Self Portrait (2015)
For many years Greg Harris refused to define himself as a painter, choosing instead to modestly describe himself as “an average-skilled draughtsman who dabbles in any medium.” It wasn’t until 2012 when he joined an artist’s studio in Leicester that he began to experiment with oil paints and fell in love with the medium. When asked how painting makes him feel four years on Greg’s response is “completely alive and in the moment” although he is still a little reluctant to pigeonhole himself as a painter.
Greg described to me the moment when he felt compelled to completely re-evaluate his philosophy as an artist. It was during his final year studying at De Montfort University when he found himself questioning his beliefs in the purism of abstract art and the sensuous particularity of paint. “I fell so deep into the metaphysics of this idealism that everything lost meaning.” Looking back he describes these beliefs as “pretension” and his paintings “weak” but something tells me that Greg is being overly self-critical again.
Juice There (2014)
Instead, he devoted his art to “the certainty of the life room” attracted by the simplicity of a visual response to what was before him. Greg’s tutors were surprised by this sudden u-turn in his final year, but he knew it was what he needed to do as an artist. So, by the end of his degree Greg was left with “a poorly bound book of life model studies, and not a great deal more!” Physically that is. Physiologically Greg had discovered the motivation for his art and learnt to trust his inclinations.
“I believe inspiration can come from anyone, anywhere and anything. It filters into the person you are and that in turn can define what you put onto the canvas.”
Arushi with head scarf (2016)
When Greg graduated in 2009 he spent a number of months travelling in the Far East with his now wife, Arushi. They visited Thailand, China and Japan; diverse countries with their own unique challenges and delights, a smorgasbord of inspiration. “I love the richness of experiences that travel offers. From the societal differences to the landscapes, the food, I love it all. Even going to a different part of my hometown I’ve never been to before can provide the same satisfaction.”
Over the past 4 years Greg has been exhibiting work across the midlands and south of the UK. The current highlight of his career being when he first showed with The Other Art Fair last year in Bristol. “My career took a big step forward after that and the fair has a really great team behind them that work hard for the artists they show.” Greg has exhibited with The Other Art Fair four times now, most recently last month where his piece Lubomyr Melnyk was the first to sell.
Lubomyr Melnyk (2016)
Greg’s work stands poised between both a literal and non-literal representation of his subjects which he achieves through a clean and freshly finished painting style. Greg sees the world around him as “in constant flux”, “dynamic” and “always shifting” which he conveys through his work using vibrant tones, contrasts and surface textures.
Greg revealed to me how before even putting paint to canvas he methodically decides what colours will need to go where, sometimes accompanied with a quick sketch and bullet points. “If the hair is ochre, cadmium orange and burnt sienna, perhaps the eyes will be cobalt blue, emerald green and lemon yellow. In this way, I try to ensure that there’s an exciting contrast but also a balance.” Eventually this plan dissolves into a weak guideline as Greg is pulled by the painting to adapt with what is before him.
Clifton Bridge Bristol (2015)
His process starts with a simple drawing before the race begins to paint the whole piece before it dries, making sure not to over blend the edges or go over the same area again and again. In this way, almost every single mark is visible by the end of the painting. So careful colour mixing is essential, paired with the knowledge Greg has attained in how to create different marks. Yet there is nothing at all rushed or frantic about Greg’s work. The kinetic energy of his paintings feel more like a dance in celebration of his subject or wistful memories of a place captured in time.
“I remember a friend viewing Bris Straum, a painting of a ginger bearded chap I did, and he didn’t realise I’d snuck green everywhere into the piece. It was in his beard, his hair and on his skin. When I told him, he was shocked and looked at the painting anew. For a moment, I was proud of my deceitful accomplishment.”
Bris Straum (2015)
Greg’s work to date reads like an autobiography of his life filled with the people and the places that have inspired him along the way. Later this year Greg plans to add more narrative into his work by composing pieces around concepts that he’s been contemplating for a while. I look forward to witnessing this next chapter in his career!
Greg’s next exhibition will be at The Other Art Fair in London from 6th October to the 9th October. Follow the links below for details.
Out of the cave (2015)