COVID-19 Updates: For advice and updates for staff, students, and applicants who may have concerns about the coronavirus outbreak please visit our Situation Updates page.

Gallery goers give Harry’s two-month masterpiece the thumbs up

Date 1.06.2021

An exceptional work of art from a University of Northampton student has been crowned the people’s favourite in a gallery exhibition.

Centaur by Fine Art Painting & Drawing student, Harry Barker, received hundreds of votes to secure the People’s Choice Award in the Rugby Open Exhibition.

The photorealistic painting, which took two months to complete, was the category’s runaway winner in the exhibition, which was staged online by Rugby Art Gallery & Museum.

Scroll down to see Harry’s winning work

“I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the response to my painting,” said Harry, who is from Lechlade, Gloucestershire. “It is truly a rewarding prize as all those who voted saw the value that I see within my work. This prize and the support behind it motivates me to keep creating and showcasing my very best work.”

The photographic qualities of Centaur have amazed those who have seen the work, thanks to Harry’s mastering of the photorealistic painting technique, Trompe-l’œil.

He said: “The technique creates an optical illusion, which has made the painting of a centaur appear as if it exists on the three-dimensional plane, and it’s this quality that appeals to people the most. It brings forth questions of what the viewer is seeing – is it a collage stuck onto canvas, is it an oil painting or is it a three-dimensional sculpture?

“Due to the painting’s photorealistic qualities people on the whole are amazed when they find out that it is a painting, rather than a photo. However, when you stand close to the painting you can clearly see the intricate brushstrokes which create the illusion.”

Centaur was a real labour of love for Harry, who spent in excess of 200 hours across a two-month period to create the piece.

“I often spent entire days and sometimes nights doing the smallest details,” he said. “I often tell people that within a painting there are hundreds of miniature paintings that I must complete in order to create the bigger picture. “

Harry’s due to graduate this summer, and is setting his sights on becoming a full-time artist and studying a master’s degree in Fine Art.

He said: “I can safely say I’m not the same person I was when I first came to the University of Northampton. The facilities and studio spaces have been amazing, allowing me to create whatever I want, furthering my ambition.

Centaur by Harry Barker

Harry Barker’s winning work of art, Centaur.

“I have enjoyed the conversations and debates had with the lecturers – they have really pushed and challenged me to become a better artist.”