poets.
Painting #2112 - 122cm x 122cm acrylic on 2 panels
| quantum ≈ indivisible |
| pair ≠ opposite ≈ balance ≈ (cancel) |
solid ∴ mass ∴ attract | path + interact = distort |
|(revert / return) ≠
| concentrate ≈ agglomerate | diffuse² |
relate | (autonomous / alone) |
| absolute ≠ ambiguous | unknown ≠ unknowable |
Alzheimer’s is a complex video animation featuring the life of Eileen Dyson, an actress who appeared in six episodes of Morecambe and Wise’s BBC show ‘Double Six’. The animation tracks Eileen’s optimistic experience of living with Alzheimer’s and challenges our perception of the disease. It was developed with input from Eileen’s family as well as metaphysician Dr Kim Jobst, the Psychology Department at Bristol University, and Baroness Susan Greenfield.
Gene Meme involved 50 abstract paintings representing the proliferation of life and 50 elegies exploring the over-exploitation of natural resources by civilisations throughout history. Installed in the Crypt under St Pancras Parish Church in London, it focussed on the highly controversial issue of population growth and was accompanied by a public debate chaired by broadcaster Geoff Watts and featuring zoologist and broadcaster Aubrey Manning. Sales of paintings raised money for the charity Street Child Africa. Each painting sold allowed a child to be taken off the streets and given an apprenticeship, clothes and a place to live for a year.
‘Constructed’ was an installation of 50 portraits suspended on trapeze wires in the National Centre for Circus Arts, a converted combustion chamber behind Hoxton Square in London. An exposé of the much-misunderstood process of abstraction, each set of trapezes presented a series of portraits of the same subject, starting in the same way from the same viewpoint. But each subsequent painting was developed to reveal something new, and in so doing, the sequences became progressively more abstract, moving beyond any semblance of literal representation to expose more insightful underlying truths.
Ploughed land was held in the elegant Flying Colours gallery in Chelsea. Presented by Lena Boyle, the show challenged modern interpretations of the British landscape. Often romanticised and idealised in art, Gregor instead presented contemporary landscapes as human-made products, exploited and defaced by progressive intervention over thousands of years – even in the most remote and apparently wild places.
Gregor was the trouble-shooter for the design and construction of the controversial Millennium Dome in Greenwich for four years, working with architects such as Richard Rogers and Zaha Hadid, and artists such as Anish Kapoor. He worked on the delivery of 10 installations at the Dome, including the Rest Zone, a contemplative, immersive experience of art and sound, featuring Artangel’s 1,000-year composition ‘Longplayer’.
A new beginning
In 2012, Gregor began the search for a new subject for his artistic practice, and eventually settled on fundamental physics as the most complex, challenging and far-reaching subject of them all. He began a long period of research and made the decision to leave London for a fresh start. In 2015 he bought a rundown manse on a small island in Scotland. This required major renovation to breathe new life into the tired Victorian building and to create a large studio. In 2020 he relocated to Scotland permanently and began his artistic exploration of physics in earnest.