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Laura Harris plays with edges in her new solo show

Victoria artist collaborates with local musician Will Ross during exhibit opening at Adele Campbell on Feb. 9

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It's not every day you get the chance to witness a painter and a musician collaborate on a piece together.

But that's exactly what Laura Harris and Will Ross plan to do on Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Adele Campbell Fine Art Gallery during the opening for Harris' annual solo exhibit.

"Will Ross plays a lot of the openings at the Adele Campbell gallery," Harris says over the phone from Victoria, where she lives. "Every year we say, 'We should do this together.' I shouldn't just paint to Ben Howard or Bon Iver like I usually do. So we've been collaborating. He's going to sit beside me while I'm painting and play live."

The pair will spend 15 minutes working with Harris creating the first layer of a painting based on two of Ross' original songs.

"Together we decided we wanted to come up with a story, so I sent her some music that talks about a story of growth and transcendence," Ross says. "The first song is sad and then it gets into the growth aspect of it all and turns into this pretty loop that builds on layers that's kind of happy. It tells a story of new beginnings."

The one common thread between their work: both use layers. Harris often creates up to 30 layers on any given painting while Ross uses looping to give his songs texture.

"I'm somewhat prepared (for the event), but when it's live, you never know what will happen," Harris says. "It'll be fun. I think it'll be really emotional. I disappear into the process when I'm (live painting), but then I turn around and there are people who are emotionally moved. It'll be really interesting with live music."

The collaboration is part of the opening party for She's a Rock & a Waterfall, Harris' solo exhibit at the gallery. The show marks her 17th annual solo show at Adele Campbell.

"Every year I put the time aside," she says. "I start working on the pieces well before Christmas and have a show ready to go with 24 or 25 pieces."

Her textured, abstract paintings have a "lighter feeling" this year, she says. After 18 years working in her cottage-style backyard studio, last year she decided to shake things up and move into a larger space in downtown Victoria. The impact on her work was immediately apparent, she says.

"This collection has a really different feel to it. It has a light feeling to it, lots of greys and whites and blues—a happy feeling to it that's different. I've always painted in corners, so to speak ... Now I have all this room to move and it comes through clearly in this collection," she explains.

Harris has also been recently inspired to play with the edges of her paintings. Her signature style in the past was to frame her work in black paint. "You know when you see artists work with ... drips and splatters and gobs at the edge that they haven't framed over? When I see that it's storytelling at its finest," she says. "You can actually see the process of the artists. I've really honoured that whole concept in this show."

While Harris' paintings fall outside the traditional landscape style favoured in Whistler, her abstract pieces are often similarly inspired by nature. "There are elements in my work that suggest snow and land and sky, but they're mostly an abstract approach," she says. "'Abstract landscape' has been used to describe my work. It maybe has that feeling that you feel in Whistler."

Catch a glimpse of Laura Harris' new pieces at the opening for She's a Rock & a Waterfall on Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Adele Campbell Gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. Her collaboration with Will Ross is expected to take place at 6 p.m. with Ross performing throughout the evening.

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