Paul Harfleet describes himself as an ‘accidental activist’ and is an award winning London based interdisciplinary artist. He has exhibited internationally since graduating from an Ma in Fine Art at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2004. His work has appeared on film and in multiple publications.
In 2005 Harfleet began The Pansy Project, the artist plants pansies at sites of homophobic and transphobic abuse. The flower is documented and entitled after the abuse then added to this website, www.thepansyproject.com. This ongoing project reveals a frequent reality of LGBTQ+ experience, which often goes unreported to authorities. This simple action operates as a gesture of quiet resistance, Harfleet has planted more than 300 pansies around the world from London to New York. He wrote and illustrated ‘Pansy Boy’, a children’s book that was short-listed for the Polari First Book Prize in 2018. In 2022 The Pansy Project was showcased by Cheddar Gorgeous on Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, highlighting his work to a new global audience.
During the pandemic in 2020 Harfleet began Birds Can Fly, a queer exploration of ornithology. This ongoing project is a manifestation of Paul’s life-long love of birds and reflects a resurgence in the cultural appreciation of the natural world, post-pandemic. The artist draws, then ‘gently references’ the birds he’s drawn, using his make-up, styling and prop making skills to echo the plumage and character of the birds he illustrates. Through drawing, research and writing, he intends to reveal the hidden colonial history of ornithology. In 2022 Harfleet’s work was featured in ‘Into The Red’ a book highlighting endangered birds, published by BTO (British Trust for Ornithology). In 2022 he was a winner of the Madame F Queer Art Award at Queer Britain, the UK’s first LGBTQ+ museum. In January 2023 Paul featured in a short film on BBC2’s Winterwatch, the piece showcased The Pansy Project and Birds Can Fly.
On The Pansy Project Map below, all the pansies that have been planted since 2005 at sites of homophobia and transphobia have been added with images and titles. You can explore UK plantings here and international plantings here.