Saturday, February 17, 2018

Collection pays tribute to Ted Harrison

May 13, 2015 by Keagan Hawthorne, contributing writer


Ted Harrison Collected
(Douglas & McIntyre)

Even if you don’t know Ted Harrison’s name, you probably know his paintings. His much-loved depictions of winter in northern Canada, done in bold, cheerful colours, have appeared everywhere from schoolbooks to illustrated editions of The Creation of Sam McGee.

Originally from England, Harrison had a lifelong fascination with Canada’s north. Over the course of his career he created hundreds of paintings and silkscreen prints of what he called “my Yukon,” an abstracted landscape that is as inventive as it is iconic.

Harrison said he experienced the landscape as music, and the bright bands of colour in his paintings represent the notes and tones that he heard. His was a folk music: he painted scenes of everyday life peopled by faceless characters in whom we are invited to find ourselves.

Harrison died in January here in Victoria, where he spent the later part of his life. To commemorate his life and work, Douglas & McIntyre released this book, a collection of Harrison’s screenprints introduced by Robert Budd.

Budd’s introduction is interesting without being wordy or filled with jargon. He draws on a personal relationship with the painter and includes entertaining bits of conversation (in response to questions about his work, Harrison would reply, “God knows! I just thought I’d do it!”). The art-history lesson Budd offers will be accessible to anyone interested in art.

Unfortunately, the book is small for an art book. Although the reproductions are vivid, their size leaves them seeming more like postcards than lively landscape depictions, and at the end I found myself wishing for a more substantial experience of the artist’s work.

But even still, it is a good introduction to the work of Harrison. And perhaps it’s fitting that an artist interested in everyday life should be represented in an everyday kind of book.

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