John Harper

Honorary Member

The River

Because of the plural nature of my work, the employment of various media and the number of lines of thought at any one time, I have always felt the need for a cohesive thread to hold my activities together. Although the use of the figure had preoccupied me since the early eighties I had always felt strong concerns for the landscape. Geomorphology had always interested me, not from any scientific basis but more in terms of its essential relationship to the activities of the artist. It seemed to me that there were many associations between the practices of the artist and the making of the land, and such thoughts had played their part in previous work. In the mid seventies when I was working more directly with the landscape I produced a series of works which I termed ‘Catchment’. I felt that the artists activities related to this concept in that we gather material from a catchment area around us to condense and reform it, much in the same way as a river does. This information is then carried along through time by forces that are out of the artists hands.We work with time, no matter what our subject matter is and are always conscious of our own temporality and transience.

jharper-book1 jharper-book2 jharper-book3

In the mid eighties I started to document my relationship with a river in Cumbria, an area to which I return frequently. At the beginning I had no intention of showing this work, it was a personal diary, a sort of photographic sketchbook through which I practiced my ideas. Gradually it became a body of work which showed the progression of my working thoughts and perception through the camera. Thus it seemed a good idea to carry it on throughout my working life and not to limit it to one river, but to the idea of river in general. I began to think of the river in allegorical terms and to realise the close temporal and physical relationships that exist between the nature of the river and the nature of film. Both are translucent ribbons that carry memory along in their flow, that have complex and overlapping time structures, and each in their own way transport light and reflection with complex plays on the nature of picture plane and space.

‘The River’ now reflects the many changes that have taken place in my work over the past five or six years, from a simple formality in the beginning to a more complicated use of narrative and expression in more recent times. Still I regard it to be an ongoing work that will never be concluded and that will continually change in form and structure between one showing and another, much as a river changes between one place and another. As ‘The River’ has developed, so it has developed tangents, birds that fly from its course, trees that grow from its banks, paths that cross it and fish that swim against its flow have all become deviations for my concern, and additions to its structure.The form of the work will depend on the time and place of its showing. As my ideas and methods change so will the narrative line and structure of ‘The River’ evolve.

John Harper

jharper-book4 jharper-book5 jharper-book6


  • 1970
    • Post graduate Exhibition Fellowship – Dept. Education and Science.
  • 1969-70
    • Manchester University- PGCE ( Art Education )
  • 1968-69
    • Manchester Met University. Fine Art Post Grad. Dip Associate
  • 1965-68
    • Manchester Met.University. B.A. Fine Art

Teaching and Related Experience

  • 2005
    • University of Northampton (above posts)
  • 1994
    • University College Northampton. Senior Lecturer Degree and Post graduate Fine Art
  • 1985-94
    • Nene College, Northampton. Head of Foundation Art and Design.
  • 1984-85
    • Nottingham Trent Univ. Teaching secondment. Photography / Video / Film
  • 1979-84
    • Nene College, Northampton – Course Co-ordinator Foundation Art and Design
  • 1970-79
    • Northampton College of Art. Lecturer in Foundation Art and Design
    • Plus:- Various part time contact – art colleges in NW.
  • 1970-71
    • Mather College . University of Manchester UMIST. Art Education.

Membership of Various Art and Design organisations and boards

  • Northampton University Fine Art Research Board (FineArt Research advisor)
  • Matrix of Research in Art and Design.
  • Landscape Research Group of GB
  • Advisor for Arts Council of England ( East Midlands.)
  • Directortorial Board Member of MKG ( Milton Keynes Gallery)
  • Manchester Met University. Fine Art. Review Board

Conferences attended and presentations made

  • 1999 & 2002
    • National Research conferences at University College Northampton
  • 1992/1995/1998/ 2001
    • Matrix of Research in Art and Design. Central- St Martins.
  • 1998
    • Photography Towards Sculpture, University of London.
    • Contemporary Landscape Bradford University
    • Photo 98 UK Yr. of Photography and Electronic Media
  • 1997
    • Towards New Structures in Fine Art Education, St Martins.

Plus many conferences on the development of Fine Art Education / Since mid 80s

Practice / Exhibitions

  • 2005
    • ‘Common Ground’ Four person collaborative project and exhibition at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum. Published catalogue in collaboration with The Landscape Research Group of GB
  • 2004
    • ‘Landmarks & Signs’ ACE bursary commission 5 works produced for installaton on the Nene Valley Way Northamptonshire
  • 2002-3
    • ACGB / EMA Bursary. Towards location project In East Midlands Region, Exhibitions and publication of resulting work.
    • Collaboration with Landscape Research Group of GB (Related to below)
  • 2002
    • ‘Research in Progress’ Curated group exhibition UCN Gallery Northampton.
  • 2001-2
    • UCN Research funding Towards location work and publication.
  • 2000
    • Ferens Gallery, Hull. Commission / Solo show.
    • ‘Strand’ Result of Location work in Nth Yorks Financed by Ferens Gallery, YHAB, Landscape Research Group of GB.
  • 1999
    • ‘Q’ Arts. Derby Group Show, EMA Photoforum and Publication.
    • Ferens Gallery, Hull YHAB Commission. Location project , Nth. Yorkshire.
  • 1998
    • Mappin Gallery, Sheffield ( Photo98 programme) Solo show, ‘From Light’ Financed by YHAB Photo98, and Sheffield CC.
  • 1997
    • ‘Photo 98’ (UK year of Photography and electronic media) commission.One year commission / Location work in North yorkshire. Financed by Photo 98 and YHAB. ACE
  • 1996-7
    • Pentax Forum Gallery, Tokyo (and touring Japan) Documentation of ‘The River’ Financed by UCN Research and British Council.
  • 1995
    • UCN Research Centre Northampton. Solo show, Documentation of ‘The River’
  • 1994-5
    • Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. Group show / touring ‘Telling Tales’ Artists narratives
    • Edinburgh College of Art Financed by ACS, Agfa, English Nature,UCN Research
  • 1993
    • Barbican Centre Galleries, London Solo show ‘The River’ and Retrospective Financed and sponsored by The Barbican,
    • English Nature, Agfa, Nene Research, ACGB and BBC.
    • Sculpture Court Gallery, Edinburgh. Solo show ‘The River‘ and Retrospective
  • 1992
    • One year research secondment. Financed by Nene Research and English Nature. Continued location work for ‘The River’
  • 1991
    • Herbert Gallery, Coventry Solo show, ‘The River’ and Retrospective. Funded by Agfa, Nene Research and Coventry CC.
  • 1990
    • Milton Keynes City Gallery, ‘Four Aspects’ Group show. Funded by Nene Research
  • 1988-90
    • ‘River’ Location work. Financed by Agfa , ACGB and Nene Research.
  • 1987
    • Spacex Gallery, Exeter. ‘From Time to Time’ solo show (Static Film) installation Financed by Agfa, Ilford and ACGB
  • 1986
    • Film location work throughout UK Financed by Agfa and Ilford, Start of ‘Static Film‘ series.
    • Photographers Gallery London ‘From Time to Time’ solo show (Static Film) installation Financed by Agfa, Ilford and ACGB.
  • 1985
    • ‘Attitudes’ project for Northampton Borough and County.Major programme of contemporary fine art conceived and directed by self.
    • 42 national and international artists involved in exhibitions , events and residencies at Town gallery, Derngate and Royal Theatres etc.
    • Video, film, and performance also included.Collaboration with ACGB, EMA, Waddington , Marlborough etc. £15000 raised in financial support and sponsorship . ‘Attitudes‘ book published. One Year programme.
  • 1984
    • Bonnington Gallery, Nottingham ‘From Time to Time’ Solo Show.
    • Photographers Gallery London ‘Trees’ Group show Commissioned by Ilford and Photographers Gallery
  • 1983-4
    • Trent Placement. A one year secondment to produce film and video work on Arts Council bursary. Towards ‘From Time to Time’ Project and publication
  • 1980
    • Cotes Mill Gallery. EMA Loughborough. 1st stage of 2 stage solo exhibition. ‘Physical Drawing’ Performance EMA financed.
    • Cotes Mill Gallery. EMA Loughborough. 2nd stage installation ‘Physical Drawing’ Photo Installation (solo show) EMA financed
    • Chapter Arts. Cardiff. 1st stage of 2 stage solo exhibition ‘Figurative’ Performance collaboration with dancers and performance artists, Financed by Welsh Arts Council.
    • Chapter Arts. Cardiff. 2nd stage of ‘Figurative’ Photo Installation (solo show ) Financed by Welsh Arts Council.
  • 1979
    • ‘Nature As Material’ ACGB Group Touring show and Herbert Gallery, Mappin gallery, Mostyn, Arnolfini, Ikon Gallery.
    • National Gallery of Australia. Melbourne ’Recent British Art’ Recent purchases of British Art.
    • ‘Arts Council Recent Purchases’ Hayward Gallery London
  • 1978
    • AIR Gallery. London. Solo show ‘Physical Drawing‘ Funded by ACGB & EMA.
    • ‘Art For Today’ Tate Gallery London . CAS Recent Purchases.
    • ‘What We Have’ Portsmouth City Gallery CAS Group show.
    • ‘In the Air’ AIR Gall London Group Show.
  • 1977
    • Arnolfini Gallery Bristol ‘On Site’ Group show, Location and gallery installed.
    • Fruitmarket Gallery. Edinburgh Solo Show. ‘Catchment Installation’ ACS funded. ‘Catchment’ Book published by Fruitmarket Gallery.
  • 1975
    • ACGB funded location project (solo). Works sited on The Mendips, The Ridgeway, North Wales, Cumbria.
  • 1974
    • ‘Wood-works’ Worcester Cathedral WMA commission . 3 solo sculpture shows in Cathedral grounds (With David Nash and Phillip Griffin)
  • 1973
    • Serpentine Gallery. London. Solo Show / Sculpture 73 Series
    • EMA project ‘Outside Inside Out‘ On site exhibition, Northampton, EMA funded.
  • 1971
    • Northampton Central Art Gallery. Group show
  • 1970
    • Kew Gardens. Environmental project. ACGB Funded
    • UMIST Gallery Solo show. Paintings. .
  • 1969-70
    • ‘Vis A Bs’ IOM project for DES . Commission.
  • 1969
    • Manchester Polytechnic Gallery. Solo Show, Paintings.
  • 1969-70
    • USA Touring Solo Show Drawings and prints.

Publications, Articles, Journals etc. (published / written in / included in)

  • ‘Attitudes’ Published by self, EMA and UCN.
  • Photo 98 Publications
  • ‘Catchment’ Published by self EMA and ACGB
  • Artists Newsletter.
  • ‘John Harper – River’ Published by Barbican and UCN Research.
  • Time Out
  • ‘Common Ground’ Published by Rugby Arts gall. LRGGB
  • Steppin Out
  • British Journal of Photography
  • Tate Gallery Magazine / Photo 98
  • Arts Council Collection Directory
  • The Lecturer.
  • Oxford University Press Directory of British Artists.
  • Art Monthly
  • Serpentine Publications. ACGB.
  • Art and Artist
  • Photographers Gallery Publications.
  • Arts Review
  • Barbican Publications
  • Times HE Supplement
  • Arts Council Publications (Various)
  • Contemporary Photography
  • CAS Directory.
  • Landscape Research Journal
  • National Gallery of Australia Catalogue.
  • Various exhibition catalogues
  • ‘What We Have’ CAS.
  • Reviews, crits. etc various Magazine and newspapers
  • ‘Nature Through Material’ ACGB .
  • Neville Brody. Publications

Work in Collections

  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Photo Collection. Contemporary Arts Society Stuyvesant Foundation
  • Various Private Collections Britain, USA, and Europe. ACGB Collection Scottish Arts Council Collection
  • Manchester University Agfa UK Ilford UK, Herbert Gallery. Coventry National Gallery Of Australia English Nature

Radio and TV Coverage

  • 1993
    • Anglia TV, Central TV, Various interviews for local radio.
    • BBC 2 ‘Late Show’
    • BBC World-Service
  • 1973, 1984,1993,
    • BBC Radio 4 ‘Kaleidoscope’
    • Central Office of Information. World Broadcasts.

Grants,Bursaries, Awards and Sponsorships

  • Arts.Council of .G.B.
  • Photographers Gallery.
  • Landscape Research Group of G.B. .
  • Arts Council of England.
  • The British Council.
  • The Forestry Commission.
  • East Midlands Arts
  • Agfa UK..
  • English Nature.
  • Scottish Arts Council
  • Ilford.
  • Welsh Arts Council
  • Coventry C.C.
  • South West Arts
  • Hull C.C.
  • A.I.R.
  • Sheffield C.C.
  • Nottingham Trent Research Funds
  • Ikon Gallery.
  • Northampton BC.
  • Photo 98 (UK Year of Photography).
  • Northampton CC.
  • The Barbican Centre.
  • Yorkshire and Humberside Arts
  • UCN Research Funds.


John Harper

© Copyright Leeds 2019