As a child, Gregor Harvie was taught to paint one-to-one by a local artist in Devon. He went on to study architecture at the Welsh School of Architecture, and then obtained a PhD in environmental design and computational fluid dynamics.
He was the troubleshooter for the design and construction of the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, where he worked with architects such as Richard Rogers and Zaha Hadid, and artists such as Anish Kapoor and Anthony Gormley. 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’. He was Director of Earth Day at the Dome, attended by 35,000 people and part of the world's biggest ever environmental celebration.
He then went to art college, where he was awarded a post graduate diploma in fine art and won the de Laszlo Foundation Prize for Portraiture.
He has had three solo exhibitions in London. ‘Constructed’ was an installation of 50 abstract portraits suspended on trapeze wires in Hoxton’s Circus Space. His second solo show was at the elegant Flying Colours gallery in Chelsea, a thought-provoking re-interpretation of the contemporary British landscape organised by artist’s agent Lena Boyle. His third show was a multi-media event in the Crypt Gallery and St Pancras Parish Church in Euston. The show involved 50 abstract paintings and 50 texts exploring the issues of population growth and the over-exploitation of natural resources. It was accompanied by a public debate and sales of paintings raised money for the charity Street Child Africa.
His next piece was a video animation exploring Alzheimer’s, and featuring the story of Eileen Dyson, an actress who appeared in 6 episodes of Morecambe and Wise’s BBC show ‘Double Six’. The animation tracks Eileen’s optimistic experience of living with Alzheimer’s.
Gregor recently re-located to a Scottish island, where he has renovated an old Manse and built a large studio with stunning views across the Firth of Clyde.
His current work focuses on quantum physics – that is, the fundamental nature of things at the subatomic scale. This is a particularly fascinating field to study because it is so unresolved. There are numerous partial theories about what the universe is made of, but actually, nobody is able to explain what matter is, or what energy is, or what gravity is.
Whilst we understand these things experientially – we can touch a rock and feel it's solid, we can throw a ball into the air and see it fall back to earth - every attempt to describe them has failed. Gravity, can only be explained if there is 6 times more matter in the universe than there seems to be. This ‘dark’ matter has never been detected.
At the most fundamental level, the only way the universe can have come into existence from nothing is if, for every particle, there is a corresponding opposite particle. But there is much more ‘normal’ matter in the universe than there is anti-matter and this has yet to be explained. Even the question ‘what are particles?’ remains unanswered.
Trying to develop a unified theory of everything has resulted in bizarre and incomprehensible partial theories that seem increasingly unrelated to the world we experience and are impossible to visualise. Quantum theory, string theory, dark matter and dark energy, quantum foam and doughnut universes have all tackled the same questions, but still the maths will not work.
Maths is not the only means of exploring and expressing the fundamental nature of things. Perhaps the best known modern physicists, Albert Einstein worked visually, performing thought experiments to unravel reality, and only later translating them into equations.
Art can also be used to reveal the underlying nature of things. Gregor’s work explores quantum physics through the expression of pairs and opposites, particles and waves, interactions, impacts and revelations, indivisible quantum, space and time. It expresses the paradox of the intangible and the solid - a universe that can be seen, felt and inhabited, but cannot be expressed.
Each piece is an experiment – an attempt to push further into the subject, to find new means of expression, to push boundaries and explore techniques. Each piece is a single vision, a window that frames this fascinating subject from a unique view.
Some of his work uses scientific imagery as source material, such as cloud chamber and bubble chamber particle tracks or data from the Large Hadron Collider. But ultimately there are no single images that capture the nature of the universe, it can only be pieced together with fragments of ideas and the juxtaposition of contradictions.
This focus on contradictions is at the heart of his work, exploring the inconsistencies between the fixed, quantified, irreducible geometry that physics attempts to overlay on the universe, and an amorphous, diffuse and probabilistic reality that cannot be characterised; expressing this by contrasting grid like quanta with fluid forms, or with black holes symbolising the limit of our ability to see.
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