Born in Chelmsford in 1984, Greg Harris spent his childhood growing up in Essex, Suffolk and West Sussex before going to Leicester to complete a BA in Fine Art degree at De Montfort University in 2009. After taking a break from art and travelling to the Far East, Greg threw himself back into painting by joining a Leicester-based artist studio in 2012: since then, he’s never looked back. Greg has recently moved his studio to Bristol.
In his paintings, Greg wants you to reconnect with the familiar by bringing together both a literal and non-literal interpretation of the people and environment around you. Greg achieves this through carefully considered colour combinations and a painterly style that doesn’t condemn what’s being depicted. Rather, through their execution and minimised mark-making, the paintings are brought to life with a clean and freshly finished feel.
Greg Harris concentrates on his creative practice as well as private commissions from individuals and organisations alike. He also teaches workshops and welcomes invitations to exhibit and talk about his work.
AMM: Could you start off by introducing yourself, touching on anything you feel relevant to the story of ‘Greg Harris’ the artist?
GH: I’m a painter. Predominantly oils but I’ve recently been adding watercolours to my repertoire. I’ve been working professionally for roughly the last four years. I’ve always been recognised for my ability in art since before I can remember.
My dad told me a story of when I was very young and the teacher scolded me for using up lots of paper with random scribbles. I think I had ankyloglossia (‘tongue-tie’) when I was younger which affected my speech, so when the teacher was telling me off I couldn’t explain myself. So I took the sheets of paper from her and laid them out on the floor: together they made a large, cohesive abstract piece. My teacher felt so guilty she told my parents about it. I don’t remember this but I’m pleased I have knowledge of it.
Otherwise, I’ve always been doodling throughout my years. I remember my mum telling me off for colouring in the wallpaper. I loved to draw Halloween characters with my sister. I’d enjoy any opportunity to visually create to the point that I’d do other pupils’ art work at primary school just to have more time doing it!
I chose art throughout my education all the way to University, but afterwards all the theory and emphasis on conceptual ideas had winded my passion for art. For a couple of years I didn’t really care for it. I started working for Local Government – seriously trying to have a crack at it – and I thought to myself ‘Is this it for the rest of my life?’ That thought shook me up. Then an opportunity arose.
My dad (who’s always been a staunch believer in me) asked if I could paint a portrait of my granddad – who’d passed away – as a gift for my nan’s 80th birthday. I agreed and attempted a near enough photo-realistic finish (something I hadn’t really tried before). When I presented the painting to my nan, it was a very touching and powerful moment: her reaction was a combination of tears and happiness. In all honesty, I think the result took several family members by surprise. This was where art put life in me again.
It just so happened that one of my team members in Local Government was the wife of the international artist Paul Wright, who had a studio space available. After doing a stint of travelling in the Far East, I came back and rented a space. He was a generous and talented man, and I learnt all the foundation of what I have now from him.