Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Emily Carr and the Haida Basket


Emily Carr was influenced by Lawren Harris, a Group of Seven painter, noted for his effectively simple and powerful paintings which captured the atmosphere of the Canadian north. Many people linked her works to Van Gogh's Romantic impressionism. But there is more to this painting. While this work is impressionistic, it is also has strong qualities of realism. The lines are hard and the angles are sharply described, metaphorically indicating a life which was defined by hard realities.

Emily's Haida village appears like a metaphorical basket. It is painted with strong bold colours and it contained the lives of people who lived interconnected lives, in buildings which touched and were linked to one another.

The village basket is wrapped beneath defining folds of a cloth of deep ultramarine blue waves of mountains. The mountains and sea were defining features in the lives of these people.

But the basket, while being rich with design, is empty. There is a sense of desertion. The people are gone, and their structures are indicative of the cultural richness of the life they left behind.

The Haida village basket is pinned together by the spiritual presence of tall, black, totems which are staggered throughout the village and stick out of the ground like upraised darning needles from a ball of wool at the bottom of a sewing basket, joining together the native tapestry by linking the earth with the sky.

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