Born in 1967 and raised in a small Hampshire village, Harry Bunce was a prolific artist throughout his childhood, drawing on anything that was available. His family were builders who were supportive but ill-equipped to guide him beyond school (Harry was to become the first member of his family to get a degree). A short and volatile spell at the local art school almost killed his love of art: “You weren’t allowed to like Hockney, and he was the only one I knew”. Disillusioned, he moved west to the city of Bristol to study Fashion and Textiles.
Following graduation, he worked for twenty happy, but ultimately unfulfilled, years in the fashion industry. In 2007, he attended the fortieth birthday party of an old school friend. When meeting people he had not seen for several decades, the only question asked of him was, “How’s the art going?” This event proved pivotal; he resolved then and there to return to ART.
He began to draw and paint around existing commitments, often working late into the night in a frenzied attempt to make up for lost time. The early pieces feel almost deliberately ‘anti art’: portraits of rabbits, foxes, etc. (reimagined childhood heroes and villains) that would not have looked out of place in a country pub, his rationale being that his audience was the public, not the critics. His work then and now has much in common with ‘Folk Art’, and he considers himself largely self-taught, but it defies easy categorisation.
By creating a space he could call his own within the burgeoning Bristol art scene Harry quickly gained a loyal following. A chance collaboration with screen printing gurus, Screen One, who also worked with Banksy and Nick Walker, introduced a more graphic element to his style, sharpening its unique, slightly unnerving edge and unwittingly broadening his appeal. Cute? Maybe, but seldom completely cuddly.
Harry often raises environmental concerns and is a fierce defender of the countryside. He has contributed to projects with Greenpeace (2014) and Keep Britain Tidy (2020).
He now works from rural Somerset. His 2020 solo show Harry Bunce / On Hold was a sell-out, and Harry has recently shown at the Saatchi Gallery, London.
R White, January 2021.
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