BA Fine Art
It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Elizabeth Harrison in November 2019 after a short illness. Elizabeth, affectionately known as Girly, was in the third year of her studies.
Girly was raised in the Ashdown Forest surrounded by ancient oak trees and glorious landscapes. Her early experiences shaped her attitude toward nature and art. Girly came from a family of artists. Her artistic sensibilities were encouraged by her artist / art teacher father.
Girly joined the School of Art at Aberystwyth University as a mature student. She was excited to be doing something for herself after decades of raising a family. She was eager to learn and to apply her learning. Though she sometimes found it difficult to bridge the gap between her knowledge and understanding of education, and the technological requirements of university studies, Girly found the experience a life-enriching adventure.
Professor Robert Meyrick, Head of the School of Art, remembers Girly ‘as such a strong force in classes, eager to learn and always ready to engage. We are sad in the knowledge that Girly was so cruelly robbed of the opportunity to fulfil her ambitions, and to give back to others through the classes she hoped one day to deliver herself.’
Girly was the first art student recipient of Aberystwyth University’s prestigious Peter Hancock Scholarship. It was given in recognition of her ambition to offer art courses to benefit the community.
At Aberystwyth, Girly experimented with a wide range of media – including willow sculpture, textiles, painting and graphic design. However, painting was her main passion. She drew inspiration from the wild energy her rural surroundings – from the rugged and untamed Welsh countryside. Always outside and connected to nature, Girly frequently braved the elements to make studies au plein air, striving to capture the mood and atmosphere of the day.
Girly was drawn to abandoned buildings. She found beauty where others may see only neglect or ruin. She saw how the once cared-for buildings and farm machinery were features of the ever-evolving natural environment, built on the land only to be claimed by the elements. Her landscapes are also evidence a concern for the processes of painting – for colour, tone, and texture.
‘When people view my paintings,’ Girly wrote in a 2019 blog post, ‘I would like them to wonder about the people who used to live there, to consider the warmth and love, blood, sweat and tears it took for them to build and create their own homes. They are long forgotten by the modern world as we rush about our lives trying to keep up … long abandoned.’
Girly’s painting tutor Dr June Forster observes that ‘each of Girly’s paintings contains a story. I was fortunate to listen to her sketching adventures during our tutorials. She would chuckle as she related her manoeuvres in the landscape, and it was clear that she loved her locality and was determined to convey something of her feelings for it in her work.
‘Her breakthrough came, and in her final painting there is evidence of a newly-found confidence. She knew that she was developing her own painting vocabulary. We all miss her presence, and the paintings she might have made. We are privileged to have known her, and to have witnessed her happiness at the easel.’