Vision after the Sermon

On October 22, you’ll be able to see some incredible artworks at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Of them all, I’m most looking forward to Gauguin’s Vision after the Sermon.

.

ABOVE: Paul Gauguin, Vision after the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel), 1888, oil on canvas, 28.7 x 36.2 inches

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) seems to be on a role as of late, and it looks like that’s going to continue with Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more (opening on October 22). After viewing some of the works on the AGO’s website, I’m most excited to see Vision after the Sermon by Paul Gauguin. Here is a little about the piece.

Painted in 1888 and purchased by the National Gallery of Scotland in 1925, Vision after the Sermon is one of Gauguin’s most famous works, in part, because it marks his transition from plein air landscapes to religious iconography.

In the painting, the women have just listened to a sermon based upon Genesis (32:22-32) which tells the story of Jacob, who, after crossing a river with his family, gets into an all-night wrestling match with an unknown angel. They are separated from their vision by a tree that cuts across the visual plane, and, to draw attention to the scene before them, the ground on which they stand is painted red. About the piece Gauguin wrote “for me, the landscape and the fight only exist in the imagination of the people praying after the sermon.”

In a few months, I’ll get to see it in person. I can’t wait.

Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum

Lawren Harris isn’t the only artist worth checking out at the Art Gallery of Ontario this summer. The Theaster Gates show on the 5th floor is worth a visit as well.

.

Two weekends ago, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to see The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris. While there, I also saw Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum.

First, a little about the man:

Theaster Gates is an activist/urban planner/artist whose work seeks to revitalize poor neighborhoods. Living and working in Chicago, he has become famous – in part – for restoring vacant buildings and turning them into cultural institutions.

Now, a little about the show:

How to Build a House Museum is closely related to the work Gates does in Chicago. In it, he seeks to immortalize Frankie Knuckles – a legendary DJ often credited with the creation of House music – by building a museum in his honor. In addition to a mini chapel erected in his name, there is a dance hall with an iceberg shaped disco ball, and funky beats. It is a fun and energetic tribute, but, like most of Gates work, it’s full of cultural/political implications.

Packed with thought provoking imagery and statistics relating to the black experience in America, this is a powerful little show that serves as a nice compliment to the somewhat staid Lawren Harris exhibition downstairs. If you’re heading to the AGO, you should check it out. It’ll leave you with lots to think about.

Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum is at the Art Gallery of Ontario until October 30, 2016.

Lawren Harris at the Art Gallery of Ontario

I recently visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to see it’s latest exhibition, The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris. Here are some of my thoughts on the show.

.

Of all the art shows to come to Toronto this year, none had me more excited than The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris. I finally got to see it a few days ago and as I had expected, it was impressive.

The exhibition, which is broken into three parts, begins with work inspired by life in one of Toronto’s poorest neighborhoods, the Ward. It was there that Harris cut his teeth as an artist, and as such, the paintings at the beginning of this section bear little resemblance to those at the end. They’re all good, but the later ones are better.

The middle section stands in stark contrast to the first and contains some of Harris’s most beloved work. The paintings here were inspired by Canada’s arctic, and owing to that, are sparse in nature and grand in scale. Although a bit cold (no pun intended), they are strikingly beautiful and provide a nice escape from the summer heat.

The final section represents yet another shift for Harris and the works on display are mostly abstract. While I can appreciate his artistic evolution, I liked these paintings the least.

If I’m being honest, this exhibition isn’t perfect. I would have liked a little more info on Harris because as great as the paintings were, I didn’t leave knowing much more about him than when I entered. That said, I suspect that for most folks, the artwork itself will be more than enough – there were a lot of people when I went, and they all seemed engaged.

The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris is at the Art Gallery of Ontario until September 18, 2016. I highly suggest you go.

The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson

Canada’s vast wilderness contains a great deal of beauty – and a great deal secrets. Of all it’s mysteries, one of the biggest concerns the death of painter Tom Thomson.

.

ABOVE: Tom Thomson, Artists Camp, Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, oil on wood, 8.6 x 10.7 inches, Thomson Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Algonquin Provincial Park and while there, visited Canoe Lake. Arguably the parks most famous lake, it was here that the body of Tom Thomson was found on July 16, 1917. To this day, his death remains a mystery.

Thomson’s body was found floating on Canoe Lake eight days after he disappeared, and his death was quickly ruled an accidental drowning. He was buried within a day of being discovered, then exhumed and reburied two days after that.

In the years after his passing, his art became more and more beloved, and owing to that, people began looking into his death, and the circumstances surrounding it. Suspicions arose.

As this all occurred nearly a hundred years ago, we’ll probably never know what really happened. Nonetheless, here are a few theories:

  • In 1956, Thomson’s original resting place was dug up and human remains were found. Medical investigators determined that the body was that of an unidentified aboriginal, but there are those who believe it to be that of the great artist (the remains have since been lost).
  • Although ‘accidental drowning’ is the official, and most widely believed cause of death, there are a few that believe Thomson took his own life. One theory suggests he did so because he had failed to garner any recognition as an artist. Another, that he had impregnated a local woman.
  • Even darker, there are those that suggest murder and believe that Thomson was killed in a fight, or struck down by poachers.

Whatever the cause, there can be no denying Tom Thomson’s role in the defining of an era. While his death may forever remain a mystery, his work will live on for generations to come.

In the Land of the Great Canadian Painters

Two weeks ago, I visited Oxtongue Lake and Algonquin Provincial Park. Being a fan of A.J. Casson and the Group of Seven, it was fun to visit their old stomping ground.

.

ABOVE: A.J. Casson, The Bay, Oxtongue Lake, July 1982, oil on board, 12 x 15 inches

BELOW: The location from which the above was painted (marked with a plaque at the Blue Spruce Resort)

From coast to coast, Canada is a nature lovers dream, and of all it has to offer, the areas in and around Algonquin Provincial Park are some of the finest. It was here that a few of this nation’s greatest artists traveled and worked, and it was here that I humbly visited in their footsteps.

My vacation started at the Blue Spruce Resort where one of my biggest artistic influences, A.J. Casson stayed on multiple occasions. He loved to sketch and paint around Oxtongue lake, and the cottage he rented with his wife still stands on the resort today. I can see why they visited so often; there’s plenty to do on site, and it’s perfectly situated to explore all the area has to offer.

From the Blue Spruce, it’s a short drive to Algonquin Provincial Park which covers almost 3,000 square miles, and contains over 2,400 lakes. The park is a vast wilderness virtually untouched by man, and it was a favorite of another Group of Seven painter, Tom Thomson. He traveled and painted extensively in the park, and on July 8, 1917, his short life came to an end when his body was found floating on Canoe Lake. To this day, nobody knows what happened.

For the adventurous – and those skilled with a canoe – there are a ton of things to see and do in the park. For the less adventurous, there are plenty of well marked trails along highway 60. Whatever you choose, this place is spectacularly beautiful. I didn’t paint while there, but I went bonkers with my camera.

If you’re a fan of the Group of Seven and/or a lover of nature, then Algonquin Provincial Park is the place for you. And, if you’d rather cottage then camp, so too is the Blue Spruce Resort.

A bucket list adventure, if ever there was one.

CHIHULY at the ROM

Last Sunday, I visited the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to see a selection of works by famed glass artist Dale Chihuly. Here are some of my thoughts on the exhibition.

.

ABOVE: Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling, 2012, installation

BELOW: Dale Chihuly, Float Boat, 2014, blown glass and wooden boat

I like all types of art for all types of reasons, and often, what I like wouldn’t fall into anyone’s definition of beautiful. That said, I do appreciate aesthetics, and sometimes, I like an artwork for it’s beauty alone. One artist whose work I do consider beautiful is Dale Chihuly. He’s currently showing at the Royal Ontario Museum, and last weekend, I stopped by for a look.

I really enjoyed this show, and I loved the fact that photography wasn’t just allowed, it was encouraged (Instagram, here I come). What I didn’t love was the price of admission. It was way too steep.

If you’ve heard about the exhibition and are debating whether or not you should go, I highly suggest you do (if you can afford to). It isn’t overly intellectual, but it is jam packed with eye-candy, and based upon the reactions of the people I saw there, it’s a real crowd pleaser.

CHIHULY is at the ROM until January 2, 2017.