I call round to Peter Harris’s house to collect slides of a series of watercolour paintings of scenes from BBC2’sLate Review called The Criticism Never Ends. Adult experience of television is very different from a child’s. It can still be positive, but there’s usually irony involved in the viewing process, unlike the simple rapture of childhood. In Harris’s watercolours, which are part of an on-going visual diary, the figures seem to bleach out against the saturated backdrops. Presenter Mark Lawson is seen sitting around a table with this week’s panel of celebrity experts. If the talking heads are putting culture – including visual art – under their objective (in some cases) scrutiny, then Harris is fairly objectively scrutinising the scrutinisers. You look at Harris’s scenes and, so familiar are they to anyone who regularly tunes in, a dialogue virtually writes itself:
Mark Lawson: ‘What did you think of Peter Harris’s paintings, Tom?’
Tom Paulin: ’Him, looking at us, looking at the likes of him: that old chestnut. I find them deeply uninteresting.’
Germaine Greer: ‘But surely, Tom, rather like TV’s own The Royle Family, Harris is revealing to us how essentially lazy and
self-referential culture if becoming…’
The black borders of the screen are visible in the Harris watercolours, but the setting in which the TV is sited is not clear.
Duncan Mclaren, contemporary visual arts