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Posts Tagged ‘Lawren Harris’

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I myself incline to drift, to accept a lesser situation rather than strive for a greater, and yet, I know that character in life and art is only made by an effort that is quite beyond one’s ordinary everyday acceptance of things as they are. 

–Lawren Harris, Letter to Catherine Whyte

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Came across this quote from one of my favorites, the painter Lawren Harris, and it really stood out for me on a couple of fronts.

Personally, it was a reminder that an artist’s character is developed by continuing to push beyond what they know they can do. To become more and not settle for the situation as it is. It’s easy to do what you know is possible but trying to do what you are not sure is within your grasp builds confidence, builds character. That is what moves the needle.

That’s an important thing for any artist to have in mind. I know I have to kick myself on a regular basis to not lull myself to sleep by doing what I know I can do and not attempting to do that new thing that seems too much for me to handle.

But on a larger scale, Harris’ words speak to where we are as a nation at this very moment, We are in a crucial moment and what happens in the coming days and weeks will determine both where we are headed as a nation and what makes up our collective character. Do we take the easy way that just accepts things as they are? Or do we pull from deep within our character and do that which is right even though it might require true effort and perhaps even sacrifice?

I wish I could say which way it will go but I don’t know. I believe that there is so much more that will be soon uncovered that to maintain the status quo will be untenable and there will be big change.

That the character we aspire to as a nation will finally come forward.

But that’s just my belief. Like all beliefs, without effort, it’s not worth much.

I thought the painting at the top, Light House at Father Point, was a great symbol for this post. The light house is a warning device, one that alerts sailors that they are approaching an area where they must proceed with caution.

We are at such a point as well. If we don’t pay attention we could end up on the rocks.

Let’s heed the warning from our own light house and not just take what is at hand as being the way things should be.

Let’s make an effort.

Let’s be more.

Let that define our character.

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Lawren Harris- From the North Shore, Lake Superior ca 1927

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Art is not an amusement, nor a distraction, nor is it, as many men maintain, an escape from life. On the contrary, it is a high training of the soul, essential to the soul’s growth, to its unfoldment.

–Lawren Harris

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Whenever I need a lift or a reminder that what I am doing is a mere triviality, it’s always good to revisit the work and words of the late painter Lawren Harris.

Harris, who died in 1970 in his native Canada at the age of 85, had a way of capturing of grand spaces and forms and imbuing in them a sense of absolute stillness. It’s a created atmosphere that is conducive to the unfolding and growth of one’s soul.

Some might say that this in itself is an escape from life and, in the simplest terms, they would be correct. But art transcends the mere act of escape in that while doing so, it provides the space and nourishment for the growth of the soul.

I know that I have often looked to art as a safe haven, an escape from the cruelty and often illogical nature of the outside world.

But it was never just that single thing. This separation between the outer and inner world created an environment, a time and place, where lessons could be learned and insights could be formed. These lessons and insights become part of who we are and then undoubtedly travel with us back into that outer world.

No, art is not an amusement or an escape. It changes us in fundamental ways and by that, we are always made better.

I needed to write that this morning, if only for myself. Thanks, Mr. Harris, I feel a little better now.

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Busy today getting things around for a delivery tomorrow to my friends at the Kada Gallery in Erie. But there’s always enough time to consider a Lawren Harris painting along with a few of his words.

He’s right. Art is long. Life is short. He mentions art in the form of a picture but I believe any true artistic creation can become that highway to a universal feeling, one that lives on eternally in a  location somewhere beyond all we know.

Hmm. Think about that, will you? I got work to do and will think about it as I work.

Have a great day.

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In these crazy times, there is some comfort to be found in art. For me, the paintings of Lawren Harris always fill the bill. His work definitely represents a quality of spiritual harmony, that thing, that force, that universal mind that remains stable even as the world drastically seemingly changes before our eyes.

So, this morning I am taking a few moments and taking in his 1926 painting, Mountain Forms, shown above.

And I feel better already.

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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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In the inner place where true artists create there exists a pure child.

Lawren Harris

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I was planning on throwing up a quick post with a video of some of the paintings from another favorite of mine this morning.

Quick. Easy. Done and I’m on my way to the rest of my day.

The problem is that once I start looking at the paintings of Lawren Harris time just evaporates for me. I find myself just staring at so many different pieces, taking in their colors, their harmonies, their stillnesses, and their sheer beauty, that time floats away. I find myself enthralled by his work maybe more than any artist I’ve encountered.

The video below is a group of his work set to a Barhms sonata. A few of the images are a bit fuzzy but it’s a pretty well done video and gives a good idea of the full range of Harris’ work. So while this post is short today be advised that it is one that might take up some of your time. It took a bunch of mine this morning!

But that’s not a complaint. It was my pleasure.


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Lawren Harris- Ice House, Coldwell, Lake Superior 1923

Lawren Harris- Ice House, Coldwell, Lake Superior 1923

Art is the distillate of life, the winnowed result of the experience of a people, the record of the joyous adventure of the creative spirit in us toward a higher world; a world in which all ideas, thoughts, and forms are pure and beautiful and completely clear, the world Plato held to be perfect and eternal. All works that have in them an element of joy are records of this adventure.

Lawren Harris

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I love this quote from the great painter (please note that I didn’t preface it with Canadian) Lawren Harris.  I know that whenever I am working and am excited with the joy of what is unfolding before me, I feel closer and more connected to some sort of power that is beyond my knowledge.  It’s as though I feel tapped in to that winnowed result of the experience of a people as Harris puts it.  That is a great feeling, exhilarating and calming at the same time.  It is ultimately the feeling that brings one to art, both as a viewer and a creator.

Unfortunately, in the course of creating, it is sometimes a feeling that is forgotten, put aside for ends other than this element of joy.

It’s easy to do, believe me.

But rediscovering that joy is like coming across it for the first time.  Even though you know you have experienced it before, it feels all new and shiny, full of promise.

Effervescent– that is the word that comes to mind when I think of these moments of joy.

So, let me stop right here.  I am close to my own joy and don’t want to delay it for another minute.  Effervescence will not wait around too long, you know.

Hope you find some of your own today.

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