Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mark Harris

Mark Harris was born in England, but grew up in Australia and Papua New Guinea from the age of three to thirteen. His was a blissfully happy childhood spent daydreaming, chasing rare and endangered wildlife, which he kept in his bedroom, and drawing pictures of rabbits in the bottom left corner of large sheets of paper.

His parents very sensibly kept their distance from this strange and wayward boy, entrusting his education to a pack of dingoes and the Australian school system, where he learned to play rugby, count to ten and hurl a tennis ball the length of a football field. A great fondness for sports and outdoor adventure was matched by an equally enthusiastic propensity for catching near-fatal diseases, which has since become a lifelong hobby.

On his return to England a reversal of fortunes in the family’s finances forced the young Harris to abandon his ambition of becoming a Mini Cooper and continue with his formal education. A succession of violent and misanthropic pedagogical failures persuaded him that his only escape from the violence and misanthropy of pedagogical failure was to be found in the art room where his talents were nurtured by yet more savage but well meaning miscreants who managed to convince him of the utter folly of pursuing a career in art.

Having decided that art was indeed best left to recovering psychotics and former prime ministers, Mark Harris plunged into the world of languages and linguistics with all the enthusiasm of a Methodist dance instructor. Armed with a degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies and a pile of crumpled bank notes, he began to travel to exotic parts in search of voiceless fricative trills and voiced retroflex stops found only in those languages that cause permanent brain damage.

Upon arriving in Malaysia Mark Harris quickly abandoned a career in teaching for his revived interest in drawing and painting after watching Peter Greenaway’s A Draughtsman’s Contract several dozen times.

Once in Southeast Asia the sharp contrasts of light and dark, the intense heat of reflected sunlight on scabrous stone and brick and the joy of drawing in plein air while soaked with sweat became as addictive as kissing Audrey Hepburn.

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