The Art of the Matter

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Paintings by Lawren Harris

I booked off an extra day from work heading into the long weekend.  I decided to have a ‘me day’ and so far, it’s been quite grand.

I began the day with a vigorous workout at my gym followed by a steam.

I cleaned up and headed over to Central Bistro for breakfast. A delightful eggs benny was served up with a goat cheese sauce rather than the traditional Hollandaise. I was asked which I would prefer and I felt like living ‘dangerously’. (Insert smile)

From there I headed over to the Vancouver Art Gallery and for two hours immersed myself in the current exhibits being displayed.

Lawren Harris is on display and wow, what a fabulous collection!

I often associate Harris’ work with the abstract mountain visages he is famed for. We often think of artist’s as being long dead before their work is appreciated, however, Harris passed away in 1970. Much of his work, that is done truly in the abstract vein and leans into surrealism, was done in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

He was also a huge influence on the Vancouver Art Gallery as he lived here for the last thirty years of his life.

I fell in love today with several of his pieces that I’ve not seen before.

‘Eclipse of Spirit’ 1958 oil on canvas was stunning. A few paintings over ‘Abstract (Storm) 1955’ took my breath away.

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Then I turned to see ‘Northern Image 1952’ inviting me to look a little deeper.

This last painting was reminiscent of the aurora borealis interpreted in a spiritual surrealism kind of way. I was just blown away by the beauty of his work.

The exhibit was done in a chronological format which was really exciting to see. Interesting to watch his progression and oddly enough as he got older it seemed his work was more familiar with his earlier productions.

I headed up the stairs to the next level which was housing Edward Burtynsky’s show ‘A Terrible Beauty’.


Three of Edward Burtynsky’s photographs from his series ‘Water

These are photographs that display our footprint on this world of ours. The title is so amazingly accurate. I found myself sitting down and staring at an image that had such an incredible beauty to it. And I found this stirred a host of emotions in me.

In one a vibrant sky, so very much alive, is in sharp contrast to the shore line below. I believe they were mining for nickel. The land had been raped of her resources and both land and water had been poisoned in the process.

And despite the fact that I was looking at a dead zone, I could not help but admire the beauty in the photograph.

What ran through my head was that ‘even in death, this planet of ours is so stunningly beautiful’.  Then I wondered if it hurt.  Surely it must have.

Then the tears threatened.

I felt the tears pushing at the back of my eyes several times. Particularly in the images that were given over to obvious decay. Sadly people are still living amongst this decay that we have created.

One of the images could well be a landscape of Mars; barren and dead. Another has blue and yellow veins of water running through it. Indeed, the images draw you in…tease the senses with their beauty only to advise later that you are viewing a dying portion of our planet.

Emotionally I began to feel the weight of it. And I sat down staring once again and trying to contemplate all that was running through me.

I had not heard of Edward Burtynsky prior to this. Now, I want to know all about him. I’ve found a hero who through his work champions this world of ours.

What is it about an image that can catch and hold our attention?  That can move and inspire us; that can tear our heart out.

The rain is pounding down outside. I made my way back to New Westminster and stopped for lunch. I wanted to unload the many things I am feeling from my sojourn at the art gallery.

I renewed my membership today. I’ve missed these stolen moments from this demanding life of mine where I can get lost in the imagery and emotion of an artist’s touch.

I don’t know what it is but so many things come alive in me. I am triggered…I find myself laughing…then near tears.

A film reel was being played on a TV screen. It was called ‘Healing’.

Red velvet curtains are drawn on an uneventful stage. A moment later a woman of advanced years steps through them. She is wearing a blue suite that appears to have been taken from the Barbara Bush collection.

Hands folded before her, she stands with an ineffectual smile pursing her lips.

And she just stands there.

I wait.

And she just stands there.

I find myself smiling now…

Still she just stands there.

I begin to laugh now. This reminds of Andy Kaufman’s ‘Mighty Mouse’ routine in some odd manner.

After standing for several minutes she turns and goes back between the curtains.

My head is buzzing. I’ve been saturated.

I gaze up at the rotunda and decide to chance taking a few pics of it. I do respect the gallery and do not ever take pics of the art work, though I would love to. Instead, I had a notebook and wrote down all the images that jumped out at me. There were many today.

This is a fabulous exhibit and I find the neurons going crazy. Wanting to paint, wanting to express…just wanting.

And through the driving rain I wondered about all that I saw today. Impressed that someone had the initiative to go out and chronicle this desecration of the world we inhabit in such a formidable manner.

He is not the first to do this nor will he likely be the last.

A river is running down the sidewalk and streets as I write this. There is life in the rain that falls. It nourishes, gives back and allows this corner of the world to be lush and green.

And I have a host of things I wish to pursue. It is days like this that reinforce the challenge.

Just like that, the rain has stopped.

I’ll head home. Get to work on my current book. I’ve been sadly neglectful the last couple of months. Try to work through some of the things that are on my plate.

But damn, what a good day!



2 thoughts on “The Art of the Matter

  1. I like those images by Edward Burtynsky, and the style of them looked somewhat familiar to me until. A bit of clicking across the interwebs confirmed it: he’s the same photographer Isaac wrote about that time, discuss the artist’s book entitled Manufactured Landscapes. Such disturbingly beautiful (and beautifully disturbing) work.


    • That’s right too! I remember reading the article that Isaac wrote now that you mention it. If you get the chance to check it out, it really is thought provoking exhibit. And the name is so fitting…”A Terrible Beauty”.

      From a distance these dead zones look so beautiful…but up close and personal…not so much. His work is very captivating.


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