The American painter Mark Harrington works on the theme of reduction and repetition of horizontal lines and structures, creating fascinating compositions of unlimited width. In his studio near Munich, he uses various tools to make tactile tracks in the layers of the pasty, still moist acrylic paint. Mark Harrington has been exhibiting throughout Europe and the US in galleries and museums since the 1980s. His works are represented in numerous collections.
Mark Harrington’s paintings resemble objects with their massive wood construction supporting the canvas which is fastened onto a panel of synthetic material.
Alternating between the unyielding, hermetically-sealed and the light and sensual, between the strangely and the seductively-beautiful coloured, the paintings reveal their multiplicity in the logic of reduction.
Curious – the surfaces are slippery, faint, soft, the lines let into the painted foundation as though they were behind a veil. But the colors shine brilliantly!
The composite, fairly large scale rectangle he builds is sanded and sanded, then covered with unifying layers of gesso then sanded again and again to a Renaissance fresco finesse. On this absorbent surface, Harrington paints free handed liquidly horizontal bands, here translucent, there matte, alternating in subtly keyed harmonies from dark (creating a kind of shadow) to incandescent colours. Also as in fresco, colours are laid down in complex layers with great speed while the fast drying gesso is still wet, so pigment is taken into the surface and binds not on it, but (also as in fresco) inside. Colours both look and are inseparable from the physical structures that hold them. He creates highly nuanced transitions/interactions between opacity and transparency, between hardish edge and colour-over-color bleed upon.
Harrington works fast and in free hand, so that however controlled, perfected via practice the process may be, there is a quick, unpremeditated intuition ever at play against his conceived design.
This process of discovery-in-doing answers to the demands of his technique, his materials and his body.
As a final step Harrington covers painted bands and the fields they hover in with another semi transparent, somewhat milky pigment that further veils color, mitigates edges, binds the gesso in selective ways before it is wiped off still wet. What this does is enmesh image and object further, blur yet more the traditional interactions between 2 and 3 dimensions that defined pre Modern and Modern painting. The plastic effect is to send the paint even further „back,“ exaggerate our awareness that color -i.e image-and wood are one.
The works are not just formal experiments for the artist. Harrington is a romantic who believes in a sensual, emotional and even spiritual dimension. He wants painting to have an effect, that the canvas produces a mood in the viewer, who feels the material concealed behind the surface. But Harrington‘s paintings also lure the viewer to think about harmony and equilibrium, stability and dynamic, continuity and breaks, symmetry and differences, order and chaos.