ART/Culture: Where the Universe Sings

The nice thing about ART is that it’s universal.

Isolation Peak, Rocky Mountains. 1930. Oil on canvas. Hart House Permanent Collection, University of Toronto. Purchased by the Art Committee with income from the Harold and Murray Wrong Memorial Fund, 1946. (Lawren Harris).
Isolation Peak, Rocky Mountains. 1930. Oil on canvas. Hart House Permanent Collection, University of Toronto. (Lawren Harris).

And a necessary distraction. You can be anyone from anywhere and of any economic background or situation and appreciate what you see the same way (or not) as the next person.  This is why ART is so appealing and inspiring.  But aside from the recognized and renowned artists such as Picasso or Van Gogh (love them or not) it’s good to expand your knowledge of other well respected but maybe not so widely famous artists from other countries.  I’m having a Canadian moment here.  Those of you living in the U.S. might not have heard of the Group of Seven.  Comic book characters they’re not.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, circumstances brought together several artists who were committed to exploring, through art, the unique character of the Canadian landscape. Collectively they agreed: Canada’s rugged wilderness regions needed to be recorded in a distinctive painting style. This style would break from European tradition and reflect an increasingly nationalistic sentiment. Today, these men (and one woman, Emily Carr) are among Canada’s most famous artists. For many, their works have come to symbolize what is the distinctly Canadian identity.

When I lived in Toronto I had not paid too much attention to this Group of Seven but then I went to an exhibit at the McMichael Gallery to see what all the fuss was about and it changed me.  Just like the saying goes “if you love to travel, explore your own country first” (or something like that), the same goes for art.  So I did, and I learned something and appreciated what I saw – mostly the beautiful expansive and diverse landscape of my own country. Which, by the way I did explore in full since then.  So I can admit that Art did influence me in another respect.

This year at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) I looked forward to watching a documentary about one of the most influential Group of Seven artists – Lawren Harris.

A founding member of the Group of Seven and a major figure in the history of twentieth-century Canadian art, Lawren Harris (1885-1970) remains largely unknown in the United States. This year the AGO partnered with the Hammer Museum to introduce Harris’s iconic landscapes to audiences in Los Angeles and Boston. The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris was the first major solo exhibition of his work to be shown in the United States.

Around this time I was watching CBC (a former employer of mine while living in Toronto) and saw comedian (author and artist himself) Steve Martin talking about his love of Lawren Harris’ work with news anchor Wendy Mesley.  It was very interesting.

Steve Martin was Michael's guide for a tour of a new exhibition of Harris's work at the Art Gallery of Ontario. (Art Gallery of Ontario)
Steve Martin was Michael’s guide for a tour of the exhibition of Harris’s work at the Art Gallery of Ontario. (AGO).

The exhibition The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris was curated by comedian, musician, actor and writer Steve Martin in collaboration with Cynthia Burlingham, Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs at the Hammer Museum, and Andrew Hunter, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art at the AGO.

I have a lot of respect for this guy.
I have a lot of respect for this guy.

Yes, I too believe that while anyone can put brush to canvas, true artists are not created equal.  Sorry, but that’s what I really think.  The ones who really move you are guided by some other outside force.

An intimate portrait of the life and art of Lawren Harris, a founding member of the legendary Group of Seven, and the expansive landscapes that inspired him below.

WHERE THE UNIVERSE SINGS: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris (trailer):

And while writing this I decided that I’m going to attempt to create a painting of my very own.. on a whim with some friends….and some expert guidance….and some wine. It’s not until the end of this month.  It’s kind of on my revised bucket list and believe me, I’m not expecting to create something of “worth”…just somethin…somethin….do something that scares you….well….this is it.  I’m expecting that whatever it is, it will turn out to be pretty scary. However, according to my personal horoscope this month I have all of the cosmic mojo I need to accomplish—nay, excel at—anything I put my mind to.  A possible masterpiece??  You’ve got to believe!

 How about you?  Do you have a desire to paint?


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