PETER HARRIS: NIGHT SHIFT
Mar 6 – Mar 23, 2014
In Peter Harris’ world, paintings by Jack Bush, Lawren Harris and Jean-Paul Lemieux hang in office buildings on the outskirts of Toronto. He incorporates these masterworks of Canadian art history into some of his urban landscapes of parking lots, corporate headquarters and public schools seen at night to contrast two very different Canadas that exist side by side, in gentle contradiction to each other.
Harris isn’t moralizing or didactic in pointing out this dissonance between what we think we are and what we are. Works such as “An Evening Visitor” refer to the changing depiction of the Canadian landscape over time to question whether, and how, in an age when the overwhelming majority of Canadians live in cities, these idealized representations of the wilds of Canada still hold value. We romanticize and seek out the wilderness in our leisure time, but it is increasingly distant from us. Without ignoring our hope that we really are as green and wild as the Group of Seven makes us want to be, Harris wants to invite us to look at our real surroundings with more appreciation - not to replace the natural landscape, but to add that dimension to our identity as well.
The solitude that emanates from the paintings isn’t melancholy. It’s privileging, offering the viewer access to a moment unshared by anyone else and the luxury of time to enjoy it. In this new series, the artist works with night scenes and with the contrast between natural darkness and artificial light to theatrical effect. The architecture of these functional buildings is celebrated as Harris uses light and shadow to direct the viewer’s gaze and lend these places mystery. The figurative but strongly painterly quality of Harris’ brushstroke further encourages contemplation. The stillness and quietness emphasized in the process of painting reflects the emotional content of the image.
Peter Harris was born in London, Ontario in 1974 and completed his Fine Arts degree at the University of Waterloo in 1997. His works have been shown in exhibitions throughout Canada and the United States and he has been a recipient of several awards, including the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant and a Waterloo Region Arts Fund project grant. His works are featured in many public and private collections in Canada, the United States and Europe such as Suncor, the KSAL collection and the Colart Collection.