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Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria looks at Emily Carr and 20th century Canadian modernist painters
David Milne, Entrance to Saugerties Harbour, 1916, watercolour on paper, 38.7 × 55.9 cm, Gift of Patrick Stewart.

VICTORIA, BC.- In their first exhibition of 2019, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria looks at Emily Carr and 20th century Canadian modernist painters through a new lens. Unformable Things: Emily Carr and Some Canadian Modernists opens with a by-donation Public Open House at the Gallery on Jan. 19, 2019.

The exhibition, which runs in the AGGV’s Graham Gallery through Oct. 27, 2019, explores the emergence of an increasingly experimental approach to art-making in Canada, an approach that Emily Carr once described as the search for “essence,” or “the unformable things one wants to paint.” All of the works in the exhibition are drawn from the AGGV collection.

“While recent AGGV exhibitions featuring the work of Carr have focused on the artist’s biography (Emily Carr: On the Edge of Nowhere and Emily Carr & the Young Generation) or her philosophical concerns (Picturing the Giants: The Changing Landscapes of Emily Carr), this exhibition looks at her through a more classically art historical lens, considering her place amongst her peers and in the development of 20th century Canadian painting,” says Michelle Jacques, AGGV Chief Curator and curator of the exhibition.

Unformable Things: Emily Carr and Some Canadian Modernists was partially inspired by recent writings on Canadian modernism which examined the exhibition David Milne: Modern painting, organized by the Dulwich Picture Gallery, in London, England and travelled to the Vancouver Art Gallery during the summer 0f 2018.

In one response, writer Christopher Varley observed a difference between Milne’s approach to painting the landscape and that of B.C.’s revered painter of the forests: while Carr’s “identification with nature was absolute,” Milne’s “need for art was greater than his need for nature.”

“In this observation rests the idea that in the search for “the essence” that Carr describes as the goal of modern art, “the essence” can be defined in many ways. For Carr, it was the spiritual connection she felt to nature. For Milne, it was the creative drive that he felt when painting, something that he called the “aesthetic quickening,” says Jacques. “This difference in how Carr and Milne defined the essence of their work inspired us to explore some of the different approaches to Modernist painting represented in the works in the AGGV collection.”

Unformable Things: Emily Carr and Some Canadian Modernists will feature David Milne’s, Entrance to Saugerties Harbour (1927), the painting’s first time in an exhibition at the AGGV since it was received as a donation from local philanthropist Patrick Stewart in 2017.

Other artists featured in the exhibition are; Maxwell Bates, B.C. Binning, Bruno Bobak, Molly Lamb Bobak, Bertram Brooker, Barbara Bullock-Webster, Paraskeva Clark, Charles Comfort, Wilfrid Flood, Lawren S. Harris, Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher, Prudence Heward, A.Y. Jackson, J.E.H. Macdonald, Jock Macdonald, Max Maynard, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Florence Helena Mcgillivray, Laura Muntz, George Pepper, Dorothy G. Rice-Jones, Sarah Robertson, Anne Savage, Jacques De Tonnancour, Ina D.D. Uhthoff, Frederick Varley, Vera Weatherbie, York Wilson and Jan Zach.

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