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‘Accidentally, in a Heartbeat’ acrylic paint on handmade paper, 32″ x 40″ (size includes frame), by Spencer J. Harrison

“I paint to understand my emotions and to remind myself how beautiful the world is.”- Spencer

The work of Spencer J. Harrison is very personal. Titles such as ‘ Accidentally in a Heartbeat’ and ‘Barely Able to Breathe’ make reference to important events in his life and the people he holds dear. Spencer’s artistic practice places an emphasis on human relationships, with a focus on the moments that evoke the romance of life.”My world is full of romance, and I don’t mean boy meets girl romance, I mean the romance of friendships, the romance of even small moments in relationships, the relationships I have with my students, with my friends. Emotion comes to the surface and a connection is there. I feel like if I pay attention to those then I can navigate almost anything. “The work in this show  is a culmination of the last 12 months of his life which have been quite tragic, with three deaths in the family, but have also yielded some great achievements for Spencer. ” I headed to my studio to think through my grief, think through loving the people that I love, and think through how beautiful I still think the world is.”

 

                 ‘Barely Able to Breathe’ acrylic paint on handmade paper, 32″ x 40″ (size includes frame) by Spencer J. Harrison

 

Each painting contains from 70 to 120 translucent layers of paint, slowly built up to create a sense of depth, so that the viewer feels they are really looking into the picture. ‘Barely Able to Breathe’, pictured above, is one of the most heavily worked over pieces, with more than 120 layers of paint. This piece is very much about romance and love. Spencer explains the meaning behind the title, remembering a moment at the funeral of his husband’s father: “|We were standing at the funeral, talking to people. He just grabbed my hand and I was barely able to breathe. I could just sense that the intensity of our love could pull us through almost anything. I hope that that piece walks the tightrope between pain that can exist and knowing that you’ll get through it.”

 

‘Iridescent Heart’ acrylic paint on handmade paper, 32″ x 40″ (size includes frame) by Spencer J. Harrison

The image of a boat is used repeatedly in these pieces. While growing up, Spencer spent time canoeing with his grandfather, who was the one he went to ‘to ask all of the important questions’ these formative moments out on the water were infused with the romance of the special relationship between a boy and his grandfather. Then, while studying in Venice Italy, Spencer was inspired to switch from abstract painting to including imagery in his work. ” An experience in a church, with a faculty member trying to talk about a painting while a nun moved him along and lit a candle, moved him along and lit a candle, and eventually got down on her knees and prayed to the painting- that moment switched me from being an abstract painter to wanting to include imagery in my paintings. I was surrounded by water,  surrounded by vessels moving about in the water and in a place that is seen as being intensely romantic.” Accordingly, Spencer has been including images of boats in his work for almost 30 years, and continues to find himself compelled to do so.

 

‘You Leaned in Toward Me’, acrylic paint on handmade paper, 32″ x 40″ (size includes frame) by Spencer J. Harrison

 

The show is a representation of time, a grouping of pieces done in reaction to the preceding year, all painted on handmade 100% cotton rag paper which Spencer acquires through a mutually beneficial trade system with a woman who makes paper. One painting is traded for  a bundle of 144 new sheets of quality paper to paint on.  Each of them feels they are getting the better deal, ” I feel I am ripping her off because I love the paper so much, and she feels she is ripping me off because she loves the paintings so much! ”

Drop by the gallery and see what the show has to offer. The work will be on display until Saturday November 25th 2017.

“This show is intensely charged with happiness and joy… I’m trying to tell people to look around. The world is beautiful, and our relationships are beautiful, if we just paid a bit more attention to them.”- Spencer