Coming late to art from a career in architecture, Queensland-based artist Paul Harbour brings to bear a lifetime of experience observing and creating beach homes to the medium of paint. Suffused with a sense of nostalgia, his works present portraits of a bygone era, focussing on mid-century modern beach shacks. As the ubiquitous fibro house is slowly being replaced by edifices of concrete and steel, they live on unchallenged and unchanged in Harbour’s vision of the classic Australian coast. Rendered down to the details using a 50mm brush, Harbour executes his pieces in a textural, dynamic style that provides an almost dream-like ambiance – without compromising on the geometric precision required to bring these buildings to life. He is especially adept at conveying the changeable light conditions of beachside living, his quick strokes offering an almost tangible feel of the beating sun or a sudden bluster.
Notable also is the absence of the human figure in his works, though surfboards and hills hoists testify to their presence somewhere just out of frame. In doing so, the viewer is allowed to exist in their own private world, living the dream of a special beach getaway away from the crowds that often throng Bondi and Manly. Harbour’s vistas make concrete the classic vision of Australian beach living, tasting the salt on the air, mixing nostalgia with desire to create evocative portraits of coastal idylls.
Featured image: Paul Harbour, Springfield. Acrylic on canvas, 90 x 90cm. Courtesy: the artist.