For Eric Mack, nature is both canvas and muse

Even his home is more nature than house

Eric Mack in his home garden, which doubles as a studio space
Eric Mack in his home garden, which doubles as a studio space

Photography by Patrick Heagney

Abstract painter and multimedia artist Eric Mack grew up in Charleston, cutting hair in the back of his mother’s beauty salon, and developed a reputation in his community for creating cool designs in people’s hair. This was against the backdrop of hip-hop culture on the rise, so he also made money painting friends’ jeans and selling his drawings of breakdancers at school.

“When I could write my name, I was into art,” says Mack, who attended the Atlanta College of Art and is known for work that feels mathematical and architectural, a composition of blocks and angles. “Dealing with shape, pattern, and form are what I look for in building these pieces. It’s not random.”

Eric Mack SRFC-81

Photograph courtesy of artist/Whitespace Gallery

Eric Mack

Photography by Patrick Heagney

Twenty years later, that geometric precision has come to define his work. Mack uses acrylic and spray paint, handmade paper, and cutouts of white copy paper to create pieces that resemble an architect’s blueprints or a city grid. He was largely influenced by a four-year stint in Germany, where he continues to work often. Recently, he designed the cover art for EDM artist Afriqua’s album Colored and completed a mural on South Broad Street for the City of Atlanta.

But lately, nature has taken a bigger hold on his work. His East Lake home, where he paints, is more like a garden with a house than a house with a garden. Here, he grows a variety of plants, including salvias, cacti, morning glories, New Zealand cabbage trees, Thai hibiscus, and princess flowers. The piece de resistance is a Japanese maple tree that he planted to remember the infant son that he and his wife lost two years ago. It was this heartbreak that drew Mack from the studio to the garden to begin with. He found that nature helped him heal, and it’s since found its way onto his canvases.

His lines have softened a bit with the influence of the outdoors. He’s started using coconut fiber instead of found objects for underpainting, the initial layer. He adds texture with red clay and potting soil.

Eric Mack creating paper cutouts for his highly architectural paintings
Creating paper cutouts for his highly architectural paintings

Photography by Patrick Heagney

“I want the new work to connect with nature,” says Mack. “You can help nature along, but nature is going to do what nature does. Plants possess divine proportions.”

This article appears in our Winter 2019 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.