Henry Glavin cites the tension between architecture and landscape as his main painterly influence
The American painter, based in New York, tells us of his architectural influences and reasons for repeating his imagery.
- Ayla Angelos
- 3 July 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
It’s often that you hear stories of how a parents’ interests will have a certain influence on their child. For Henry Glavin, an artist born in New York City who grew up in-between the suburbs of Connecticut and the Catskills in Upstate NY, he was surrounded by art-making during his childhood. His mother is a painter and his grandmother a potter, so it was inevitable that he’d grow up visiting their studios and reading the art books they’d collected. “My mum started to seriously pursue an art career when I was around five, so I grew up helping her in the studio, going to shows, and eventually working for all her friends in the studio building she organised,” he tells It’s Nice That.
Not only this, but Henry grew up with a stutter. Naturally, he gravitated towards art for it was the only thing in school that didn’t present any anxieties that came with speaking. So, art came naturally. “I drew constantly in class and would get detention for drawing. I remember thinking I was going to end up becoming an architect but I quickly realised that there was more math than drawing involved in that process,” he says, recalling how he’d opted for painting and ceramics at Alfred University instead. Graduating in 2014, he has since been working as an art handler and studio assistant in Manhattan, Brooklyn and East Hampton, all the while maintaining his studio practice.
Henry’s systematic approach to art is plain to see. He cites this “tension” between architecture and landscape as one that deeply influences his approach to painting, and one that he’s spent a large part of his childhood ensuing. When in the mountains of Catskill, he would often explore brans and the woods with his two brothers – “the way barns become blended with the landscape around them as they age captures a type of visual language I’m really drawn to,” he notes of his inspirations. Otherwise, it’s painters and artists such as Mark Bradford, or those who deal with the “psychology of personal spaces” like Mama Andersson, Lois Dodd, Matthias Weischer, Neo Rauch, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Jennifer Bartlett among others. He also spends much of his time in art shows looking for further references.
As for the process of painting itself, Henry tends to have over 10 works in progress at any given time. His methods vary widely and depend on which part of the painting process he’s on, with some of them “lingering unfinished” for months, while others taking shape more hastily. Then when it comes down to the imagery, he tells us how his subjects often come from familiar places that he’s spent a lot of time in, “fictionalised through the process of painting.” Commencing his process with pencil drawings on panels, the messy part comes next which involves underpainting, sanding and transferring ink over the top. “I cut swaths of colours out of art magazines (Art Forum or Art in America) and use matte medium to glue them, then peeling the paper away and leaving the transparent ink over the acrylic.” He will regularly add paintings or windows to the empty spaces, twisting and altering the mood of the image.
A key motif throughout Henry’s work is that of repetition. “I often paint over paintings and tend to repeat images and themes,” he says. An example of which can be seen in Falling Wall, a piece from his series of grids. The concept for this series comes from a desire to “study the psychology of a familiar place by repainting it repeatedly, and then making the paintings work together as a whole, forming a pattern,” he explains. Resultantly, the grid comprises an architectural structure that depicts a wall in the barn that his studio upstate is based in. “The foundation has completely been eroded, so we built a temporary stilt to support it until we repair it in the summer; I like seeing the snow drifts creep under the wall, blending the interior and the outside world.”
Henry has the ability to morph his surroundings into a scene of the unfamiliar – a technique instilled by his fondness for architecture. It’s also his subtle interest in the sublime that allows his paintings to take the theatrical form of a film set, rather than a real space. Above all, he hopes that his audience will make up their own minds about why it is he creates in this way. “I try to convey a certain mood or feeling through my paintings based on my relationship to each space, but I don’t expect that to translate in the same way for each viewer,” he concludes. “Hopefully there's enough ambiguity in the spaces for them to function similarly to a successful abstract painting.”
Henry Glavin: Woodshed Spring