I’ve made three visits in the last couple of months to one particular exhibit at the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) and I suspect I will be good for at least two more visits before the show closes on February 20 2012. The show is State of Nature, Western Canadian Landscape Painting in the AGA collection, 1980 to the present. This exhibit is running concurrently with a couple of other complementary painting exhibitions Prairie Life: Settlement and the Last Best West 1930-1955 (just until 2012 January 29) and a Passion for Nature, Landscape Painting from 19th Century France.
While the Passion for Nature exhibit is larger and with some big names would probably be considered the more prestigious exhibit, I must say that State of Nature is my favorite! State of Nature features nine large works by Alberta and Saskatchewan artists. The paintings are bold and strong, some tending towards abstraction but all recognizable as landscapes and certainly capturing the essence of the landscape from the Western Canadian prairie and parkland. There were a couple of paintings that really connected with me, invited me to sit down in front of them, to absorb the atmosphere and be transported to a different place. One of these was David Alexander’s Swags in a Northern Swamp. This large (approximately 3 by 4 meters) piece features a dominant foreground swamp with reflections in the mid-ground.
My favorite piece in this exhibit is Rockface, Quiet Bay 2008 by Gregory Hardy. This large work dominates one’s field of vision with a rocky landscape refelcted in a lake. the colors are rather subdued but with a few exciting dabs of orange.
If you happen to be in Edmonton, with an opportunity to visit the AGA before February 20th be sure not to miss this exhibit. It is interesting in its own right but especially so when seen against the 20th Century French paintings and the other current AGA exhibits.
This week I made a second visit to the Saltus Illuminati exhibit at the Art Gallery Of Alberta. This installation in the RBC New Works Gallery at the AGA, is the work of Arlene Wasylynchuk. I liked my first viewing of this work and enjoyed this second visit even more.
Set in a small, quiet, darkened room, this installation metaphorically evokes the feel of a forest with internally lit tubes of color. There are 66 of these magical cylinders, all uniquely hand painted and illuminated from within. Most are standing vertical but a dozen are horizontal as if fallen on the forest floor. The viewer is able to walk around this display (which is set in the middle of the room) and peer through the “forest” from an infinite number of different views.
It is ironic that the inspiration for this piece is the devastation of the forest caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle. Nonetheless, this work is effective in delivering a message about this threat, while reinforcing the beauty and the reason why we value our natural forests. For a very interesting news/feature story on how and why this unique piece of art came together, you must watch the Alberta Prime Time Video Story.
This exhibit is located on the second floor of the AGA, in a small darkened room, immediately on the right as you come up the stairs – don’t miss it, as you are attracted to the entrance of the big French Landscape Paintings exhibit. Saltus Illuminati runs until January 15, 2012.
Yesterday, Sunday October 23rd 2011, I attended a talk by author Ross King at the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) – very enjoyable!
Ross King is the author of a number of art history (and fiction) books, two of which I have in my collection. This talk based on King’s 2006 book “The Judgement of Paris”, coincides with current exhibitions at the AGA – A Passion for Nature: Landscape Painting from 19th Century France and 19th Century French Photographs.
The approach of King’s book and this talk was to compare two French painters in the mid-19th century, the time in which Impressionism was born. King presented a picture of the era, the time of Emperor Napoleon III. It was a a time of change, of modernization but also a time of tradition and a longing for the simplicity and stability of earlier times. The leading French painter of the time was the traditional painter Ernest Meissonier, a painter noted for his highly detailed depictions of battle scenes, a painter who was commanding the highest prices ever at the time! Ironically, his name is pretty much forgotten today while the artists and movement that were developing (and ridiculed) at the same time, are now the most broadly known of all time. I am speaking of Impressionism. King chose to contrast Meissonier with the generation younger Edouard Manet, who would become the supportive father figure to all of the famous names associated with French Impressionism.
The talk was just over an hour long (with a good question session), so King couldn’t go very deep or dig into all of the nuances of the time and these two artists. Still the talk was very interesting and inspiring – I will have to re-read Judgement of Paris some time soon.
Ross King’s other most notable book (for my tastes and interests) was his 2010 publication, Defiant Spirits, The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven which talks about the Canadian Group of Seven and significantly its ties to the French Impressionism. I reviewed that book in this earlier blog post.
Today I got back to the Art Gallery of Alberta. My first motivation was to re-visit the Emily Carr exhibit. My second reason was a visit to the new exhibition of abstract paintings by Lawren Harris, renowned landscape painter with the Canadian Group of Seven.
Lawren Harris was a founding member of the Canadian landscape school but even in some of his later landscape paintings the move to abstraction was very apparent. This exhibit, simply and appropriately called Lawren Harris Abstractions, focuses solely on the abstract works later in Harris’ career. The core of this relatively small exhibit are six paintings from the Art Gallery of Alberta’s own collection. Supplementing those works are sixteen from the National Gallery of Canada. Probably half of the works are large (a meter or two) paintings and very interestingly there are a number of abstract sketches, some apparently preparatory sketches for the works on canvas. There is a certain spirituality to Harris abstracts relating to Harris’s following of Theosophy.
I really enjoyed these Harris works and spent some time studying the curves, colors, shapes, volumes and composition. They are interesting from across the room and intriguing up close. The Harris exhibit runs through to September 11, 2011.
For more about Harris and his abstracts check out this CBC story from 1961.
The other exhibit I had an opportunity to visit today was Nature and Spirit: Emily Carr’s Coastal Landscapes. I had seen this exhibit a few weeks ago and at the time vowed to visit again. It was just as impressive this time as it was the first time. I focused just on Carr’s paintings today foregoing the companion exhibit of Canadian west coast native art and artifacts. For more on my first visit see my earlier blog post.
The Carr exhibit runs until 2011 June 5 and I will get back, at least one more time.
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting “Nature and Spirit: Emily Carr’s Coastal Landscapes” at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton. Anyone that knows me well, will know that I count Emily Carr among my most favorite and influential painters.
I never miss an opportunity to see Carr’s work in person. A few years ago I took in a great show in Ottawa at the National Gallery. Any time I get to Vancouver I make a point of visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery with probably the greatest permanent collection of this west coast Canadian painter. Fortunately this AGA exhibition was organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and features many of their key, and my favorite works. Among the great works that caused by slow trip past the works to come to a complete stand still were Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky and some luscious views of the interior of the west coast rainforests (specific titles escape me at the moment).
Like the national exhibition a few years ago this exhibit of paintings is complemented by Haida Art: Mapping an Ancient Language, an equally large display of west coast native art and artifacts. The indigenous west coast peoples and cultures were a huge influence and inspiration for Carr so this pairing is ideal.
This exhibition (of 35 Carr paintings) began 2011 March 5 and runs through to June 5. If you are in the Edmonton area this is a must see exhibition. I’ll be back, a few more times – guaranteed!
Yesterday I popped into the Art Gallery of Alberta for a short visit. I only had time to take in one of the half dozen or so ongoing exhibits, and the one I was there to see was Timeland (2010 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art).
Located on the top floor of the AGA, this exhibit is diverse, challenging and interesting. Although I had hoped to maybe see a bit of Alberta landscape in paintings, this was not what this show is about. It is contemporary – modern art – the stuff that will challenge and frustrate the traditionalists and delight, amuse and inspire thought in the open-minded. There is some painting, video, sculpture, installations – something for all contemporary tastes.
With 22 diverse artists represented in this exhibit, I will not attempt to talk about each but I will mention a few of my favorites.
Lyndal Osborne has a wonderful assemblage of shells and other natural objects in jars, beakers and flasks. Rubber tubes connecting the containers evoke the feeling of a scientific laboratory workbench.
There was some painting to satisfy me in this exhibit. I liked the works of Paul Bernhardt – some large colorful abstract inspired by non traditional landscape subjects (parking garages, industrial settings).
The next to last piece, as you work through the exhibit, might have been my favorite. Rita McKeough, installation piece is intended to bring thought to explosive urban development that is swallowing the grasslands of the prairie. It was effective, I felt moved as I walked through this space populated with many, many models of structures and construction cranes.
That leaves another 19 artists/works that I have not mentioned. To learn more, I recommend checking out the AGA’s Timeland web page or better yet, see these works in person. This exhibit, curated by Richard Rhodes, is on until August 28 2010 (only another week as I write this). If you are in Edmonton I suggest this show (and the AGA in general) is worth a visit .