Kapil Harnal grew up in Montreal, so he knows a thing or two about winter. His charcoal and oil portraits often feature people wearing colourful toques or scarves. The images have a strong graphic presence and are quintessentially Canadian. Although static in their meticulous execution, they manage to evoke wintry winds and blowing snow.
Kapil Harnal, "Karl Kuerner", 2015, charcoal and oil on wood panel, 18” x 24”
Kapil Harnal, "Karl Kuerner",2015, charcoal and oil on wood panel,18” x 24”
Harnal, who has been showing in galleries for 15 years, became fascinated with the theme after realizing how much cold-weather garb says about the people he knows.
“Sometimes you recognize them from the clothes they have on every day,” he says. “I found that really interesting. It becomes a costume, like a character in a play would have.”
The bright colours and bold patterns of winter hats and scarves offer rich visual possibilities. Lately, Harnal has also started to juxtapose his traditional realism against designer-style backdrops such as coloured polka dots as well as more expressive marks. These contrasts charge his work with added tension. Harnal, who studied art at Concordia University in Montreal and now lives in Toronto, likens the process to creating graffiti.
He is never sure where a particular work will take him, and simply lets the process unfold. “I don’t have a strong idea about what will happen,” he says. “It’s difficult to plan out.”
Kapil Harnal is represented by the Madrona Gallery in Victoria and the Kimoto Gallery in Vancouver. His work sells for $500 to $3,000.