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art
 march 2009


"Brushwork on the paintings surface is important, but second to its content."

An interview with Glenn Harrighton


Media Times Review / Montreal Review: In an interview for Lifestyle Magazine you said "It's those that I am painting that are telling the story, I am only trying to capture it." ("The Timeless Tales of Glenn Harrington", Lori Donovan, Lifestyle Magazine, November 2006). This is a scientific approach in art, very realistic and humble. This is may be a search for truth? Do you think that the artist is able to erase his personality in order to re-create the world?

Glenn Harrington: All my work is a reflection of the realness that daily life contains. It's an effort to expose, in a celebrated way, the seemingly banal. We need not deny our perceptions and observations to "re-create the world", the world has already been created and we had nothing to do with it. In fact, it's these essential qualities that enable us to capture how we feel about what we are painting. Hopefully, they reveal truthful aspects of the subject. Van Gogh said to exaggerate the essential. First you must understand the qualities that are essential. The process begins with impartial observation and ends with our own interpretations of that observed reality.

Q. You like portraits. Why?

A. Because I like people. No other creation is as complex, varied, beautiful and important.

Q. If I'm not wrong the art of painting is a story telling for you. So, you are a story teller. Tell me about other story tellers - painters, writers - why and what you like in them?

A. Nothing is devoid of some form of narrative whether visual or literal. We might be right or wrong in our perceptions, they may or not be important, but we were born to communicate. Translation from the visual to the literal, or vise versa, requires that we find an approach, this effort produces a style. There are visual writers and literal painters. Surely we feel one way or the other about everything we encounter. If story telling is evident in my work, it means that I am trying to share an idea of connected visual events with the viewer. Usually, it's one that ties together people to their environment. One of the most popular paintings in America in the 1890's was that of a young man facing his comforting mother, surrounded by 5 people and a dog in a basic room as he prepared to leave home and embark out on his own. It's by Thomas Hovenden and is entitled "Breaking Home Ties". Everyone can relate to someone in this painting which might explain its popularity. In technique and design, it is not necessarily an "important" painting. Some would label it sentimental. But you cannot avoid its veracity and the power of its content transcends any shortcomings attributed to it. The narrative is obvious and directed. The other end of the spectrum might be an abstract expressionists approach that reduces the "story" to the basic elements involved in the force behind a picture.

Q. Book writers use different writing styles and techniques. Marcel Proust is different from Chekhov, Nabokov is different from Hemingway. They paint, but with words. Who is the author that writes in the way you paint?

A. You mention Chekhov. When I read his short stories and plays I am deeply touched; emotionally and visually. When reading his work, words are transformed to pure emotion and I am not aware that I am physically reading. I want paintings to have the same effect; that is, that you're not necessarily looking at paint, but experiencing an event. He is a compassionate writer with an excellent way of interweaving the perfect interplay of imagery and prose to create a beautiful reality. He is also a visual writer who never sacrifices content for the ornamental. Brushwork on the paintings surface is important, but second to its content. An editor, Marion Fell, said that he rarely spent more than a day on his short stories. That quick, distilled impact is what I'm trying to emulate. He seemed humble and caring. A young doctor with a good sense of humor. I have difficulty separating his personal characteristics from his work - I think they are the reason for his work. "Uncle Vanya", "A Day in the Country" and "A Work of Art" are among my favorites.

Q. The popular image of the artist is this - poor, bohemian, sensitive and "unrecognized". Can we say that this image is accurate?

A. I don't believe it's that limited. I think you must be a sort of businessman, a promoter of your own work today, even if that means just getting your work to galleries. Many artists have families, money and recognition. This might suggest that the drive is to seek commercial success but it shouldn't mean that a commercially successful artist isn't producing important work, or that they are producing work purely for this end. The market is there today and if there's a struggle in the classic sense of the term, it's to find a way of expressing what you love. Recognition comes when others feel the same way.

Q. There are problems in today's economy. Do you think that the present crisis will affect the life of the artists and art in general? How does recession affect your work?

A. No doubt it has, and will continue to. There's a process of weeding out going on. Perhaps this present gloom will summon the old titles given to the artist; "poor, bohemian, sensitive and unrecognized", but it won't last. I have noticed that many talented, knowledgeable, established professionals in the private sector, ie. doctors, lawyers, brokers, are talking less about "giving up the practice to express my creative side". I've reminded some of them how creative they are in their own fields. It's been said that everyone's an artist today, I'm just glad that people like me are not fling 747's. The purchases of gallery work has slackened for the time being but this doesn't effect the production and quality of personal work and if we can live simply we'll ride it out.

Q. Thank you very much for the shared thoughts! I wish you to find in future more good subjects with good, inspiring stories!

A. Thank you.


"One-Man Exhibition" of Glenn Harrington (March 12 to April 5, 2009)
at Eleanor Ettinger Gallery, New York

The paintings of Harrington are highly esteemed among collectors and publishers. His paintings have been featured in American Arts Quarterly, American Art Collector, International Artists Magazine, the covers of American Artist & US Art, New Art International, The New York Times, and Philadelphia Inquirer. He has numerous solo exhibitions in New York, Japan, Charleston, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, and has exhibited at the Norman Rockwell Museum, The Museum of American Illustration and the USGA Museum.

Glenn's paintings have been published on over 500 book covers. His portrait work received numerous prizes - the Draper Grand Prize in 2007, the Honor Award in 2005 and Certificate Award in 2004 from the Portrait Society of America's international juried show.

Eleanor Ettinger Gallery, 119 Spring Street, New York 10012.

For more information: http://www.eegallery.com/ and http://www.glennharrington.com/

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This interview has been published in Montreal Review