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Introduction: Robin Harris

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Mario Minichiello

EICH Gallery

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Robin Harris's loan to
the EICH Gallery

european illustration collection hull


In October 1998 Robin Harris loaned his works portraying the 30 Articles of the Declaration of Human Rights to the Illustration Research Archive based within the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside at the City Campus in Hull.

We undertook to share in Robin Harris' bid to raise awareness and disseminate the content of the 30 Articles to the widest possible public.

It was decided that to develop a web site would be the most effective way of bringing the work to audiences world-wide. Thanks must go to the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside for supporting and funding this project.

The Articles of the Declaration of Human Rights were adapted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948. They are simultaneously benchmarks for humanitarian behaviours and aspirational goals. The language used carries a strange mixture of requirements: ‘all are’, ‘everyone is’, and directives: ‘no one shall’.

What follows after these initial declarations is a collision of abstractions and intimacies; of support for differences and the challenge of uniformity for opportunities and treatments.

Robin Harris has created and populated a world where these meanings are presented through images of abusive treatments and a celebration of generous and empowering behaviours. Those who inhabit these constructed social and cultural spaces are presented in blacks, whites and greys with subtle and unexpected moments of colour and collage to open and expand the images.

The signs of clothing, hair and skin are re-mapped to give us nowhere/everywhere. Scenes are set in ambiguous spaces, in front of large unadorned buildings, in windswept, tilted landscapes, in constricted populated streets and rooms.

The movements of groups — collaborating, accusing or celebrating — carry the stamp of ritual and theatre but, paradoxically, often also seem to reflect a moment of revelatory documentation.

Within the frame of the pictures bystanders look on at brutalising treatments, and odd individuals turn their gazes outwards at us, inviting and recognising participation. We look in, as we might through a window; we also look down, and as we move through the 30 scenes we become witness to the illustrator's vision and by extension to the acts of humankind.

These are strange, arresting images — ones where the eyes that catch and meet ours in a fixed moment — stay in memory, and the shifting spaces containing action cannot easily be dismissed as someone else's and therefore forgotten.


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Kathie Jenkins
The EICH Gallery
January 2000