In this series, we get to know the Artists behind the work with ten questions about their practice, their space, and their ideas. These are their Stories.
Cherie Harte is a self-taught artist following in the tradition of Art Brut. Harte utilizes gestural painting techniques that juxtapose a character’s complex inner life with tangible expressions of naïveté and innocence. Her paintings trigger a blending of feelings that express the full gamut of emotions. She accomplishes this feat by tapping into her own life experiences, from the saddest to the most uplifting.
Harte’s characters are presented as childlike and playful; created through a meditative process that engages in an inner dialogue with the artwork. Although initiated by an arbitrary approach, Harte is methodical in her use of mark-making as a tool, she boldly scratches the surface of work.
Her ability to stir the rawness of our emotions, if we dare to engage, is the gift Harte has offered generously through her artwork since she began painting professionally over 10 years ago. Her characters invite us to connect with our inner selves, confront our discomforts, demand empathy and offer a sense of hope.
When did you develop an interest in art?
I have always been creative. I recall drawing a multitude of very simple baby faces in a sketchbook when I was younger. It was always the same basic character with different features. In 2005; I began holding creativity and scrapbooking classes for adults and children. In 2012; I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. At this time, I paused my business, and began painting as part of my healing journey. In 2016; the studio / gallery director where I was painting suggested we do a solo exhibition of my work. At first I was a hard “no”, but a family trip to Chile where I painted daily shifted my perspective, and I have been painting and exhibiting since.
Tell us about your process when creating an artwork.
My process is intertwined with journaling, meditation, yoga, reiki, sound healing, essential oils and a lot of transformational work and reading.
I begin all of my pieces by journaling. Typically I will activate my surface by journalling all my wishes for the world – peace, love, joy, serenity, compassion, unity, non judgement – and I introduce healing reiki symbols onto the canvas.
I then begin layering colour, marks and collage discarded pieces of paper and canvas onto the work. At this point I generally have my children in the studio working alongside me, collaboratively making marks, and interjecting playful energy into the work and studio. Anything goes as we play, explore, chat and creatively collaborate. Time always flies as we lose ourselves to the process.
I typically work alone, in silence, to finish pieces. Silence allows me to hear my own soul whispers and allow what wants to emerge to come through. This is the part of my process where I balance composition and avoid errant paint brushes that find their way onto nearly completed work.
Can you tell us about the characters you depict in your work and what they represent to you?
The characters are completely imaginary, emerging as a result of exploration and abstract mark making. They are a reflection of my own inner world and my desire to fully process emotion. I like to think that they invite us to connect with our inner selves, confront our discomforts, and demand empathy.
Is there a character you find yourself drawn to the most?
The character in my most recent series is beaming heart. This series began about a year into covid as my response to the divisive challenges surfacing as we navigated a world pandemic.
I always incorporate hearts into the background and layers of my work but bringing this symbol to the forefront somehow felt tremendously vulnerable and frightening. That is how I knew it was the move I needed to make. The message I most needed to share.
What if we were all beaming hearts? What if we all were the walking, talking embodiment of love? Radiating loving wishes out into the world. Self love and love of others. Embracing differences and celebrating our diversity. What if we saw each other as the embodiment of this universally recognisable shape and responded to one another from this place?
How would this change our world, our individual, and collective experiences.
Your work is extremely complex and layered; I find myself even more intrigued with your process and inspiration as time has gone on. Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
I have always been intrigued by self reflection and it is the primary source of inspiration for my work. How can I be a more loving person? Each layer of my work is deeply impacted by my desire to be a better person. I draw on my daily life experiences, relationships and my spiritual practices including reiki, yoga, and tarot reading .
How has your work evolved throughout the years?
I believe my work has become more honest, brave and vulnerable over the years. I am clearer than ever about my why for creating and my life purpose. A sort of return to the sense of wonder I felt in childhood.
You work across a wide range of mediums, how do you approach each one?
YES! I love mixing mediums in my work! I believe varying the mediums adds great depth and interest to each individual piece. I really have only one approach – experiment! I love to try different approaches and see how the mediums interact together. Experimentation often leads to exciting and unexpected results.
How does your immediate environment influence the type of art you make?
I am very sensitive to energy. Our recent move to the country has definitely allowed me more time to reflect on my work.
I love visiting cities, soaking up the energy and then returning to the quiet of our country home to process, and paint my experiences.
Right now I am imagining the use of more natural materials in my work.
What’s one item in your workspace you cannot live without?
Meditation is the only tool I could not live without.
I find that all of the physical, tangible tools are quite easily replaced in a pinch. I use a multitude of tools and mediums for painting and sculpting and I love the unexpected results found from using nontraditional tools.
What’s 1 thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I love to travel and have recently traveled to Australia, Japan and England to exhibit my work.