Remebering the AGO; Becoming the Group of Seven


                                                       Tom Thompson

Well, since I wrote that last post about Saskatchewan, I have been feeling a little obsessed by landscape painting, particularly Canadian landscape painting. It is a strange feeling for me because all through college I never "got" what all the fuss was about. I think it is really difficult to view your own culture objectivly when you are in it. I also think that, at least for me, it was probably rooted in some art student rebellion. Being a painter in Canada meant I must paint landscapes, right? So I painted still life. Not soley for that reason, but probably partly; at least at first until I grew to love all those cups and newspapers. Of course I was also that art student who never "got" Van Gogh until I stood in front of my first real one at the MOMA in NYC. I burst into tears.  My first real visceral reaction to a work of art.  I stood there wiping at my eyes; suprised at my reaction. I was stunned at how little I understood about art and was humbled by how far I had to go in my practice. He is called a Master for a reason.

The second time my heart stopped in front of a painting was (and even as I write this I feel like it is somehow such a Canadian cliche to admit) the room of Group of Seven Paintings and Tom Thompson at the AGO. I can't  pinpoint a single painting that was most meaningful because my reaction had as much to do with the way that gallery is curated as the art itself. It feels like every piece they ever painted hangs there. One after another, no labels. It is like taking a cross-country walking tour of our country. Our country. The Canadian landscape is a part of all of us who live here. And so I think their painting legacy just has to be a part of every Canadian painter that follows them. How can it not? Once you have seen the work in person, especially in those particular rooms, you feel more Canadian. Cliche, maybe, but also true.

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