Harald Smykla studied painting/printmaking at Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Art (Germany). Based in London since 1988, his practice evolved into merging unorthodox notions of drawing and other traditional media with performative and participatory strategies, exploring contexts of place and time, materiality, process and interaction. His practice of social engagement in the public realm – especially through street market projects - involves people of all backgrounds as incidental audiences and active participants, e.g. in acts of 're-facing' banknotes, produce-based chess games, collective cardiography, research into art and emotion, dental sculpting, hand-drawn projection mapping and other approaches to artistic interaction with the public.
His current studio practice is focused on 'rewilding' press images by revealing underlying pictorial life forms and such transformations imply various political readings. In particular, press photos that illustrate the ongoing tensions / conflict between Islamist extremism and Western secularism are 'defused' by being converted into floral imagery (Iconoclash Press Flowers): By following classic Islamic art rules rejecting the human image, violent ideological bravado is subverted, and victim exposure reversed.
He said, “Being selected for the Brewers Towner International and winning this award has given me a strong sense of validation of my current art practice - especially after the dearth of opportunities to present work 'in real life' during the pandemic.”