The Universe Sings At The Film House
By Mike Keenan
The Film House at the FirstOntario PAC is yet another downtown St. Catharine’s asset, and Saturday at 4 p.m., I sat amidst many others watching “Where The Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey Of Lawren Harris,” the sort of film one might only otherwise view in Toronto at an arts-oriented venue.
This 2016 production directed by Peter Raymont and Nancy Lang was a 90 minute feature, a portrait of Canada’s celebrated artist, co-founder and leader of the legendary ‘Group of Seven,’ whose canvasses routinely sell for several million dollars.
Harris, an attractive man, was raised in a family of wealth and privilege. In the 50s, Canadian manufacturer Massey-Harris became Massey-Ferguson, expanding their international operations and laying claim to the title of largest worldwide agricultural manufacturer.
Viewing his notebook doodling, a professor suggested Harris try art studies in Europe so off he went to Germany. Upon return, we watch his art evolve from snowy homes and buildings to expansive landscapes in Algoma to Arctic icebergs and finally unique abstract art, his works embodying a relentless pursuit of pure spirit.
Prior to this screening, there was a ‘Special Event discussion about the life and work of Lawren Harris’ at NOTL’s RiverBrink Art Museum. Director/Curator Debra Antoncic moderated the post-screening Q&A with special guests the co-director/producer team of Peter Raymont and Nancy Lang. That’s the kind of great local programming that helps set the Film House as truly unique.
Harris is my favourite painter. I viewed his incredible work first at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg. Born in 1885 in Brantford, he died in1970 in Vancouver after living for a while in New York City and Santa Fe. In 1913, he and J.E.H. MacDonald visited and were inspired by an exhibition of contemporary Scandinavian art at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. By the early 1920s, when the Group of Seven was formed, Harris had developed into a gifted landscape painter, transforming powerful forms of nature into works of potency and grace such as ‘Above Lake Superior’ (1924) and ‘Maligne Lake’ (1924).
A touring exhibition of Harris’ work, curated by American actor, comedian and writer Steve Martin, opened in Los Angeles, California in 2015. The bulk of his work is found in the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario.
In November, 2016, Lawren Harris’s iconic ‘Mountain Forms’ (1926) sold at auction in Toronto for a record $11.21 million, the highest price paid for a Canadian artwork to date.
The Film House is an experience that you will enjoy, offering up notable films such as the newly acclaimed ‘Destroyer’ with Nicole Kidman. And you can sip wine or beer as you watch. Check out their program at –
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