Here’s another post from one of the students in our Student Advisory Council! Today, we hear Helena Vondrus’ take on Emily Carr’s Glade and House.
When we think about Canadian art, we inevitably think about the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. These are artists that have been established as Canadian icons and are constantly being reaffirmed as such. Canadian exhibitions feature their well-known landscapes almost instinctually and it is not unlikely to see inexpensive prints adorning the walls of elementary schools nation-wide. Even Carleton’s own University Gallery has a few of their original works, like Glade and House by Emily Carr. This artwork shows her experimental approach to rendering the landscape that made these paintings not just her own, but the nation’s as well.
Emily Carr was born and spent much of her life in Victoria, British Columbia. Thus, it is not surprising that a great deal of her work draws from these surroundings. One such painting is Glade and House, an undated, oil-on-paper painting. In this work, Carr has depicted a clearing in a forest inhabited by a single small house in a surrounding of towering trees. Several stumps included in the foreground emphasize the dramatic height and of the woods.
The brushstrokes with which the trees are expressed are visibly energetic. In fact, the entire scene expresses motion and energy. The viewer’s eye swings through the whole canvas with a continuous movement – from the ground, to the trees, and the sky. Although there seems to be a more clearly delineated foreground, in which the scene opens up and presents the stumps, she creates a series of interweaving, mysterious planes among the trees. The forms push and expand forcefully. Rather than creating elements of the scene that pop with the use of contrasting colours, Carr makes everything blend together by using complementary tones next to one another, like the greens and browns of the trees. This creates an overall atmosphere in which the sky, trees, and earth seem to vibrate.
While the work is mysterious with its undulating lines and complex depiction of space, the scene is not forbidding. This is because of Carr’s rippling sky filled with yellow streaks of sunlight and white clouds. Glade and House takes on expansiveness and flow in comparison to Carr’s better-known works centered around depicting Native culture, specifically their totem poles. This painting, which is more a study of the forest itself, shows the importance of movement and rhythm to the artist. She seems to draw from the cubist observations of movement and applies it to the Canadian landscape in a very different way.
The fluidity of the oil-on-paper technique allowed Carr to give form to her inspiration almost immediately. The painting takes on the air and immediacy of an experimental sketch. Canada’s landscape is depicted in an innovative way that captivates both national and global audiences.