Painting at 70
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Painting at 70

Abstract and not sticking to any one pocket, local artist, retired business man, Richard Harris hypnotizes fans with his clever, colorful, often geometric, detailed acrylic paintings.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

“Circles of Joy” (Ink, acrylic and watercolor on paper, 14”x11”).
“Circles of Joy” (Ink, acrylic and watercolor on paper, 14”x11”).

Mind-boggling, colorful, precise — these are some of the adjectives that often come up when describing Richard Harris’s abstract art. Harris, who is approaching his 70th birthday, would be the first to say that art doesn’t have to be elitist, but rather, as in his case, freewheeling and often richly patterned.

“Art need not be pompous or highbrow. Some think there needs to be an element of suffering in the layers of success. Don’t you think Picasso had more fun than Van Gogh? No one has to get beat up along the way to succeed. That’s just not me,” Harris said.

He got a late start on his art journey because, as a child with Attention Deficit Disorder, he was not drawn to “painting between the lines.” Instead, he recalls being fascinated by Jackson Pollock’s liberated style.

Painter Richard Harris is known for his mesmerizing patterned abstract art. “Lightness Over Darkness” (Acrylic on 16”x20” panel).

“I was introverted and couldn’t draw in a conventional sense,” he explained. “Later on, in business, I very much enjoyed working with architects and designers and was adept at selecting colors and patterns. Much of the art in the spas, I created. I was known for placing a ‘just-so’ piece of my modern art at the end of a long hallway. And I found art as a respite from the business world.”

Harris does his best work late at night. He may start with a simple idea, then play with a few colors in his mind’s eye. Sometimes he gets into a meditative state in order to see the paintings inside his head. A Harris painting breathes and expands as the viewer moves around to view it. Some might see chaos, action and geometry; then there’s the term “op art,” with its transposition of patterns and scale.

“Untitled: Line Abstraction #1” (Acrylic on 54”x46” wood panel.) Part of the permanent collection of the Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, Ala.

“I give myself permission to seek balance,” Harris said. “I’m not one to seek inspiration from nature. I can’t always explain the ‘serendipity-ness’ of it all. I can get inspired by going to the Michael Carlos Museum, seeing antiquities from Asia or Africa or the Caribbean. Mankind is connected to art every day.”

Previously represented by Mason Murer Fine Art in Atlanta, Harris’s work was recently on display at the Mobile Museum of Art in Mobile, Ala. A native New Yorker, he takes inspiration from abstract midcentury artists like Mark Rothko, Frank Stella and Willem de Kooning.

“Atlanta resides in a realistic world,” Harris says, contrasting Southern tastes with other markets. “LA, Miami and New York City have a more dominant abstract atmosphere. Atlanta does have an openness and vibrancy and has ultimately been a gracious atmosphere for me.

“Untitled: Fanned Line Abstraction #4” (Acrylic on canvas, 60”x48”).

“The bottom line is art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. ‘Good’ art can go over a couch. It’s that simple. I’m just not limited to one style. An artistic outlook can exist in gardening, music, just using the right side of the brain. I have no pretensions. Art can be in potholders or aprons.”

Artist Richard Harris

That lack of pretension suits Harris, who is known for not titling his work. He doesn’t feel the inclination to go back and name something after he’s painted it. He, does, however, accept commissions and art supplies.

“Oh, I’m a freak for art supplies. My friends, art professors and the like, we all talk about art supplies. I never have enough art supplies!”

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