Sunday, October 11, 2009

Exploring the Spiritual Link between Georgia O'Keeffe, Emily Carr, and Lawren Harris by Jim Kalnin

North Shore, Lake Superior, Lawren Harris

The western art tradition of spiritually focused landscape painting, of which Paterson Ewen would be an unintentional and reluctant contributing member goes back far before his time. It really started with the Romantics in 18th century Europe and evolved from their idyllic views of nature. After several subsequent art revolutions, it now includes a wide and still growing range of styles and sensibilities. Almost everyone in the western world has watched golden rays of sunlight breaking through dark clouds and has associated that light with heaven. We see other aspects of the world as spiritual metaphors as well. Lofty mountains are enduring and uplifting dark forests symbolize mystery, flowing rivers and flowering trees represent the source of all life. These are just a few of the parallels drawn by artists in many cultures and especially by those who live where wilderness is a large part of life.

Paterson Ewen's predecessors purposefully explored these metaphors in their life from different points of view. Some rendered trees and mountains as minimal essential forms in order to present the essence of life. These artists managed to create a powerful sense of presence in the way they painted.

Georgia O'Keeffe's painting of flowers and bleached bones and Emily Carr's dark forests are good examples of this. Carr's dark and lyrical forests are alive with spirit. They fill me with the same sense of reverence I get from walking in a real west coast rain forest. like the ones that inspired her. O'Keeffe's minimalist painting of bleached bones and cactus flowers bring a similar sense of awe of walking in a southwest desert as well as the understanding of the interconnectiveness of all things.

Lawren Harris, a contemporary of Carr's also painted the landscape in simplified and stylized forms that could inspire a sense of spirit or grace. His austere paintings of icebergs, mountaintops, or bare rock hills are full of spirit and life. Almost all religions incorporate the tree of life as a condiut between the physical plane of existence and the source of all life. Harris's painting North Shore, Lake Superior, continues this tradition in a surprising way, using as his subject a tree stump.

Text: The Spirituality of Art,
Essay Two: Art as Sacerdos pg. 39-40
Essayist: Jim Kalnin
Publishers:North Stone Publishing Co., Kelowna, BC.

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