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Layered and loving it

Painter Laura Harris celebrates 15 years at Adele Campbell in her annual solo show

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In 2002, Victoria painter Laura Harris came through the door of the Adele Campbell Gallery with a bundle of paintings and a belly.

"I was nine months pregnant when I first went to Adele Campbell and I was so happy when they took some my paintings," Harris recalls.

"I left for home and by the time I got to Horseshoe Bay, they called and told me I had sold six!"

And in the 15 years that followed, her work has merited an annual solo exhibition at the gallery.

She is amazed and happy.

"Isn't that something?" she laughs.

"I don't get too caught up in the politics of art. I just put my head down and paint, and I'm thankful for it. But now, looking back at 15 shows with 20 to 30 pieces each year, I'm really proud of that. Especially as a woman in this industry. I don't focus on that, but I am proud."

Twenty-five new paintings are part of the 2017 show, with Harris revisiting subjects from early in her career, as well as exploring new abstract themes.

The opening for the latest works by Laura Harris is at the Adele Campbell Gallery in the Westin Resort on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The exhibition runs until Feb. 17.

"What is incredible about Adele Campbell and why it has worked so well for so long is they support me as an artist in all the work I do, which is very rare," Harris says.

"They let me experiment and they let me grow as an artist, so we grew together."

As a nod to the past, she is including the colourful houses she first did when she started with the gallery, as well as new abstracts and florals; subjects that helped to build her career.

"I have four distinctly different styles in the show," Harris says.

"This last year, I've been doing more contemporary white-on-white or monotone and heavily textured pieces. They are very abstract."

Stylistically, Harris's work is known for multiple layers, using mixed media with paint on canvas, and the result is that the skies in her landscapes looking heavy with approaching moods and storms.

She says the inspiration for this came from the big skies she saw while driving from Calgary to Banff, but there's more.

"And it comes from years of making mistakes. When I started painting I just wanted to build up texture over and over. I did it with newspaper and with anything I could; the paint was so thick it would fall off sometimes," she laughs.

These days, acid-free archival-quality paper is used as a base on the canvas.

"Sometimes I use watercolour, though I mainly use acrylic. And I pull in pen, scrapers, anything to build up that texture. Most of the paintings have up to 30 layers on the canvas," Harris says.

This leads to a discussion of the work of late American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, who also painted in multiple layers to let the colours merge and emerge. It's not surprising that Harris is a fan of his work.

"I love Rothko. His style one of my inspirations. His moodiness! I just love it," she says.

So this latest show has become a very personal retrospective.

"I stopped doing the houses 10 years ago, and the a few years ago I was asked to paint a couple. I do a couple once a year for Adele Campbell. This year I'm bringing a bunch back and I love doing them. With all the shit that is going on in the world right now, the houses are so joyful. They feel like love," she says.

"There will be a couple of really big — 4' x 5' (1.2 metres x 1.5 metres). I listen to music really loud when I am painting and I dance around. You can put paint on a canvas and you can move in that space. When you've got five feet (1.5 m) to do that with. I love that.

"I walk every day by the water. I live across the street from the water. I walk through the forest and along the beach and that definitely gets me in the mood to paint. But inspiration is funny. If I wait for it I am totally screwed."

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