Art: Introducing: Bristol artist Greg Harris
Pictured above: ‘Out of the Cave’, 2015 (detail)
Bristol-based artist Greg Harris is exhibiting for the second time at The Other Art Fair Bristol this coming weekend. Previously Greg’s work has been shown in the likes of Fresh Paint and New Artist magazines. Here’s Greg to tell us more about his art, his adoptive home city of Bristol – and the apprehension and excitement of exhibiting at a major art fair.
Well, so tell us about yourself, Greg.
I’m an artist and I moved to Bristol nearly two years ago. When I graduated my wife and I did a stint of travelling around the Far East, and – when we got back four years ago – I made the move in becoming a professional artist. We had a look around the country for a place to live that was culturally rich and Bristol came up trumps (similar to London but friendlier, more manageable in size, and close to beautiful countryside). We visited several times before moving and we’ve never looked back.
What keeps you here, as an artist and/or more generally?
As an artist, there are more opportunities in Bristol and a bigger buying market than a lot of other places in the UK. More generally, there’s so much in Bristol. I love the hills, the River Avon and Avon Gorge, as well as the Harbourside (being near nature is an important aspect in my life). I’ve been in two different flats since living here and both times I’ve been lucky to live near big, green spaces – Ashton Court and Blaise Castle.
My wife is a massive foodie and a walking encyclopaedia of Bristol’s current food scene. Beyond that, there are always concerts to hear, performances to see, events to attend – the list goes on. Put simply, being in Bristol makes me happy. Even if I’m driving around, knowing I live here fills me with happiness.
Tell us about your art – what do you try and convey in your paintings?
My art is about conveying a sense of dynamic life – constant movement – through the contrast of colours, tones and textures in the painting. I ensure that I always mix a new colour for each mark, and that each mark is laid down differently from the previous one. That way, each gesture has a unique existence on the surface of a painting.
I’ve always loved the unfinished works, studies and ‘cartoons’ of artists which evidence their creative process. In some ways, that’s a big part of what I offer the audience. Whilst painting, I don’t go over the same spot again and again – you can see almost every single brushstroke and smear I used to produce the painting. I work wet-on-wet – I don’t make an excessive effort to blend edges together, and I never build up layers through glazes.
And is there a certain worldview that comes through in your art?
I’d say it’s about the aloneness of experience (not in a negative way), travel, and realising that there are far more important similarities we share with others rather than the differences that separate us.
Any artists that have influenced you?
Van Gogh taught me a lot about colour harmony, Frank Auerbach about expressive mark-marking, and Euan Uglow for subtle tonal shifts (with and without high contrast). Contemporary artists that excite me are Andrew Salgado, Adam Lee, Edwige Fourvy, Benjamin Björklund, and Alex Kanevsky. There’s plenty more (again, both old and new) but I’m trying to not fill up this interview with just a list of artists!
What does exhibiting at The Other Art Fair mean to you?
Initially, it’s terrifying. Even though you don’t pay when you make your application to the fair, if you’re successful you will pay a sizeable amount to take part. So you need to be mentally and financially prepared for this commitment. Hence the terrifying element: you’re now in ‘debt’ and you’re banking on sales at the fair to – at the very least – break even.
I made the decision to participate after seeing a friend make a decent profit from the event on top of his outgoings. Luckily, I’ve made a profit every time I’ve done the fair so far. Still, you can’t help feeling the nerves right until close of play at the end of the fair…
Sales can serve as a vote of confidence but it’s not the only confidence booster. You meet many admirers of your work – from ‘lay persons’ to art students – and you can have some really great conversations. I actually really enjoy talking to people where English is their second language, as they come up with new ways of describing my paintings that I wouldn’t have thought of using but work so well! This interaction with visitors also gives me the opportunity to speak about my practice, trying to shake off any pretensions and to talk meaningfully about my work.
And what’s it like on the day?
Aside from sales you make on the day, commercial returns can come in other ways. You may be approached by a gallery owner during or after the fair, or receive commissions and sales afterwards. You may even get invited to other fairs, events or group shows after the fair. Magazines and bloggers may also invite you feature in their publications.
As an artist you have to bear in mind there will be so many people who won’t speak to you at the fair or make contact immediately afterwards – but they’ll remember you. They might talk to others about you. They may see your work pop up in other places. And in a month, a year, or many years, they might get in touch and enquire about buying a piece. I’ve experienced this, so it’s a good reminder to always strive, even if the results don’t show up straight away.
Before, during and after the fair, your artistic profile rises a little in the world. The Other Art Fair team are extremely hard-working and will do a lot to help promote you. Combined with a consistent presence on social media platforms, this really does improve your reach in the artistic world.
See Greg’s work alongside that of 80 other artists from Bristol and beyond at The Other Art Fair Bristol, Arnolfini, July 22-24. For more info and to book tickets, visit bristol.theotherartfair.com