Harrison’s combination of the two incongruous images forces the viewer to look beyond what may seem to be another abstract painting. Harrison starts his process cutting and adhering different parts of Thangka paintings on to a wooden panel. Buddhist Thangka paintings are made on cotton or silk usually depicting a mandala, a Buddhist scene or deity. Following his visual instincts Harrison, collages the
Buddhist imagery keeping the rhythm of the composition by using a fine pencil to draw in
contoured lines into blank spaces. The result is a complex drawing of patterns and designs.
Harrison then takes a photograph from his collection of sunsets or other natural imagery and
projects it over the original composition using an overhead projector. This approach allows
Allen to focus his energy on the aesthetic quality rather than dictating a meaning or message.
At first glance his paintings look like an abstract version of a Turner or Delacroix, yet when
looked at very closely and carefully you see the patterns from the Thangka paintings emerge
through the brushstrokes.
For Harrison it’s the engagement in this process that is most interesting to him. Allen credits
his years in art school for giving him the ability to translate a three-dimensional world into a
two-dimensional plane. It is with this skill, honed throughout his life that he is able to let the
process guide the productions. He views his art as a series of experiments. Allen explains,
“The idea is to make abstract paintings in a different way, by putting two seemingly
incongruous ideas, or images together. Part of this is a notion that if you understand what you
are doing completely you are not pushing hard enough. I am most excited when I am a little
uncertain of the eventual success of the painting.”
Allen Harrison has previewed his work extensively over the past 34 years, with over 25
exhibitions throughout the United States. Harrison displays in both private and public
collections including but not limited to the collections of Architectural Digest Publishing
Corporation, General Electric, 20th Century Fox, Lowes Corporation, BankAmerica
Corporation, the Arco Collection and Goldman-Sachs in Los Angeles. In addition, Harrison’s
work has also been seen San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Byer Museum of Art.
Publications include Art In America, Artnews and the Los Angeles Times. In addition to his
career as a painter, Harrison has taught painting and drawing at several California colleges
over the past 39 years.