All too often, artwork is treated as an afterthought, chosen because it fits the available wall space or blends with the existing decor in a room. Here, we turn that idea on its head, choosing works of art that we dream of having on our walls — five pieces by five remarkable local artists. Let the wall art be the focal point, its mood and meaning guiding an array of furniture and decor that complement the stars of the room.
Driving around the night streets of Ottawa, Michael Harrington will spot small groups of men in intense discussions. They are surely up to no good, except that they will have inspired this unique figurative artist to paint murky scenes of seemingly shady characters finalizing illicit deals. Or maybe the inspiration will come from YouTube videos of male gospel quartets with stylized, awkward-looking movements or scenes of aging men whose hair and clothes speak of Elvis.
These are the men — and they are overwhelmingly men — who have fuelled Harrington’s successful art career on both sides of the border. “I like to paint normal people that we don’t look at much,” says Harrington. Ottawa art critic Petra Halkes is a fan. “Harrington has a unique ability to paint his male figures in such a way that I feel disgusted, amused, and empathetic toward them, all at the same time.”
Many of Harrington’s scenes, whether exteriors or interiors, are darkly lit, relieved by bright colours on an article of clothing or perhaps a shiny muscle car. The artist says he is often surprised by who buys his work. Several bank executives and financial companies have Harringtons in their corporate collections. So does an office of Global Affairs Canada, which ships paintings to its embassies worldwide. How’s that for a national seal of approval?
Favourite colour: Harrington says he does not really have a favourite colour but, when pressed, reveals: “With hesitation, today my favourite colour is red.”
Dream setting for his art: The Ottawa Art Gallery
Find his work: St-Laurent + Hill Gallery, 293 Dalhousie St.
With hues inspired by nature, this Anima ceramic tile mimics marble and brings to mind the sheen of water on earth on a stormy day. $12-$15 per square foot. Ceragres, 3268 Hawthorne Rd.
Handmade by eastern Ontario artist Jenny Rijke, this grey mug matches the stormy skies. $44 through JV Studios and Boutique (1282–A Wellington St. W.)
Like sinking into a plush mid-century-modern storm cloud, the Rothesay Sofa is available through ldshoppe.com, which is run by local design firm Leclair Decor. $2,229
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