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Gordon Harper, "Logan’s House," 2013, oil on panel, 60” x 40”.
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Gordon Harper, "Joshua," 2013, oil on panel, 60” x 40”.
By Maureen Latta
Gordon Harper’s oil paintings evoke scalding summer days of desultory wandering through aging neighbourhoods that seem nearly devoid of life. Bleached lighting, plain house fronts, a lack of figures, or a single nondescript figure, face obscured – Harper captures the angst of urban decay by capitalizing on unfinished tonal under-paintings to create what he calls “the beauty of paleness.”
Stalking Edmonton’s post-war bungalows, Harper uses his smartphone to snap photos of buildings that catch his eye. Then, back at his studio, he projects those images on wood panels using an LCD projector and fleshes out architectural forms with the help of old-fashioned drafting tools such as triangles and rulers.
Harper, who has an MFA from the University of Alberta, says using his phone camera and other reference images from social-media sites has made his latest paintings more playful than earlier nocturnal landscapes. More and more, he employs the phone as a sketching tool, adjusting colours and contrast while he’s still outdoors.
He also paints house interiors, and has found they share a formal dialogue with his exterior views. “They all started to speak to each other in the same visual language,” he says. “When I put the paintings together in a show, the figures felt like they might be the inhabitants of these buildings.”
Gordon Harper is represented by the Peter Robertson Gallery in Edmonton. His work sells for $1,500 to $7,000.