Posts Tagged ‘Group of Seven’


August 4, 2009

Back from a weekend in Montreal, I continue my love affair with the Group of Seven. Le musee des beaux arts (yes the French was painfully dusted off this weekend) features many works by Lawren Harris and Tom Thomson. I actually didn’t realize they had such a large selection of Harris’ work. Of all the members of the group his work is probably the most attractive to me. Though I have Casson, Thomson and Harris prints in my room, it is Harris’ deep blues and strong lines that inspire me most.

The relationship between the work of the Group of Seven and their favourite subjects (Northern Ontario, BC, Quebec, and the Maritimes) is a fascinating one, because it seems to me that above all else, these artists are interested in translating the experience of their location.  Obviously, most visual art intends to convey a perspective, and a set of feelings associated with the object of the work.  But like the Impressionists these Canadian masters captured the essence of the location along with its appearance.  For me at least, and I suspect many others their art replicates the intense feeling of viewing a natural vista, be it a forest around Lake Superior, or the hills of Algoma.

Thunder and Lightning

January 12, 2009

You, me, and Emily Carr.

The Wheat Pool

Emily Carr

A new podcast will be up today.  No interview this time, but lots of me! I will leave the content as a surprise but please check it out over there –>.

Recently I travelled to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. This picturesque gallery is home to a large collection of art by Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, their contemporaries, and native and inuit art. Obviously, I was extremely excited about it.  I particularly enjoyed the work of Lawren Harris and Emily Carr because I had never seen any of their paintings in person.  Although any collection of Canadian art is important becaue it contributes to the promotion and preservation of our national culture, the McMichael Collection is special because of its specific focus.  It is more than just the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, but less than a braod collection of art from all over the world (as is the case at larger galleries across the country.

As I was enjoying the art and reading the descriptions, I noticed that the paintings (and occasional sculpture) were donated by a wide range of people from their private collections. Some had received the art as gifts from the artists, while others had purchased them over the years.  Of course this is true of most galleries that have large permanent collections. It raised, however, the question of what is the more important role of art, as a personal memento or as a public spectacle.  I imagine most artists, like most other creative people, would prefer that their work was admired by the largest number of people.  On the other hand, selling art to private collectors is probably a better business strategy.  The real answer probably lies somewhere in between.  Not all art is not necessarily going to be treasured like the Group of Seven or Tom Thomson, and a lot of those pieces will hang in people’s homes and be passed down. I used to work in a museum that had a collection of art, most of which was donated by the local community.  The pieces were rarely displayed and instead were kept with the other artifacts.  Many of the paintings were not remarkable in any way, some were not even particularly good, but to someone they were important enough to be donated.  While this doesn’t really answer the question I considered above, I think it is safe to say that art, no matter how it is cherished is a significant cultural phenomena and personal experience.

For all you artists out there please check out this site for information about an exciting opportunity to possibly be paid for your work, and to contribute to a volunteer intiative.   Click on apply as an artist for all the info.

Beyond the Big Cities

December 31, 2008

WHen I’m making a sketch I try to emphasize the things I want and ignore the things I don’t want.

A.Y. Jackson

Canadian Landscapes

I’m sitting down today and watching a 1941 National Film Board documentary called Canadian Landscapes.  This is the story of Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson, and his work.  Specifically, it deals with a canoe trip into the north.  The north here is Northern Ontario.

We bgin with a history, geography and art history lesson.  Early paintings of the Canadian North were done by Europeans in a European style.  Then came Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.  The film gives a quick overview, with examples, of thie thoroughly Canadian art movement.  Alexander Young Jackson makes his appearance.  He looks very good for a man of his age, and is identified as the leading landscape artists of his time.  We find him working in Toronto in a building that was built for Canadian artists.  Apparently he lives in a shack with a mining prospector.  He paintswearing a tie, which is an interesting touch.

As Jackson and his companion prepare for the journey north he hopes into a canoe dressed like a coureur de bois.  It is autumn so the trees are colourful.  Since it is 1940 their tent is simple canvas, not the high tech synthetics you found on campgrounds around North America these days.

The image of an artist working in the bush is at first striking and contradictory. After all, while art often seems delicate and careful, the Canada north is rugged and dangerous. Jackson climbs on top of the Canadian Shield to overlook the river he has just travelled. The narration gives a fantastic description of the method and meaning of his work.

It is very useful to be able to watch the painting and the scene juxtaposed, so we can understand the way the artist manipulates his view to create the art.  The quote at the top of this post sums up the general Group of Seven style quite well.  It’s not about caturing exactly what is there, as A.Y. Jackson says, the scene is “the starting point” for the artists interpretation.

I should note that Jackson is working in the area of Grace Lake, Ontario at this point. Next we travel to St. Tite de Caps, in Quebec. It is spring time, though the snow is still omnpresent.  Whereas in Northern Ontario Jackson focused on the hills and trees, in Quebec he turns his attention to the barns and other elements of rural life along the St. Lawrence.  He paints little scenes as he snowshoes through the woods and fields of this tiny village.  The narrator notes the difference in Jackson’s work here in Quebec. With painting done for the day Jackson plays cards with his French-Canadian friends.

This film is intended to demonstrate and explain Jackson’s process of creating finished works.  He is constantly changing his paintings as he gains a greater understanding of the landscape he experienced.  I have to say that the work is absolutely stunning.  The variety of paintings featured shows a breadth of Jackson’s creations I was not familiar with until now.

We are taken on a visual journey across the country, a feature all NFB documentaries should contain.  The narrator speaks of the vast untamed wilderness beyond settled Canada. Although people have since encroached upon more of this space, much of it remains open and empty of human touch.  Still the work of A.Y. Jackson, and this film record of his efforts stands as a reminder of what was once the very definition of Canada.

I’m Not Your Cup of Tea

December 1, 2008

Looky looky I got Hooky!



New episode of the podcast will be up in the morning. This one features some of the music of The Mass Romantics, a discussion of volunteerism, and an interview with Dave and Crystal Fallis about the hilarious times of Pinstripe Mystery. You can find it on iTunes.

I chose to quote Hook today because it is a ridiculous and yet charming movie, and this post will be ridiculous. I want to point out some of the links I’ve added over on the side there, you know over there–>. We have Daivd Hein’s music. He’s a talented singer-songwriter from Toronto. There is also The James Clark Institute, one of my upcoming guests on The Alder Fork Podcast. His new album is great! There is also a link to The Mass Romantics, a group composed of my friend Max and his musical talents.  I have also added Lovesick Designs, which is the work of my old friend Caillin Kowalczyk.  He sells t-shirts and will do commission work as well. He is extremely talented so click on the link and discover his work. The final new link is my friend Iwona’s guide to medical testing in Toronto. Don’t laugh, lots of people make hundreds and thousands of dollars being medical guinea pigs. Check it out, even if you just want to laugh at what people will endure for money.

Alright that’s enough advertising for one day.  Has this blog become a billboard for other things? Not really. There are still a great many things to discuss.  I am interested in hearing from the readers of this blog about what specifically Canadian artists, musicians, and theatrical folk they enjoy.  With the internet it is really easy to find these people, but it must’ve been a real challenge twenty years ago. If you get a chance to travel to Ottawa I highly recommend the National Art Gallery. I was particular impressed with the Group of Seven area (no surprise given my extreme love for them).  I was blown away by the panels taken out of the MacCallum Jackman cottage.  Imagine going away to a cottage deep in the wilderness and having incredible beauty outside and inside. I wish I had the means to pay talented artists to use my house as a canvas. Art on the wall is nice, but when art is the wall, it’s even better. Really if you can get to any gallery that showcases top notch Canadian art, I’d highly recommend it.  We have a strong tradition of unique and diverse culture.

Tomorrow I want to discuss a favourite album of mine, one I’ve listened to many, many times in my life: the self-titled debut disc by Wide Mouth Mason. It’s Canadian, from the prairies, and a rock classic (at least I think so).