Seasoned readers know that my appreciation of art can take complex forms. I lived near the Tate Britain in London from June 2016 to March of 2017, made many trips to that glorious institution, co-authoring a book In Conversation and In Contemplation at the Tate Britain. I now live within blocks of Vancouver Art Gallery, quickly became a member and adherent. My visits are increasing and have taken a definite pattern. I often go to gaze at two paintings, temporarily present as part of the Levy collection. The magnet is Monet’s Waterloo Bridge.
I went to gaze upon the painting over the weekend and found another woman who was similarly riveted. We began to chat about the profound effect it had upon us. Brook was visiting from Washington, D.C. The painting is mesmerizing we decided – it has a dream-like quality despite its depiction of smoke stacks and other urban monstrosities. Brook and I share similar habits – she has stellar museums in her home town. I have visited them on more than one occasion. She was, of course, envious of my two and a half years in London. I drew Brook’s attention to my other favorite. She was most impressed with this artist, previously unknown to her as well. I left stopping at the gift shop briefly but returned breathlessly to the gallery telling Brook that the cover of the exhibit book was the Monet painting.
But I broadened my horizons during my next visit and journeyed to the fourth floor to view Emptiness: Emily Carr and Lui Shou Kwan. I spied two women gazing intently at an Emily Carr painting. I joined them. It was called Wood Interior and it was masterful. One of the women was from Burnaby, the other visiting from Taiwan. The three of us agreed that the amazing thing was that we could ‘climb inside’ – the painting drew you into the interior of the woods. You were there, in the woods. It was stunning, one of my iPhone pictures will adorn this blog. I went on to view other paintings, part of this collection. In an adjacent room there was a photograph of Emily Carr. I almost fainted dead away because (if you notice carefully) one of her eyebrows is lower than the other. I was struck by a motorcycle on September 13, 2014, the second day of my London sojourn – I looked the wrong way when crossing the street. I landed on my head – nearly died but the only remnant of the accident is that one of my eyebrows is lower than the other, just like Emily Carr. I went back down to the first floor and told one of my favorite employees How-Now-Brown Cow (obviously a nickname) of this occurrence.
He: You must be reincarnated!
Me: There would be nothing I would want more as I admire her intensely. But I cannot even draw, much less paint.
He: But you did that book of the Tate – so you can take photographs and you can write!
Me: I never thought of that!
I borrowed a book from the Vancouver Public Library: Charlotte Gray’s The Promise of Canada. She devotes a chapter to Emily Carr, quoting something Emily wrote in 1929. “We may not believe in totems, but we believe in our country: and if we approach our work as did the Indian with his singleness of purpose and determination to strive for the big thing that means Canada, and not hamper ourselves by wondering if our things will sell, or if they will please the public or bring us popularity or fame, but busy ourselves by trying to get near to the heart of things, however crude our work may be, it is liable to be more sincere and genuine.” WOW! So more to do – read the chapter on Emily Carr and go back to the gallery with a greater appreciation of her as a person and an artist. I spoke with Gail, a volunteer Ambassador at VAG and we concurred that it was most important to learn of the artist as it leads to a greater appreciation of their art. I learned that, rather by accident, doing the book about the Tate Britain which led me to research the life of the artists. It did enhance everything.
It is almost time for me to move on within the Levy collection. I found one picture to focus upon. The painter is Lucien Freud, the painting: Naked Man On a Bed. I began to speak to a staff member and we both decided that it perfectly depicted despair.
Me: I do not know what happened to this man but whatever it was, it was awful.
He: I agree!
This seems magical and hence rather scary. My limited library contains a book by Geordie Greig entitled: Breakfast with Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist. I must have purchased the book in London. There are naked men in the book but not the particular painting that hangs is a few blocks away. Oh my gosh – more books to read, It is a good thing that I am in good health as long as I stay out of the path of motorcycles.