Posts Tagged ‘David Blackwood’

Lawren Harris Bylot IslandThere seems to a big void in my collected knowledge, which is not too large to begin with, when it comes to artists form our neighbor to the north, Canada.  I’ve written about David Blackwood, the master printmaker whose work documents the world of the Canadian maritimes, on this blog a couple of times but beyond that, I come up short when thinking about Canadian painters.  Based on what I know about other Canadian artists in other fields such as music, acting and writing, I figured there had to be a wealth of great painters waiting to reveal their work to me. I wasn’t disappointed.

Lawren Harris Mt Lefroy - 1930This all came about because  I had a comment the other day comparing my brushwork to a Canadian painter who I was not familiar with in the least, Tom Thomson.  I am saving his story for another day because it is a big story with twists and mystery.  But Thomson is considered one of the pillars of Canadian painting along with the artist whose work I am showing today, Lawren Harris.

While doing a search for Thomson, I stumbled across a mention of Harris and followed the link.  The images of his work jumped out at me.  Strong, simple images of the Canadian landscape with beautiful color and form with a sense of abstraction that I found irresistible. The Google Image page  with Harris’ paintings just glows.  How had I not heard of this guy or Thomson  or any other Canadian painters?

LawrenHarris-North-Shore-Lake-Superior-1926Lawren Harris was born into a relatively wealthy life in 1885 in Brantford, Ontario, his family part of the Massey-Harris company that made farm and construction equipment.  After attending college in Toronto, he headed to Berlin in the early years of the 20th century where he painted and started his involvement with Eastern philosophy and Theosophy, which he maintained throughout the remainder of his life.   He was one of the founders of the Group of Seven which is a  group of Canadian painters of formidable talent from around 1920 until the mid 1930’s , a group which deserves much more attention than I can give at the moment.  In the 40’s, Harris  headed out to Vancouver where his work became more and more abstract. He died in 1970.  Buried on the grounds of the McMichael Art Gallery in Ontario, his work has sold for impressive sums in the years since.  In 2010, the painting at the top of this post, Bylot Island, sold for 2.8 million dollars.

LawrenHarris-Mount-Thule-Bylot-Island-1930I really identify with a lot of the things I have read in my brief research into Harris, how he felt that art was “a realm of life between our mundane world and the world of the spirit.”   I like the continuing simplification of his work and his expression of spiritual emotion through his explorations of color and form as he saw them in the starkness of the Canadian landscape.  It’s hard to believe he has escaped my notice, and probably most of America’s as well, for so long.  Just beautiful work…Lawren-Harris-Isolation-Peak-1930lawren_harris_greenland_mountains_c1930-450x379

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With all the heat lately, I’ve been seeking at least an imagined respite by looking at the work of Canadian printmaker David Blackwood, whose work I highlighted here a couple of years back.  Set in the Canadian North Atlantic provinces of Labrador and Newfoundland,  Blackwood weaves a black and white (sometimes with a bit of color) tapestry that is filled with the myth and mysticism of people who somehow survive in a cold and harsh landscape.  If you know of the book or movie  The Shipping News from Annie Proulx, you’ll be somewhat familiar with some of the tales that shaped Blackwood’s world.

I am always engrossed by both the sheer beauty of his images as well as this world he seeks to both document and create.  The stories have their own narrative but there is a quality to them that seems beyond the local flavor of it, as though they are telling some primal tales that are part of our collective memory, pieces of a whole that we don’t even realize we are part of or that even exists.  Maybe the stark desolation of this world makes this struggle for survival seem more evident, more contrasting.  Whatever the case, I find them beautiful to see and stimulating to the mind.  And they never look like 100 degrees in the shade.

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dblackwood7-captain-ned-bishop-home-in-wesleyvilleI just wanted to say a few words about another influence on my work, this time from Canadian printmaker David Blackwood.  I first stumbled on his work several years ago when I came across a documentary on him called, fittingly, Blackwood.  It was nominated for an Oscar as best documentary when it came out in the mid-70’s and brilliantly depicts his technique and how his art and the personal mythology of his home are intertwined.

David Blackwood  Man Warning Two BoysMuch of his work deals with Newfoundland and Labrador and its hardy inhabitants.  There are whalers and Mummers, lost parties adrift on the ice, colorful kites flying over a frozen starkness and houses being dragged across ice.  It is fascinating work and beautifully done.  He has created his own visual vocabulary that resonates in his pieces.

This meager description of his work doesn’t do it justice and I encourage those interested to do a bit of researchBlackwood Daybreak The Labrador Sea and discover this treasure for themselves. He has a beautiful website that I will add as a link and there is a beautiful book, David Blackwood: Master  Printmaker that I highly recommend, with a foreword from Annie Proulx, whose own The Shipping News owes much to the mythology that Blackwood’s work depicts.

Really great stuff.  I always enjoy pulling out his book and absorbing the great compositions and sense of place he creates in his work.  Always inspiring…

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