On a recent visit to Vancouver, The Art Caravan visited the Vancouver Art Gallery. Sadly, the Cardiff/Miller show, Lost in the Memory Palace, (see August 4 blog entry) was in the tear down/crating stage. (Just imagine their storage issues!)
So….who is Landon Mackenzie? She is a Vancouver based painter, and art professor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. (You know she’s the ‘real deal’ in Canadian art because she’s been interviewed by Bill Richardson, Vicky Gabereau AND Nora Yonge, those staples of Canadian public radio!) Early in her career, her paintings were justifiably purchased by major collections, like the Art Gallery of Ontario. Her early works are huge; many of the Lost River series are 6.5 x 7.5 feet.
Lost River Series
National Gallery of Canada
Collections of Glenbow Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario
The most surprising thing about this show, for me, was the Emily Carr work. Now, we all know who Emily Carr is…..grande dame (wouldn’t she laugh?!) of Canadian painting. I’ve seen a few Emily Carr paintings in my day (see April 30 blog posting) BUT I was blown away by the powerful paintings displayed here. Wow. This is Emily Carr at her finest.
Old Time Coast Village 1929-1930 oil on canvas
Abstract Tree Forms 1931-1932 oil on paper
Kudos to the VAG for two very strong, non-blockbuster, Canadian content shows. (And, yes! They have a great cafeteria.)
I have to say I was a little skeptical about this show at the Seattle Art Museum. It’s not that I doubt the quality of the shows at SAM, but I have a little bias against Mark Tobey. In her book, Art of Emily Carr, Doris Shadbolt says of Tobey: ” American artist Mark Tobey claimed credit for inspiring Carr’s “great swirling canvases, [and] wonderful tree forms,”
Never mind. Emily was above all the fray. Her comment on Tobey: “He is clever, but he has no soul.”
We can forgive the hubris. The man’s contribution to modernism is significant. The art critic, Clement Greenberg, gave Tobey credit for inventing the overall gestural painting style….not Jackson Pollock! As was the case with the artist Robert Irwin in California, and Emily Carr in Victoria, Tobey’s location in Seattle prevented him from becoming a household name like Jackson Pollock. The abstract expressionists in New York got all the buzz.
Modernism in the Pacific Northwest also highlighted the work of Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson. The art is strong, and rooted in deeply held personal philosophies.
The curators at SAM did an excellent job of explaining the historical significance of the these painters. They made it clear how the art was firmly rooted in the political and philosophical movements of the time.
Emily Carr, (1871-1945) belatedly beloved Canadian painter and writer. She lived and worked (nay, toiled) in British Columbia.
James Adams recently wrote a great feature in the Globe and Mail about Koh’s participation in Luminato, the Toronto arts festival. One of Koh’s projects is an homage to dear Emily, at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg (just north of Toronto.) As part of the installation he wrote this haiku….
a way to the light
For Emily Carr Growing straight towards God’s light Seasons forgotten
Not bad for a guy who’s been labelled a “young punk capitalist.” I’m guessing Emily would be honoured.
Whenever I visit the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria I always drop in to ‘see’ Emily Carr. The AGGV has a small, semi-permanent exhibition of her work. It’s a great introduction to Emily Carr, as the show describes Emily’s life through photographs and text. There are examples of art from the different stages of her life, beginning with her early student work. I especially appreciate the inclusion of works by her contemporaries, such as Lawren Harris and Anne Savage.
One of my favourite Emily Carr paintings was not, I suspect, one of Emily’s favourites. Wild Lilies is an early work, and very traditional….not at all like her later forest works, where she grappled with the challenges of capturing the spirituality and strength of the west coast landscape.
Wild Lilliesis not only a beautiful floral still life, but has a beautiful history. Emily donated it to the Sisters of St. Ann, in appreciation for their care of her sister, Lizzie, who died from breast cancer. A few years ago, the Sisters generously donated Wild Lilies to the AGGV.