Factory Portraits by Harley Roberts

Village and Future of Nothing are proud to present 'Factory Portraits' an exhibition and publication of works by Harley Roberts.

Join us for the exhibition and book launch from 6pm on 4th December

The works on show are a combination of drawings, prints and writings produced by Roberts during nightshifts at a glassworks in Barnsley, as well as the paintings produced from or inspired by them. Primarily working in oil paint, the sketches produced on shift are a departure from canvas borne out of necessity - forced out by the reality of working life but not entirely in step with it, inhabiting a half-step, holding hands with the shadowy figure seen out the corner of your eye.

Roberts deals with contemporary Britain and does so without cliche, rejecting pie and ale in favour of the viscera - you will find no odes to a bygone era here, no eulogy for the nation of public memory either. England is a land of love and hate, misery and luxury but most importantly of delusion. It's the quid pro quo that very quids, or quos, either way the debts are unpaid. The paintings are made from the corners of pubs and factories, lavishly decorated modernist shag pads and abandoned houses stripped of copper wire, Roberts observes unflinchingly and without fear of a wandering mind, with vice seeping in as it does with all of us. They fear no truth, no laughter and no scorn and no eyes under furrowed brow, portraits of a nation caught in permanent eulogy of itself.

The publication Factory Portraits is a selection of works produced by Harley Roberts, during his shifts in a glassworks in South Yorkshire. A visual record of nightshift psychosis, mental secretions of the in-between time, sold time and time to never be repaid - the troubled relationship between toil and work, earning a living and earning survival. Not spoken in stark opposition to life within the factory, instead a picture of a rocky marriage between art and labour. A love for the people who make the community what it is but not without an ever-present awareness of the monotony of the overnight machine operator, an endless repetition for which we can’t be anything but thankful. 

The works included here were made on stolen time, with grease and dirt from the fingers, with non-sequiturs and overheard conversations. They don’t intend to make any grand statement about life as a factory worker or life as an artist, they simply act as a record of both. Made in the inbetween time, while the rest of the world sleeps and Bombay Sapphire bottles run off the line in their thousands, to be filled up and ready for the weekend. All the while acutely aware that existence only begins outside of factory confines. 

Harley Roberts (b.1995) is an artist and factory worker from Barnsely, based in Leeds. He is a founding director of SCREW Gallery.