Monday, December 12, 2011

Emily Carr Part One

While travelling on the bus I have noticed some artwork on Granville Street so Saturday I walked down there with my camera and got a closer look. This is a project between the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design to beautify the city and hopefully cut down on graffiti. The artists have their work displayed on ugly, electrical boxes making the structures a piece of art.

This piece is aptly entitled Granville and was created by artist Joyce Inhwa Seo.

But I want to do more than just show you the artwork I photographed. I want to tell you about the woman behind the university, Emily Carr.

Carr was born in Victoria, the second youngest of six children. Her parents Richard and Emily Saunders Carr were English born and settled in Victoria due largely to the city's British influence. Here Richard Carr felt he would be able to raise his children in a decidedly English manner with all the customs the elder Carrs were used to. It was also possible for the senior Carrs to hold onto their British passports this way.

The family was quite religious and attended a Presbyterian church. The children were expected to be able to recite the sermon which is something Emily had difficulty with.

This is Whale Sounds 2 by Nick Goebel

The Carrs lived in a home that was in lavish English fashion with high ceilings, ornate mouldings and a parlour room. It was located on Birdcage Walk in the James Bay district of Victoria not far from the 'birdcages' or legislative buildings. (Birdcage Walk is now Government Street)

Emily's talents were supported and encouraged by her parents but it wasn't until after their death that Emily began to take her art seriously. She enrolled in the San Francisco Art School - the nearest proper art school - from 1890 to 1892. After her sojourn there she returned to her hometown of Victoria.

Now you are looking at 4 am by Zara Haque.
It was in 1898 that Carr made her first of several sketching and painting trips to the aboriginal (First Nations) villages. A year later Emily went to London to study at the Westminster School of Art. She also spent some time at an artist's colony in Cornwall before returning to British Columbia in 1905.

It was at the Ladies' Art Club that Emily Carr tried her hand at teaching the craft she loved. But that didn't work out so well and Carr only lasted a month since students started boycotting her classes. She was rude and smoked in class and cursed her students. We can't all teach. Some are better at doing.

This is Granville in the 50s by Sterling Richter.
In 1907 Emily and her sister Alice went on a holiday to Alaska. Once again Emily was enthralled by the artwork of the indigenous people she met. She was determined to document the sculptural and artistic legacy of these people using her art.

In 1910 Carr returned to Europe to advance her study of the ever changing trends in art. It was in Montparnasse with her sister Alice that Emily met the person who would influence her style of art. Henry Gibb,  a modernist painter, both shocked and intrigued the sisters with his use of vibrant color and distortion.

Arantxa Garcia created Van Origami.
Instead of the pastel colour scheme she was used to, Emily now adopted a colour palette of vibrancy. She returned to BC to exhibit some of her French paintings.

It was in 1912 that Carr painted her iconic work Big Raven, a painting of a carved raven. This painting and another entitled Tanoo were inspired by a trip she took that summer to the Queen Charlotte Islands and Skeena River.

Although there was some positive reaction to Carr's work her perception of the reaction was that it wasn't positive. She returned to Victoria and spent the next fifteen years doing little painting and running a boarding house called 'House of All Sorts'. She also wrote a book about her experiences at that time under the same name.
Wednesday I will tell you more about the Canadian icon Emily Carr and show you more of this impressive artwork.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Grey City Grid by Mark Illing

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