Angle on Art

Angle on Art

Rick Harrington’s “Memory of Landscape”

  • By: Bob White
  • Illustrations by: Rick Harrington

Rick Harrington’s “Memory of Landscape”

jThe paintings of Richard C. Harrington have an understated, dream-like quality.

His landscapes, particularly those with reflected light, create in me the sensation of remembering a dream from which I’ve just awoken. Only the visceral, most essential elements remain, and the extraneous details, which often clutter and confuse, retreat with the dawn. What remains is an impression of the dream, and a record of the memory.

I view my favorite Harrington paintings from above, as if in an out-of-body experience, with atmospheric fields of color receding toward a high and distant horizon. The basic elements of these paintings are masterfully tied together with strong brushwork, to create a dreamscape in which I’d love to fish.

For more than a decade Harrington, who splits time between the Pacific Northwest and South Lima, New York, has explored a concept he calls “the memory of landscape.” He purposely puts space and time between himself and the images he paints because he’s interested in rendering the memories of what he’s observed, not painting things exactly as they are.

“A moment when low light spills across the land, defining the scene before me, lives in my memory,” he says. “I paint those places that speak to me.”

Much of my favorite angling art, like Harrington’s landscapes, doesn’t involve a fisherman, or any human form. Rather, it is the landscape through which a river runs, serpentine in its course, defined by reflected sky that I find intriguing and inviting.

Harrington says his work is not so much about fly-fishing, as it is the result of fly-fishing. Perhaps that’s what’s so appealing to me.

“My relationship with the land and environment is the primary focus of my work,” he says. “I don’t go out looking for paintings; they reveal themselves to me.”

Two summers ago Harrington participated in the artist-in-residence program I manage in Alaska, at Bristol Bay Lodge, and we had time on and off of the water to talk about his work and the life of an artist.

“Art is a ridiculous way to make a living,” he told me, “and there is a tyranny to success. When you finally get to a point where your work sells, it’s hard to turn your back on the money and push yourself in new directions . . . but it’s essential for continued growth.”

When Harrington began painting and illustrating, years ago, it was Homer, Sargent, Eakins and Ogden Pleissner who influenced him. A Mark Rothko retrospective changed all that, he says, and an evolution occurred; he began thinking of art in more modernist terms.

“Currently, the work of Rothko, Diebenkorn, Motherwell and Richard Serra are where I go to push myself,” Harrington says, adding, “I am still anchored in realism, but it’s in the work of these abstract artists that I find inspiration.”

When I asked what the future held, he told me about large, multi-paneled paintings, in a scale that provides the viewer with an intuitive sense of place.

“If I am to be remembered as an artist,” he concluded, “it will be for what lies ahead.” w

You can view more of Harrington’s work here: