Greg Hart is an artist who is always pushing to see what he can create next. “I keep a journal of how things are progressing with my work, and a quote that I have on the notebook is from Yoko Ono: ‘Art is Action.’ I have really found that is a central theme for me: always keep moving, always just keep progressing with the artwork,” he says.
Through both his own work and his involvement on social media, Hart pushes the progress of his art by exploring the idea of artistic technique and broadcasting his own process as he creates new pieces. “[Progress photos are] the thing that I like to see the most, I try to post the kind of things that I like to see,” he explains.
For more of this content, Hart turns to the internet. “If I want to see a video of painting, I can find that on Youtube, I can listen to podcasts where artists talk about their art, or I can go on Instagram. The behind-the-scenes thing excites me. I take those photographs to kind of see how my paintings progress. On an Instagram story folks can see how the process is done. I like the community aspect of it.” Originally from Greenville, Hart credits social media as one of the main ways he makes connections with other artists in the local Charleston art scene.
Hart’s technique combines photography-based portraiture with painting. He lists “three elements” that influence much of his work: historical photographs, expressionistic painting, and street art (taking influence from techniques such as graffiti stencils and tagging). Together they combine and form the color-forward abstract portraits that make up much of Hart’s work.
In 2020 Hart has set a goal for himself: finish 100 pieces by the end of the year. To keep himself accountable he has turned to social media to share his work and process. “In the past I would tell my wife or tell a friend ‘I’m going to do 100 paintings’ and they’d be like ‘Alright, go for it’ but if I go out on social media I can kind of broadcast it, I find that element exciting. Over time, if I keep saying this, folks are going to notice and be a part of this.”
To keep his followers updated, Hart posts photos of his pieces to social media and sends out a monthly newsletter full of sources that he finds inspiring. Films, interviews, people, supplies, and specific art processes are just some of the subjects he talks about. The end of each newsletter contains photos of his completed pieces from that month along with 100 dots that slowly get filled in each time he completes a new piece. “I’m at 16 right now and two are almost done, I’ve gotta do 10 [pieces] a month for the next few months,” he explains.
His motivation to start the project came out of a desire to simply produce more work. “I always found in my work that if I could shut off the part of my brain that was trying to kind of inject logic into my artwork and if I could just crank through a lot work, that I learn more, and then I can edit down after the fact,” Hart says, adding, “I’ve found that having limitations on my work can keep me focused and makes the work better when going really deep with a particular subject.”
While his current work is wide-ranging, Hart finds himself drawn to Victorian cabinet cards at the moment. “They’re like old forms of social media from 100 years ago,” he says. The cards are thick with a photograph mounted on them, often acting as a yearbook photo or baseball card. Many subjects depicted are posed formally, dressed up, and have interesting hair or facial hair.
“One of the reasons I love using those is there’s absolutely no color information whatsoever and I love the idea of inventing color, it opens your imagination up completely because you’re not restricted by a specific palate.” In his own renditions of the cabinet cards Hart uses color in place of black and white shading to create an entirely new interpretation of the image.
Beyond sharing his own work Hart likes to use social media to connect with other artists whose art he enjoys. Last year he collaborated with Kate Singleton, the founder of the online gallery “BUY SOME DAMN ART” (buysomedamnart.com). Hart created portraits of several Charleston-based artists and featured their work alongside his portraits. “The series was about finding people in the Charleston area whose work I really liked and then physically connecting with them, having them come into the studio.”