Jennifer Harrison

Jennifer Harrison was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1972 and was raised in the neighbouring suburb of Burlington. When she was 20, she enrolled in the Communication & Design department at the Ontario College of Art, hoping to pursue a career in television advertising. The program was not what she expected, and flustered by mounting debt and the overall college experience she dropped out after less than two years. Her painting career officially began somewhat accidentally in 1999 when a fledgling gallery offered her space in a small group show. Harrison's trademark texture is achieved in several layers. Primed canvases are coated with a thick layer of acrylic polymer, then the wet 'putty' is carved into with paint scrapers, knives and brushes. A thin coat of dark paint is applied as an undercoat and finally a heavy topcoat of colour. Though bright-seeming for the average home, Harrison's colours are more accurate than they appear and are easily found throughout the city. During walks through local alleyways, samples of peeling paint are collected from garages and fences and later matched in the studio with artists' oils. These custom pigments are prepared in large batches allowing each series to share a common, consistent palette. Through her paintings, Harrison attempts to abbreviate houses, garages and sheds to their simplest recognizable forms. Only elements distinguishable from a distance are represented: brick, siding, trim, roofs, soffits, facias, eavestroughs, windows, doors, porches. In addition to the clashes of colour, historic character is expressed through a primitive use of perspective and detail, relying on the interplay of texture and shadow as a substitute for light. Snow is the easiest foundation, allowing the artist to omit trees and gardens and to focus solely on the man-made colours of the buildings. The occasional inclusion of hydro poles and laundry lines serve to accessorize the alleyways, a vague reminder of the purpose of structures and highlighting the absence of the residents. With the people, cars and greenery removed, the buildings become a strange mix of cheerful hues and haunting vacancy.