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Peter Harris and Barry Smylie represent two different generations of painters. Barry Smylie enjoys an artistic career stretching back to the seminal days of abstraction in Montreal of the 1960’s / 70's, travelling through many of the most significant 'isms' of mid 20th century modern art. He now positions himself confidently as a painter of landscape and rural themes – but as viewers will see, one with a thoroughly post-modern eye.
"One of my ideas was to paint the fourth dimension of time into a painting as illusionary as the third dimension of depth…Every point of view defines another, not only in space but also in time."
Influenced in part by the language of film, we see in each of his skillfully composed and rendered paintings, multiple views of single scenes, a technique that serves to transform the perceived moment into a multi-dimensional event. Painted in the Maritimes, there is a significant sense of that unique social culture permeating the works.
Peter D. Harris, a painter now hitting mid-career, brings a compelling counter thesis designed to shift our views on Canadian landscape art.
"I found myself wanting to paint something more personal and less idealized than the romanticized view of Canada as a nature preserve: rugged and untouched. I felt the need to create art from the places I visited on a daily basis….to try discover beauty in the most mundane, urban developments and to coax interesting paintings from these banal subjects."
‘Iconic Canadiana' as defined by the Group of Seven, insists on a view unsullied by human intervention. Harris, however, is a committed urban artist inhabiting a landscape that celebrates human diversity. His project seeks to develop a dialogue to connect these two disparate views of our national psyche. It’s a thesis laid out in his stark urban nightscape series, where ‘empty’ landscape paintings are on view, alone and detached in artificially lit gallery-like interiors. There is a heightened sense of eerie tension in these rigorous realist paintings, their dark pervasive symmetry being anything but rugged or bucolic.
The attention to details that these two artists present is remarkable, with a keen eye and critical mind behind each stroke. Each fully exploits the quality of a distant, yet engaged observer, a detachment perfectly balanced by a palpable feeling of exquisit intimacy. These are master works of two experienced and sensitive painters.