After walking through the brightly lit rooms of Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting (previous post) at the Vancouver Art Gallery I wandered into a cozy, dimly lit space displaying Emily Carr paintings in the show 空/Emptiness: Emily Carr and Lui Shou Kwan.
The paintings are gorgeous: the Vancouver Art Gallery has some of the best examples of Carr’s work I’ve seen. They are damn fine paintings–bold, strong, studied.
This is work to be experienced in person. Many of us have seen her art reproduced on mugs, greeting cards and book bags and think we know it. I have thought, “Oh, yeah. Emily Carr. Eccentric west coast woman painting trees.” Then I encounter some of these paintings and think, “Wow. Gorgeous. Lush. Remarkable…….. I wish she hadn’t had such a struggle to make a living, and could have spent more time painting.” (Sad and sobering facts: Carr could not always make a living from her artwork, and spent much time and energy for many years managing tenants in a rental house and engaging in other schemes to earn money. In 2015 one of her paintings sold at auction for $1.53 million. Click here for a National Post article about the sale.)
Emily might be horrified to know her images are on greeting cards, magnets and bookmarks. Or maybe she would have laughed at the irony of it.