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Posts Tagged ‘Emily Carr’

Jack Shadbolt- Presence After Fire – 1950

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An artist is no bigger than the size of his mind.

–Jack Shadbolt (1909-1998)

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I have to admit that I knew little of the Canadian painter Jack Shadbolt before this morning. But I was immediately taken by his use of bold colors and forms along with an interesting use of symbolism depicted in a blend of representation and abstraction. I was also impressed with the scale of his many triptychs, their size giving the work greater weight. Just interesting work to put it simply.

There is a good short bio of Jack Shadbolt that you can read by clicking on this link. It gives you an idea of the forces, such as his World War II experiences, and people–his friendship with iconic Canadian painter Emily Carr, for example– that shaped his work. It also makes clear the influence his work has in his homeland.

One thing I discovered was that as Shadbolt was suffering at the age of 89 from congestive heart failure, his wife brought him home from the hospital. She set up a hospital bed in the center of his studio in British Columbia so that he might be surrounded by his paintings and be in that place where he had spent most of his time at his life’s work. He died there in his studio several days later.

I thought to myself that would not be a bad way to go. That is, if for some reason I decide to die someday.

But the focus today is on the short quote above, one with which I heartily agree. Whenever speaking to students I try to stress the need to grow their mind, to become an interesting person with something to say. To read more. To watch and listen more. To simply think and continue to learn.

Technique without an active mind behind it bears lifeless work.

At least, that’s my opinion. And Shadbolt said that beautifully and succinctly.

Now, take a look at some of the work of Jack Shadbolt.

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When I read the line above taken from the journal of the great Canadian artist Emily Carr (1871-1945), it really hit close to the bone for me. I thought about my early forays in my youth when I believed I wanted to be a writer.

I loved the words and their power, their ability to create emotion and reaction in the mind of the reader. But I cared little about creating narrative, about the details, the nuts and bolts, involved in storytelling. It was the essence of things that interested me, the atmospheres of silence and distance and empty space.

It was all too heady for an uneducated and inexperienced kid. I didn’t know what to do with writing that evolved into what seemed to be ethereal nothingness. More and more, it became a frustrating exercise.

And I think that is where painting came in for me, at a time when I truly needed it. I found that painting, especially landscape painting, was less about narrative and more about that essence, about capturing moments of atmosphere and perceived emotion and spirit.

The unwordable and the unformable, as Emily Carr put it.

I definitely see this evocation of essence in the work of Emily Carr and can only hope to find the same in my own.

 

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Do not try to do extraordinary things but do ordinary things with intensity.

–Emily Carr
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Emily Carr was one of the first artists that came to mind when I saw the question last week that asked if you name five female artists. She is most likely off many of your radars but I am sure some of my friends to the north in Canada recognize her name very well.
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Carr was born in 1871 and died in 1945 in Victoria in British Columbia. Aspiring to be an artist, she was trained in the tradition of classical painting methods early in her life. But the first decade of the 20th century saw her work take a radical turn. After a period of time in Paris, influenced there by the Fauvist and Post-Impressionist with which she met and painted, her work took on bolder colors and more expressive brushwork.
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She took this new found energy back to Canada where she opened a gallery in Vancouver in 1912. The gallery faltered as she failed to see the response that she had hoped for. Dejected, she basically put down her brushes for the next 15 years, doing little painting.
However, some influential people were aware of her work, especially paintings she had executed with the native tribes of Canada as her subjects, and in 1927 she was invited to show a group of work in an exhibit about the tribes of the West Coast at Canada’s National Gallery in Toronto. It was here that she met Lawren Harris and  other painters who made up the fabled Group of Seven, which were several great Canadian painters of the time who had distinct modernist styles. I have featured the brilliant work of Lawren Harris here several times.
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Encouraged by Harris, who proclaimed her as one of that group, Carr was rejuvenated and for the remainder of her life worked with great vigor, trying to capture the spiritual essence of her native homeland. Like Maudie Lewis, Carr is a Canadian national treasure.
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I am enchanted by much of her work and the spirit that is imbued within it. This has been a very cursory look at her life with just the highlights and a few images and a video. Please do some research on your own. It’s well worth the time.


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