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In-between shooting editorials, tutoring the next generation of fashion designers at Saint Martins, and collaging to his heart's content, featured artist Harry Freegard speaks with curator Will Ferreria Dyke to discuss his inclusion in Black White Gallery’s Edged: An Ode to Mapplethorpe.
Good morning, Harry! How are you doing, what has your week been saying?
Will, it has been gorgeous! I went to see my mum in Wilshire. Got a flat tyre in Devon. Walked a dog. Got back last night. All is well and good on this lovely Tuesday morning.
How lovely! So, tell me about yourself.
I studied Fashion at Central Saint Martins, where I have since been lecturing for the past five years. I actually only completed my bachelors at CSM and didn’t even apply for the masters; I got halfway through the application for the MA and fobbed it off! I was lucky, however, because as soon as I graduated, I got dragged into teaching on the postgraduate courses. At first it was funny being such a baby. That’s all changed now, they act like I'm over fifty and dated - which is great! I also lecture in Fashion in a college in Geneva. Alongside my teaching I shoot editorials, collage pictures and work collaboratively with a lot of brands in a freelance capacity. Currently, it seems that I am selling a lot of my art and drawings which is quite gorgeous.
How would you describe your artistic style?
My work is extremely instinctual. A lot of the physical artworks are almost a by-product of a wider pursuit of expression of transformative identities. I kind of live as different personas that I take on for months at a time. Ever since I was a child, I adopted these spectacular identities, I suppose, in order to gain something inside as well as gaining a new artistic experience. I would dress up for months on end, heavily committing to a singular motive. Whether that be dressing up as Elvis for a year or silly shit like that.
Did you adopt an identity for the works in Edged?
Many of the works we are showing came from a time when I was living on the side of a mountain. I am a very feminine guy; I’ve pretty much worn dresses for the last ten years with a full face of make-up and heels every day. But then I was put in this remote location, which was extremely religious, in the middle of nowhere, and where no one spoke any English. As a form of assimilation and protection I adopted this more masculine identity: full moustache, wearing men’s clothes, going to a barber, all of it (ignore the fact I’m currently growing a moustache - that’s more just for funsies).
Why on earth were you on this mountain?
I wish I had the answer. In James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room there is a line which states that ‘It’s really beautiful but I’m tired of being in places for no reason’, and that’s exactly how I felt. The geography was heavenly but really, I had no reason to be there. It was beautiful and way cheaper than being in London. I was doing nothing other than drawing everyday and living momentarily as this new person. It was weird come to think of it. The cowboy cut out porno works were born there.
Did this lead to your Flicky Hair Boy series, which are your naïve drawings of male busts?
Yes, the Flicky Hair Boys came as a spilling over of that experience. The drawings almost come through the strange hetero idealising lens into something more queer, I suppose. I think I am a good litmus test as to what is happening in the zeitgeist or what is to come. Now it’s all about madness, everyone is dressing up crazy, people on TikTok dress insane to get attention - I love swinging the other way, and the mountain was perfect for this. I was looking at the boom in Trumpy twitter porn; the weird right wing, anti-gay, but deeply homoerotic twitter users which post all this insane content of an idealised man.
Mapplethrope is a famed flicky hair boy, a Downtown twink if you will, how did you come about his work?
I have been aware of Mapplethorpe for a long time, though I don’t think I’ve ever taken him specifically as inspiration. However, I know that I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am doing without his influence. Fashion loves him. Fashion loves Mapplethorpe!
Think of Raf Simmons Spring-Summer 2017 – the runway was filled with curly-haired, skinny men wearing distressed clothes printed with Mapplethorpe images.
Oh, Raf loves that shit. Very Rush music video!
Troye adjacent indeed! Thoughts and feelings?
I have many. I thought it was a great video, but I also do think the critique is valid. The interview with Emrata was lol. She is a fantastic interviewer, isn’t she?
Oh yeah, big Emrata fan me. Beyond twitter porn where else are you looking for reference?
Naturally, like any good art student, I love Juergen Teller and Woolfgang Tillmans and all their un-doneness. In general, I am a cultural fiend, I drink in everything around me. I think consumption is a huge part of it in my practice. I will watch whatever movie in the cinema, I don’t know if that’s an ADHD trait or not - hot take, I didn’t love Barbie. It is so cliché to say but music and poetry are also a great reference point. I am an extreme audiophile and embarrassingly an absolute Lana fanatic. Born and bred, she is everything to me. Her poetry is really good!
Yes, honestly it is great! But listen to it, don’t read it.
Does she read it?
OMG imagine if it was someone else… Steven Fry?
Maybe Meryl or Ian McKellen? Going forward, where is Harry headed?
I am currently cooking up some large-scale collages. I want to have a bigger moment! I always work on things and never put them out. I’m sitting on stacks and stacks of work that I don’t do anything with so who knows when and if these will be out. I quite like when people buy things, so lately I am less into intangible materials.
Finally, a hypothetical: who is your dream collaborator, and what would you collaborate on?
Ugh, I would love to do an album cover for Lana, duh, but you can’t put that in. I think I would just love a really big show. I’m quite good at commanding a big space and getting attention. I’d eat it up. I’m not that bothered about location, I just want a big space, loads of gorgeous lighting and a lot of press.
Now that’s the soundbite! And scene.
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