The Techno-surrealist Digital Artwork of Rob Harle

Tonia Haynes

- Tonia Haynes



I am sure within the matrix that forms this planet there are many hidden equations breathlessly waiting to have their unrequited genius discovered by a humanity that has been lead to believe it is powerless in its imagination to make a difference. For as we have observed, few are chosen. 

Perhaps the only equations of genius that return to dance with this less than sympathetic field of gravity are those with the feisty and determined belief that the Fibonacci vibrations concealed in their blue print WILL create far more than the sum of their parts, no matter the hurdles presented along the way.
Rob Harle is one of these.

But at this point I must add, that unlike those who concentrate all their efforts into one slice of the pie, Rob is a well rounded figure who can tie his shoelaces with aplomb, negotiate stairs and other uneven surfaces relatively efficiently and to the best of my knowledge has never had the desire to consciously remove an ear. Although unfortunately, in his passionate zeal for a life, which often embraces nature he has attempted on more than one occasion, to accidentally remove his head, or other parts of his physical form. 

A man with a generous heart, he listens well and happily conducts long discussions about most things with friends, of which he has many, from many different walks of life. So when I read his poetry or observe his sculpture and digital art I am truly grateful that he has the flexibility of mind to be able to relate so well with the likes of us, whose wings are still weighted down by the limits of the subconscious concrete we carry in our shoes.

But perhaps one cannot praise the man as an isolated being, for surely our environment lends much to our potential ability for skill and in this case there is a need to salute the environment created by Rob's wife, Sandra Joran. 

On a planet where relationships have the ability to make us more or less than we can be, I am sure that when Rob's star zoomed past her “hidey-hole” in the matrix, Sandra muttered. 'Uh oh! I'd better get down there. He's likely to get himself into trouble!'

A clever mystic in her own right, Sandra's mandalas have an energy band that extends far into a room. 

Fig. 1 The Journey Mandala

Right now I can feel the soft pull from her mandala hanging above my desk as I sit here to write this reflection about her soul mate and husband, while I gaze intermittently at another work of art that graces this rather crowded wall. This piece, Cyborg Dreaming was a birthday gift from the man himself and I must admit, it is my favourite.

Fig.2 Cyborg Dreaming

A blue, alien female looks down at me with clear, detached eyes that carry a slight shadow of disapproval and warning. Behind her an elongated motherboard creates the surreal interior of a spaceship decorated with two opposing windows. One frames a clear view of Saturn, the planet of restriction and limitation, whilst the other depicts the moon in a sad state of disrepair. 
For Harle, the creator of this digital work, the female is cyborg. Part human, part machine, she imparts a warning about a rapidly evolving future where we are in danger of forgetting those emotional links that make us human. Instead, we are likely to become unfeeling, segregated machines, dependant on a technology that is often not used for the highest good of all concerned.
In the background Saturn shakes an admonishing finger at our folly and the moon disintegrates with grief because we no longer see its mysterious magic, but only, greedily observe a prime piece of real estate.

For me the female is my alter ego. That which I would like to be. Imprinted with etheric crystals rather than those disconcerting pieces of metal decoration they use in 'Star Trek' she is a cyborg of enormous intelligence, part human, part galaxy trekker, who gives the message, 'you are using your clever, but still limited technology without an awareness from the heart. Be careful what you do.'
To create this and his other techno-surrealist digital artwork Rob uses a number of computer applications, including Poser, which creates the android/cyborg figures and Bryce which is used to create various form such as the geodesic structures. Chaos generators, printed circuit design software and of course Photoshop bring the final image together. He scans slides, photographs and other images, especially those of his own sculpture to form part of the huge, complex digital file, which he either prints out onto canvas as archival giclée images or reduces in size to present on his website.
His tongue in cheek Android Ascension 2048, another piece I have the good fortune to look upon when ever I feel to, depicts tall blue, human type figures climbing a single, surreal DNA helix, shaped as an elegant spiral staircase that reaches up into the beyond. Again the landscape gives thought to the inside of a computer and once again the planet Saturn beams down its vibration of 'watch out. I am still here and I still have an effect on your existence.'

Fig. 3 Android Ascension - 2048

The android is a machine of limited intelligence programmed to have only certain thoughts and do certain things. Another warning from Harle that it is possible by 2048, which is not so far away, we will be as robots, locked into our post-modern throwaway material existence, our spirit stifled by the glamour of an emotionally disconnected technology that controls our every waking move, whilst the earth that supports us dies under our uncaring feet in our efforts to climb upward, away from that we have created in our ignorance.

This delightful piece of digital art reminds me that since a young age I have been driven to find the truth of who I am. But a few spiritual philosophies later, I notice that one note is prevalent within all their songs of enlightenment, carolled with zeal by their choirs of the spoken for. The only way to do it is this way. Be an android of our faith and you too will climb the single DNA Helix to heaven. 
So I smile with amusement when I look at Androids Ascending 2048 and imagine I am sitting on the rings of Saturn, swinging my legs over the side as I look down upon the latest, crowd busting, theatrical play being performed below me.

In this digital work as in many of his pieces, geodesic domes are prominent. I have always viewed these domes as simply a symbol of Rob the sculptor, depicting the oneness through nature discussed by Buckminster Fuller in his work with similar geodesic forms of architecture. 

It appears they are much more and I must confess I needed direct assistance from the artist in question in order to explain to you the reader, the important message they carry.

Harle uses geodesic spheres as a symbol to connect the hidden structure of the universe with our present “here and now” earth bound existence. Using artistic license the spheres are a combination of Plato’s five perfect forms, specifically  the Dodecahedron and Icosahedron and the complex C60 molecule, nicknamed Bucky-balls after Buckminster Fuller. The Buckminsterfullerene is so called because it “resembles his trademark, geodesic dome.” So these powerful and somewhat enigmatic symbols honour both these great thinkers, and also help us see how technology is intimately connected to our lives for good or ill.

'Plato's Ghost Haunts The Matrix' is a more direct salute to Plato's intuitive brilliance. This digital piece concerns the fact that Plato’s eternal, unchanging forms are indeed part of the matrix, or quantum zero-point field, and that what he intuited 2,000 odd years ago has been more or less ratified by current scientific discovery.

Fig.4 Plato’s Ghost Haunts The Matrix

But not all of Harle's work appears to need the message of geodesic domes to make a point. Digital Visitation depicts the face of a spiritual, mother goddess, surrounded by symbols of computer metal and man forced silica. Once again a disintegrating moon shines down its longing to be re recognised for its mystic draw, whilst The Madonna's eyes droop with pensive sadness. Or is it possible the eyes are lowered in thought of a future beyond our linear understanding?

Fig. 5 Digital Visitation

Harle in the clear grasp of the knowledge of his own thoughts explains Digital Visitation as follows
“Both Digital Visitation and Silicone Messiah are commenting on contemporary society’s uncritical acceptance of both high and low technologies, its global insidious spread, and its cold, spirit-less nature. DV has a Madonna (the mother) like figure, pensive, concerned down-cast eyes, appearing out of the electronic background, questioning the ubiquity of digital technology. A metaphor for the loss of genuine religious/spiritual values in global society. The moon is a reminder that we are still connected to the greater cosmos. The graphic arrows allude to the old adage, “as above so below”.
Considering the miracles I have observed in my life, I view Digital Visitation from a slightly different approach. I see that the arrow is sending the message, 'as it is above, so it is below', to remind us the mother goddess has the ancient knowledge that hope is never lost. For within the bigger picture, spirit is never daunted for long.

Silicone Messiah similar to Digital Visitation is commenting on society’s uncritical acceptance of technology. The messiah, this time a Christian metaphor for the mythic Second Coming is a saint-like figure emerging from an almost Tardis-like, electronic space-time bubble. The bubble has the scientific notation for Silicone for Silicone is the digital semi-conductor material that made the electronic/computer revolution possible. His hand rests on an unmistakable human skull – a warning to humanity about un critical acceptance of a science we do not fully understand. 

Fig. 6 Silicone Messiah

The Silicone Messiah is an elegant and graceful figure. Is he a figure of warning, or is he similar to many of the gurus and sociopaths that have come before him? Here to spread the glamour of a sweet untruth that will feed his personal goals for power. 

Harle shows his feist and punches hard in his definition of his digital work, Truth Emerges From The Tower Of Deception. He makes it quite apparent that during his observations of life on planet earth, he feels that his passionate desire for honesty, integrity and free expression is often severely compromised by those who would prefer we stayed disempowered.

Truth Emerges from The Tower Of Deception is a direct attack on the lies, treachery and deception of the Catholic Church. The geodesic domes emerge from the Bell Tower of a cathedral – they represent “truth.” Saturn is in the sky demanding an eventual exposure of the truth. The subtle rat (top geo) alludes to the phrase, “I smell a rat.” The male android figure is standing passively pointing to the metaphorical truth in a manner that indicates we all should recognise the centuries of lies perpetuated by this particular bureaucratic, authoritarian church.

Fig. 7 Truth Emerges From The Tower Of Deception

The final piece in this reflection of Rob Harle and his digital art is another favourite of mine, more for its message than its depressing lack of the colour he so often uses to make a point in his work.
Rob hypothesises a prophesy of looming disaster in We Are Worried About Your Future, but let us sincerely hope that this prophesy, like all prophesy has the ability to change its energy to become something more positive. The choice is ours.

Here we have a complex industrial background, which has become obsolete (useless waste). Once again the geodesic domes and the rat make the point of oneness and caution. The clock is a symbol of time fast running out for us on this planet. The two figures are again somewhat 'tongue-in-check' representations. This time, two maternal, old refined ladies sit elegantly, discussing the future of a dying planet. They are aliens, who obviously have the ability to time-travel and therefore can see plainly what is happening to planet earth, which most of us with our myopic vision cannot!

We Are Worried About Your Future says it all, for surely we are not alone and whose to know what lynch pin role the green planet plays in this universe and also perhaps, other universes. Could it be that the aliens make their thoughts known in the minds of those such as Rob Harle because our future might also affect their future?

Fig. 8 We Are Worried About Your Future
Rob's art is not meant for the innocuous décor of a recently refurbished room that needs something on the wall to fit with the ambience of the new look. It is thought provoking and each piece stands alone in its message of beautifully executed caution.

I finish this rendition about my friend Rob Harle with a thought from Buckminster Fuller that relates to us all and our own, potential, hidden genius.
“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren't any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn't be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life's challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”
- Richard Buckminster Fuller

Fig. 9 U Run and U Run

Fig. 10 Geodesic Birth Chamber


Fig. 11 Emergence of Consciousness

Setu Anniversary, June 2017

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