Transcript: Lawren Harris's Canada | Jul 01, 2016

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and lilac tie.

A caption on screen reads "Lawren Harris's Canada."

Steve says FOR DECADES, THE
PAINTINGS OF LAWREN HARRIS AND
THE GROUP OF SEVEN PRACTICALLY
DEFINED CANADIAN ART.
NOW, FRESH EYES HAVE REVIVED
CANADIAN INTEREST, AND SPARKED
INTERNATIONAL ESTEEM, THANKS TO
A NEW EXHIBIT CURATED IN PART BY
THE SUPERBLY AND MULTI-TALENTED
ACTOR, COMEDIAN, PLAYWRIGHT,
ARTIST, AND BANJO-PLAYING
STEVE MARTIN.
JOINING US NOW TO HELP EXPLAIN
THIS RENEWED APPRECIATION OF
HARRIS AND HIS WORK:
ANDREW HUNTER, CURATOR OF
CANADIAN ART AT THE ART GALLERY
OF ONTARIO AND CO-CURATOR, WITH
STEVE MARTIN, OF THE EXHIBIT
"THE IDEA OF NORTH: THE
PAINTINGS OF LAWREN HARRIS";

Andrew is in his mid-fifties, bald and clean-shaven. He's wearing glasses, a gray suit, and a pink polo shirt.

Steve continues AND TOBI BRUCE, DIRECTOR AND
SENIOR CURATOR, ART GALLERY OF HAMILTON.

Tobi is in her fifties, with long straight brown hair and bangs. She's wearing glasses and a blue cardigan over a black shirt, as well as a beaded necklace.

Steve continues I'M DELIGHTED TO WELCOME BOTH OF
YOU HERE TO TVO.

Andrew says IT'S GREAT TO BE HERE.

Steve says LAWREN HARRIS, GROUP
OF SEVEN.
ANDREW, THAT MAY BE ALL MOST
PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT HIM.
SO LET'S FLUSH THIS OUT A BIT.
TELL US MORE.

The caption changes to "Andrew Hunter. Art Gallery of Ontario."
Then, it changes again to "An artist is born."

Andrew says THAT'S TRUE
OF A LOT OF THE ARTISTS
ASSOCIATED WITH THE GROUP.
PEOPLE TEND TO THINK OF THEM IN
THAT ISOLATED WAY, JUST GROUP OF
SEVEN.
HARRIS WAS BORN IN CANADA, BORN
IN BRANTFORD, CAME BACK TO
TORONTO IN THE TEENS, WORKED
WITH A GROUP OF ARTIST THAT
WOULD BECOME THE GROUP BUT WAS
ALIGNED WITH PEOPLE LIKE TOM
THOMSON AND OTHERS, REALLY
FIXATED ON THIS NOTION OF
DEVELOPING A TRULY CANADIAN ART.
HE WAS, LIKE OTHERS, REALLY
OBSESSED WITH THE IDEA THAT
CANADA NEEDED TO EMERGE AS A
DISTINCT NATION AND ART WAS AN
IMPORTANT PART OF THAT, ART,
WRITING, THEATRE, ALL OF THOSE
CREATIVE ARTS SHOULD BE PART OF
IT.
AND SO YOU SEE IN THE CITY OF
TORONTO THIS GROUP OF ARTISTS
COME TOGETHER WHO ARE REALLY
THINKING A LOT ABOUT WHAT SHOULD
ART BE?
WHAT SHOULD CANADIAN ART BE?
AND THAT SHAPES WHAT THE GROUP
OF SEVEN BECOMES, THE SORT OF
MODERN MOVEMENT, PRIMARILY
LANDSCAPE PAINTING BUT NOT
SOLELY, PAINTING ALL OVER THE
COUNTRY.
THAT'S A PERIOD FOR LAWREN
HARRIS THAT GOES FROM 1920 TO
THE EARLY '30s, AND THEN HE
HAS A PHENOMENAL LONG CAREER
AFTER THAT AND NOT IN TORONTO
BUT IN THE UNITED STATES AND IN
VANCOUVER.
SO THERE'S A DEEPER STORY
PRE GROUP OF SEVEN THAT ISN'T
ABOUT LANDSCAPE THAT'S ACTUALLY
ABOUT PAINTING THE CITY AND
THINKING A LOT ABOUT THE HUMAN
CONDITION IN A SORT OF GRITTY,
MODERN WORLD...

Steve says LET ME DO ONE
FOLLOW-UP ON THAT.

Andrew says YEAH.

Steve says IT WILL BECOME
ABUNDANTLY CLEAR AS I COMPLETE
THIS QUESTION THAT THIS IS NOT A
PROFESSIONAL ART COMMENT I'M
ABOUT TO MAKE.
BUT IF THERE IS A LOOK TO THE
GROUP OF SEVEN, HIS LOOK IS A
LITTLE DIFFERENT FROM THE REST
OF THE GROUP OF SEVEN.
DO YOU KNOW WHY THAT IS?

Andrew says ABSOLUTELY.
AND I THINK THAT'S PARTLY WHAT
HIS INFLUENCES WERE, I THINK
IT'S A LOT OF WHAT HE WAS
LOOKING AT WHAT WAS GOING ON
INTERNATIONALLY, AND I THINK IT
WAS A LOT TO DO WITH JUST THE
WAY HE WORKED AND THE WAY HE
THOUGHT.
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY THIS MOMENT
IN THE EARLY 20s WHERE YOU SEE
KIND OF DIVERGENCE IN THE WAY HE
APPROACHES PAINTING AND THE
IDEAS THAT HE'S EXPLORING, AND
REALLY THE REST OF THE GROUP.
HARRIS WAS A CLASSIC MODERN
ARTIST IN THAT HE WAS ALWAYS
MOVING, RIGHT?
HE WAS ALWAYS PUSHING HIMSELF.
HE WAS ALWAYS LOOKING TO REFINE.
HE REALLY DIDN'T APPROACH IT
LIKE, "I'M GOING TO FIND THE WAY
AND THEN I'M JUST GOING TO DO
THAT."
AND SO I THINK THAT'S PART OF
IT.
AND I THINK IT'S ALSO THAT HE
CREATED PAINTINGS THAT, YES, IT
WAS ABOUT BEING A MODERN ARTIST,
YES, IT WAS ABOUT A PARTICULAR
SUBJECT MATTER AND THE
LANDSCAPE, HE BELIEVED THAT THE
LAND WAS CRITICAL TO A STORY FOR
CANADA.
BUT HE ALSO PAINTED IN A WAY
THAT WAS QUITE DISTINCT FROM THE
OTHER ARTISTS, AND THAT'S THIS
KIND OF ICONIC... HE CREATED
THESE ICONIC IMAGES, POWERFUL
IMAGES.

Steve says I WANT TO FOLLOW UP
ON THAT.
BEFORE WE TALK ABOUT THE EXHIBIT
AND STEVE MARTIN AND ALL OF
THAT.
WHEN HE WAS DOING WHAT HE WAS
DOING, TOBI, HOW WAS HE
INITIALLY RECEIVED AT THE TIME?

The caption changes to "Tobi Bruce. Art Gallery of Hamilton."

Tobi says WELL, THE
GROUP... THAT'S A MIXED ANSWER
BECAUSE... BECAUSE THEY WERE
PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES SO
PROGRESSIVELY, BEFORE THE 20s,
BEFORE THEY FORMED AS A GROUP,
BUT ALSO IN THE EARLY 20s.
INITIAL REACTION IS MIXED.
TERMS ARE USED NOT SPECIFICALLY
FOR HARRIS BUT FOR OTHER MEMBERS
OF THE GROUP, WORDS LIKE
DISASTROUS AND GROTESQUE AND THE
INSIDE OF A DRUNKHARD'S STOMACH.
A MacDONALD PAINTING, "THE
BEAUTIFUL GARDEN," IS EQUATED TO
A LARGE TOMATO SALAD.
BUT BY THE TIME THE GROUP FORMS
AND THEY HAVE THEIR 1922
EXHIBITION... SO THEY'RE A
COUPLE OF YEARS IN NOW...
THERE'S A MORE PRONOUNCED... ON
THE PART OF THE CRITICS
PARTICULARLY, THEY'RE REALLY
GIVING THEM A LITTLE BIT MORE
LEEWAY AT THIS POINT.
THEY RECOGNIZE THAT THEY'RE
DOING SOMETHING NEW AND IN A NEW
PICTORIAL LANGUAGE, THAT THEY'RE
PUSHING THE BOUNDS.
SO WHETHER OR NOT THEY CAN SORT
OF COME TO TERMS WITH THIS
LANGUAGE OR NOT, THEY RECOGNIZE
THAT SOMETHING NEW AND EXCITING
IS HAPPENING AND THAT WHAT'S
BEEN HAPPENING THAT REALLY MAKES
THE WORK THAT'S BEEN PRODUCED UP
TO THAT TIME PRETTY TIMID AND
PRETTY OLD WORLD...

Steve says WHAT DID THE CRITICS
HATE SO MUCH ABOUT WHAT THE
GROUP OF SEVEN WAS DOING AT THE TIME?

Tobi says THERE WERE A
COUPLE THINGS.
THE LANGUAGE THAT THEY USED,
THIS BOLD... THEY'RE WORKING IN
A POST IMPRESSIONIST MANNER.
THIS REALLY HADN'T BEEN SEEN IN
CANADA.
SO THEY'RE USING VERY BOLD
COLOURS, VERY TACTILE PAINT
APPLICATION.
THEY'RE LOOKING TO GET AT THE
ESSENCE OF SOMETHING AS OPPOSED
TO A QUOTE, UNQUOTE, ACADEMIC OR
REALIST DEPICTION OF SPACE.
SO, YOU KNOW, THEY HAD
SUPPORTERS.
THEY WELCOMED CRITICISM.
THEY WANTED TO CREATE A
DIALOGUE.
THE PAINTINGS DIDN'T SELL IN THE
EARLY DAYS, BUT THEY DID HAVE A
GREAT SUPPORTER IN ERIC BROWN,
WHO WAS THE DIRECTOR OF THE
NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA AT
THE TIME.
AND HE WAS REALLY FUNDAMENTAL IN
SUPPORTING THEIR WORK FROM SORT
OF DAY ONE BECAUSE THEY HAD A
SHARED STRATEGY, THE GROUP AND
ERIC BROWN, THE TWO BODIES WERE
VERY INTERESTED IN CREATING A
NATIONAL ART AND CREATING A NEW
LANGUAGE FOR CANADIAN ART THAT
STOOD AGAINST WHAT HAD BEEN
PRODUCED BEFORE.

Steve says ISN'T IT FUNNY THAT
SOMETHING THAT WOULDN'T HAVE
SOLD ALMOST 100 YEARS AGO NOW
COSTS 5 MILLION dollars TO BUY.
THAT IS KIND OF FUNNY.
I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE STEVE
MARTIN BUSINESS NOW.
YOU'VE GOT THE EXHIBIT AT THE
AGO, STEVE MARTIN CO-CURATED
THIS EXHIBIT.
HOW DID ALL THAT COME TOGETHER?

Andrew says TWO THREADS
REALLY BROUGHT IT TOGETHER.
A LONG... STEVE'S BEEN A GREAT
COLLECTOR OF ART FOR A LONG
TIME, KNOWS ART REALLY WELL,
STARTED REALLY THINKING ABOUT
ART WHEN HE WAS QUITE YOUNG AND
WHEN HE WAS TOURING DOING
STAND-UP, HE ALWAYS TELLS THE
STORY, EVERY NEW TOWN HE'D GET
TO, HE'D KILL THE AFTERNOONS IN
A MUSEUM LOOKING AT ART.
ALWAYS INTERESTED IN AMERICAN
ART AND EARLY 20TH CENTURY
MODERN AMERICAN PAINTING.
AS HE SAID HE DISCOVERED LAWREN
HARRIS THROUGH HIS INTEREST IN
EARLY AMERICAN PAINTERS, ARTHUR
DOVE AND PARTICULARLY EDWARD HOPPER.
IF YOU GO BACK A WAYS, HE
ACTUALLY CAME TO TORONTO OVER 10
YEARS AGO, MET KEN THOMSON, CAME
TO THE AGO JUST AS THAT
TRANSITION WAS HAPPENING AND
REALLY SORT OF LOOKED AT THE
WORK.
A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO THE HAMMER
MUSEUM AT U.C.L.A. REACHED OUT
TO STEVE, THEY KNEW EACH OTHER
WELL, TO ASK HIM IF HE'D LIKE TO
BE INVOLVED IN THE DEVELOPMENT
OF THE EXHIBITION.
AT FIRST HE WAS, NO, I'M NOT A
CURATOR, I'M A WRITER, A
MUSICIAN, A COMEDIAN, THAT'S FOR
SOMEBODY ELSE, THAT'S FOR THE
EXPERTS.
THEY SAID WE'LL PARTNER WITH AN
INSTITUTION IN CANADA AND YOU'LL
WORK WITH GREAT CURATORS.
THEY REACHED OUT TO US AT AGO
BECAUSE STEVE NEW THE COLLECTION
AND FELT WE WOULD BE A GOOD
PARTNER.

Steve says YOU'VE HAD THE GROUP
OF SEVEN THERE FOR HOW LONG?

Andrew says ME
PERSONALLY I'VE ONLY BEEN THERE
THREE YEARS, BUT THE A.G.O., LIKE A
CENTURY.
AN TOBI WAS SAYING, ERIC BROWN,
THAT'S A GREAT CONNECTION.
BUT THE FIRST OFFICIAL SHOWS OF
THE GROUP OF SEVEN WERE ALL AT
THE ART GALLERY OF TORONTO AND
NOW THE A.G.O.
MANY OF THE MAJOR WORKS OF
HARRIS AND OTHER GROUP OF SEVEN
MEMBERS HAVE BEEN AT THE AGO A
LONG TIME.
SO STEVE KNEW... HE REALLY
WANTED TO PARTNER WITH US
BECAUSE OF THAT CONNECTION BACK
TO TORONTO, BACK TO KEN THOMSON.

Steve says YOU'VE WORKED WITH
HIM?

Andrew says YEAH.

Steve says YOU'VE SPENT TIME
WITH STEVE MARTIN.

Andrew says YEAH.

Steve says WHAT'S THAT LIKE?

Andrew says IT'S GREAT.
ONE OF THE THINGS I LIKE ABOUT
WORKING WITH STEVE, I THINK
PEOPLE HAVE THIS IDEA THAT A
CELEBRITY IS GOING TO HAVE
HANDLERS AND ALL THESE PEOPLE
AROUND.
HE'S TOTALLY INDEPENDENT.
HE TRAVELS ON HIS OWN.
WE WENT TOGETHER, HIM AND I AND
ALSO CINDY BURLINGHAM FROM THE
HAMMER, TRAVELLED, LOOKED AT THE
PAINTINGS.
HE DIDN'T MAIL IT IN.
THIS ISN'T ONE OF THESE THINGS
I'LL PUT MY NAME ON IT AND GET
ANDREW TO CURATE.
HE DIDN'T CURATE FROM A BOOK.
WE HAD REALLY GREAT, TOUGH
CONVERSATIONS ABOUT HARRIS' WORK
AND WHAT THE BEST WORK WAS AND
ABOUT PAINTING.
SO I ACTUALLY... ONE OF THE
THINGS I REALLY LOVED ABOUT
WORKING WITH STEVE WAS... THIS
IS GOING TO SOUND SURPRISING,
SOMETIMES AS A CURATOR OVER THE
YEARS YOU LOSE THESE MOMENTS TO
JUST SIT AND LOOK AT ART AND
JUST LOOK AT A PAINTING.
IT BECOMES ABOUT A LOT OF OTHER
THINGS.
AND STEVE LOVES PAINTINGS.
HE'S VERY THOUGHTFUL AND HE HAS
A LOT TO SAY.
I LEARNED A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE
DEEPER HISTORY OF AMERICAN ART
FROM WORKING WITH STEVE.

Tobi says IF I CAN JUMP
IN?
HE CAME TO HAMILTON WITH
CINDY... ANDREW WASN'T ABLE TO
COME THAT DAY.
I REALLY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO
EXPECT.
I WAS REALLY IMPRESSED BY THE
WAY HE THOUGHT ABOUT PAINTING.
WE SPENT A COUPLE OF HOURS IN
THE VAULTS LOOKING AT WORK.
HE ASKED REALLY GOOD QUESTIONS,
VERY THOUGHTFUL.
HE KNOWS PAINTING.

Steve says HE'S SO MUCH MORE
THAN JUST A COMEDIAN.

Tobi says ABSOLUTELY, ABSOLUTELY.
HE WAS VERY, VERY FOCUSED.
WHEN HE LEFT, WHEN THEY ALL
LEFT, I THOUGHT THIS IS GOING TO
BE A REALLY INTERESTING
COMBINATION OF PAINTINGS.
YOU KNOW, THIS EXHIBITION WILL
BE SOMETHING THAT WE HAVEN'T
SEEN BEFORE.

Steve says PEOPLE WHO ARE
FUNNY... THIS IS A COMPLETELY
OFF THE PATH KIND OF QUESTION
HERE... BUT PEOPLE WHO ARE FUNNY
SOMETIMES FEEL AN OBLIGATION TO
BE FUNNY IN EVERY SETTING.
WAS HE A WILD AND CRAZY GUY WHEN
YOU WERE WITH HIM?

The caption changes to "tvo.org/current-affairs"

Tobi says NOT AT ALL.

Andrew says I THINK IT'S
THE TIME OF THING THE MORE TIME
YOU SPEND, THE MORE
COMFORTABLE... YOU GET TO KNOW
EACH OTHER BETTER.
LIKE TOBI AND I WORKING
TOGETHER, THE GUARD DROPS AND
YOU GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER.
BUT, NO, THIS WAS A... HE WAS
REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT DOING THIS
PROJECT, JUST LIKE WHEN HE
WRITES A NOVEL OR WORKS ON A
PLAY OR A MUSICAL OR HE WORKS
WITH THE BAND, IT'S NOT A
NOVELTY ACT.
HE TAKES IT VERY, VERY... HE
WOULDN'T HAVE DONE IT UNLESS HE
FELT HE COULD CONTRIBUTE.
THE OTHER THING I'LL SAY IS WHAT
WE'RE DOING HERE AT THE AGO WITH
THE SHOW, YOU KNOW, THE CORE OF
IT IS THE SHOW THAT WAS IN THE
UNITED STATES, THIS SORT OF
AMAZING GROUP OF JUST OVER 30
NORTHERN LANDSCAPES.
BUT WE'VE REALLY BUILT A WILDER,
EXPANDED... WIDER, EXPANDED
PROJECT THAT'S ABOUT TORONTO
THAT'S GROUNDED IN TORONTO AND
I'VE TAKEN THE LEAD ON THAT BUT
ALWAYS IN DIALOGUE WITH STEVE.
HE REALLY FELT THAT THE SHOW AS
IT MOVED FROM L.A. TO BOSTON TO
TORONTO, THAT IT WOULD CHANGE
WHAT IT WAS ABOUT.
IT WOULD DO DIFFERENT THINGS.
AND HE RECOGNIZED THAT TORONTO
IS OUR TOWN AND HE'S GOING TO
BRING SOME NEW INSIGHTS BUT ALSO
HE'S INSPIRED US.
HE'S BEEN A REAL CATALYTIC
PRESENCE.
YEAH, IT'S BEEN INSPIRATIONAL.

Tobi says I'D ALSO SAY
THAT... I ACKNOWLEDGE AND CREDIT
ANDREW AND THE TEAM BECAUSE IT'S
VERY TEMPTING TO DO A
BEGINNING-TO-END STORY WHEN
YOU'RE PRESENTING AN ARTIST, THE
GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.
AND EVERY ARTIST HAS STRENGTHS
AND WEAKNESSES, GOOD WORK AND
WEAKER WORK.
AND IT'S A TRAP THAT WE
SOMETIMES FALL INTO.
AND WHAT I REALLY LIKE ABOUT THE
ORIGINAL CONCEPTION OF THIS
PROJECT, AND AS MR. MARTIN SAID,
HE SAID WE'RE REALLY JUST
LOOKING TO SORT OF HIT THEM OVER
THE HEAD WITH THE VERY BEST.
SO HE WAS LOOKING AT IT VERY
OBJECTIVELY AND NOT AS A LONG
ARC.
I WOULD SAY HARRIS AS ALL OF THE
GROUP HAS THE MOST INTERESTING
LONG ARC.
TO BE ABLE TO FOCUS IN, YOU
KNOW, CONGRATULATIONS.

Andrew says THANK YOU.

Steve says CAN I UNDERSTAND THIS.
HAS LAWREN HARRIS DONE BAD AND
UGLY WORK AS WELL AS GOOD WORK?

Andrew says I THINK YOU
COULD ARGUE THAT SOME OF THE
WORK IS NOT STRONG.
I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS... YOU
KNOW, HARRIS, WHAT'S GREAT ABOUT
HIM AS A MODERN ARTIST, IS HE
STAYS COMMITTED TO CHALLENGING
HIMSELF.
I THINK A LOT... A LOT OF PEOPLE
RECOGNIZE THAT THESE CORE WORKS,
THIS SORT OF CLASSIC NORTHERN
LANDSCAPE, WHERE EVERYTHING KIND
OF ALLIANCE, THAT WHAT HE WANTS
TO DO IS IN SYNC WITH THE WIDER
CONVERSATION NATIONALLY AND
INTERNATIONALLY, IT REALLY
RESONATES.
HE'S LIKE REALLY IN SYNC, RIGHT?
THINGS ALIGN.
WHERE HE GOES OUT OF THAT MAKES
TOTAL SENSE FOR HIM AS AN
INDIVIDUAL, AS AN ARTIST, HE'S
TRYING TO FIND A PATH.
BUT IT DOESN'T QUITE SYNC, IT
DOESN'T QUITE RESONATE WITH A
WIDER AUDIENCE.
I THINK IF HE HAD STAYED IN THE
UNITED STATES, HE WOULD HAVE
FOUND A DIFFERENT KIND OF
RECEPTIVE AUDIENCE FOR THIS
TRANSCENDENTAL SPIRITUAL
ABSTRACTION.
HE DID NOT HAVE THAT AUDIENCE IN
CANADA.
WE JUST WEREN'T... PEOPLE
WEREN'T INTO THAT IN VANCOUVER
AND CERTAINLY NOT IN TORONTO.

Steve says WELL, THEY'RE INTO
IT NOW, THAT'S FOR DARN SURE.
I WANT TO JUST... SHELDON
OSMOND, OUR DIRECTOR, I'M GOING
TO ASK HIM TO PLAY A CLIP FROM A
DOCUMENTARY WE HAD ON TVO WITHIN
THE PAST WEEK.
THIS IS FROM THE DOCUMENTARY
"FROM WHERE THE UNIVERSE SINGS:
THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF LAWREN HARRIS."
IF YOU MISSED IT ON TVO, IT'S
STILL ON OUR WEBSITE, TVO.org,
WATCH IT ONLINE.
A BEAUTIFUL DOCUMENTARY ON
LAWREN'S LIFE.
WE'LL WATCH THIS CLIP AND COME
BACK AND CHAT.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "Where the universe sings: The spiritual journey of Lawren Harris."
In the clip, a man in his late sixties with a full white beard, speaks.

He says IT'S A COLONIAL DEBATE, IT'S
PEOPLE TRYING TO FIND THEMSELVES.
THE CANADIAN ELITE LIVE IN A
MID-ATLANTIC TROUGH.
BASICALLY IT'S HERE, IT MAKES
ITS MONEY HERE, TAKES ITS VALUE
AND AESTHETIC AND POLITICAL
VALUE, ET CETERA, FROM EUROPE
AND BRITAIN.

Close-up shots show an impressionist landscape of lakes and forests.

The man continues BUT HARRIS IS SAYING, C'MON,
ANCHOR YOUR MIND IN CANADA AND
THE NORTHERN LANDSCAPE.
IT'S NOT JUST GOOD FOR GETTING
MINERALS OUT AND MAKING MONEY,
BUT THERE'S SOMETHING THERE
ABOUT WHAT IS CANADA AND THAT'S
WHAT 9 tenths OF THIS COUNTRY
YOU DENY IMAGINATIVELY.

The clip ends.
The caption changes to "A fantasy north."

Steve says SO BEAUTIFULLY AND
SO BEAUTIFULLY SAID.
SO BEAUTIFULLY SAID.
TOBI, HOW DID THE WORK OF HARRIS
AT THE TIME HAVE AN IMPACT ON
OTHERS WHO WERE PAINTING AT THAT TIME?

Tobi says WELL, IT REALLY
DEPENDS ON WHERE THEY WERE
SITTING.
FOR INSTANCE, IN Québec, IN
Montréal, IN 1920, THE VERY SAME
MONTH THE GROUP OF SEVEN FORMS,
YOU HAVE THE BEAVER HALL GROUP
FORMING IN Montréal.
WHAT THEY SHARE WITH THE GROUP
IS AN INTEREST IN MODERN
PAINTING AND IN FURTHERING
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE ART
WORLD.
BUT THAT'S WHERE THE... THAT'S
WHERE IT REALLY ENDS.
THEY'RE NOT INTERESTED IN THIS
NORTHERN LANDSCAPE.
THEY'RE NOT INTERESTED IN
CREATING A NATIONAL SCHOOL OF
PAINTING.
THEY'RE INTERESTED IN PEOPLE,
THEY'RE INTERESTED IN URBAN
SCENES, THEY'RE INTERESTED IN
RURAL SCENES, IN THE FIGURE.
IN ONTARIO, AND I AUTOMATICALLY
GO TO THE WOMEN ARTISTS, THE
CONTEMPORARIES OF THE GROUP, AND
THINK ABOUT HOW THEY HAD TO
NEGOTIATE THIS SORT OF SPECTRE
OF THE GROUP WHICH CASTS A VERY,
VERY LONG SHADOW.
IN ONTARIO THERE'S A WORK IN OUR
COLLECTION BY CONTEMPORARY OF
THE GROUP, SHE ACTUALLY... SHE
WAS AT OCA STUDYING WITH TWO
MEMBERS, THE ONTARIO COLLEGE OF
ART FROM 1920 TO 1925, AND HER
NAME IS CORDIS.
WE HAVE A WORK THAT I BROUGHT
INTO THE COLLECTION BECAUSE OF
PRECISELY YOUR QUESTION.
WHAT WAS THE IMPACT ON THE GROUP
AND HOW THEY DEALT WITH IT
PICTORIALLY.
IT'S A LANDSCAPE YOU CAN
LITERALLY CUT IN HALF.
THE TOP IS A LAWREN HARRIS LANDSCAPE.

A painting appears briefly. It's a landscape of white houses with brown gabled roofs atop a hill.

Tobi continues IT IS STYLIZED, IT IS... THE
LIGHT IS QUITE TRANSCENDENT.
SHE HAS INCLUDED A TOWN WHICH IS
WHERE SHE PAINTED.
THEY WERE VERY AWARE.
THIS IS A TRIP SHE TOOK TO THE
NORTH SHORE OF LAKE SUPERIOR,
WHICH WAS ONE OF LAWREN HARRIS'
SORT OF SPIRITUAL GROUNDS.
AND SHE WAS WITH YVONNE MCKAIG,
ANOTHER PAINTER OF THE
LANDSCAPE.
THERE IS A LETTER FROM YVONNE IN
1929 FROM SCRIBER SAYING WE'RE
GOING OUT TODAY AND WE'RE GOING
TO PAINT OURSELVES A LAWREN
HARRIS.

Steve says HOW, IN YOUR VIEW,
DID LAWREN HARRIS SHAPE THE WAY
WE SEE THE NORTH OF THIS COUNTRY?

Andrew says I THINK HE'S
HAD... I THINK HE HAD A VERY
POWERFUL IMPACT ON HOW A LOT OF
PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE NORTH.
AND I THINK IT'S PROBLEMATIC.
I THINK THE BAGGAGE AND THAT
WEIGHT, THE SHADOW THAT IS CAST
HAS CONSEQUENCES.
I THINK IT PERPETUATES A CERTAIN
IDEA OF THE NORTH OF BEING A
SPACE THAT IS UNPEOPLED, THAT IS
EMPTY AND OPEN TO BE MOVED INTO.
I MEAN, THERE'S A GREAT QUOTE
FROM HARRIS ABOUT, WE STAND ON
THE FRINGE OF THIS GREAT
NORTHERN WHITENESS, RIGHT?
AND HE TALKS ABOUT RENEWAL.
IN CANADA, THERE'S THIS MOMENT
WHERE WE CAN START FRESH, WE CAN
START ANEW.
HE CRITICIZES THE CONDITIONS IN
THE U.S. THAT FOR ARTISTS THERE,
THEY'RE TOO BURDENED BY THE
URBAN AND THE CITY.
HE'S TELLING A VERY SPECIFIC AND
URBAN STORY ABOUT CANADA THAT IS
AT ODDS...

Steve says LET ME FIGURE THIS
OUT HERE.
HERE IS WHERE MY HEAD WENT AND
YOU TELL ME IF I'M WRONG.
HE SAYS THIS IS A SPACE WE CAN
MOVE INTO, THIS IS A SPACE OF
WHITENESS.
IS THAT IN SOME WAY NOT
ACKNOWLEDGING THE FACT THAT
THERE ARE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
ALREADY THERE FOR CENTURIES?

As Andrew speaks, paintings flash by. The first shows a blue house in a frozen landscape with abundant snow. The second shows an adult and a child walking in thick snow in front of a green house. The third shows a red house with a snow-covered tree in front. The fourth shows snow-capped peaks. Finally, two paintings show bare tree trunks in barren landscapes.

Andrew says I THINK TO
BE FAIR TO HARRIS, AND THIS IS
WHAT WE DEAL WITH IN THE
EXPANDED PROJECT HERE, IF YOU
LOOK AT HIS TRAJECTORY OUT OF
PAINTING THE CITY, BECAUSE HE
DOES BEGIN BY LOOKING AT
TORONTO, THE WARD OF TORONTO,
HE'S CONCERNED ABOUT THE HUMAN
CONDITION, HE'S PAINTING THIS
GRITTY CORE OF THE CITY AND HE'S
THINKING A LOT THROUGH HIS
POETRY AND PAINTING ABOUT WHAT
IT MEANS TO LIVE IN THE WORLD,
AND HE BEGINS TO MOVE AWAY
FROM... HE SEES A DIFFERENT PATH.
HE WANTS A DIFFERENT PATH.
AND WHAT YOU SEE HAPPEN IN HIS
WORK IS THE FIGURES START TO
DISAPPEAR AND I THINK WHAT HE'S
GOING FOR AS HE HEADS TOWARD THE
TRANCE SEN CAN'T SPIRITUAL
APPROACH, HE'S LOOKING FOR
ANOTHER REALITY, A POSITIVE,
HOPEFUL REALITY THAT ISN'T THE
HUMAN CONDITION IN THE EARLY
20TH CENTURY, AND IN THE PROCESS
OF DOING THAT, HE REMOVES FROM
HIS IMAGES THE VERY THINGS THAT
WOULD GIVE US A SENSE OF A
GROUNDING IN A PEOPLED HISTORY,
AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLED HISTORY,
NOT JUST INDIGENOUS BUT ALSO THE
WHOLE MIX OF PEOPLE THAT WERE
COMING TO THIS PLACE AND TO
TORONTO.
TORONTO HAS ALWAYS BEEN A DENSE,
COMPLEX, MULTICULTURAL PLACE.
THAT'S THE WORLD THAT HARRIS
MOVED INTO.
IT HAD BEEN THAT WAY SINCE THE
MID 19TH CENTURY.
HE COMES IN, HE RESPONDS TO IT,
AND THEN HE CHOOSES A PATH.
THE ISSUE... IT'S EASY TO BE
REALLY CRITICAL OF HARRIS.
I THINK WE SHOULD BE MORE
CRITICAL OF OURSELVES AS A
NATION FOR HOW WE TOLD A STORY.
THAT WE PROBABLY OVERPLAYED THE
IMAGERY OF HARRIS AND THE GROUP
TO SAY THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO
BE CANADIAN, BECAUSE BY BOLDLY
STATING THAT, WE IGNORE A
COMPLEX HISTORY THAT IS
FASCINATING AND INCREDIBLY RICH.

Steve says YOUR WISH SORT OF
CAME TRUE.
WHEN WE SAY WE THE NORTH TODAY
IT HAS A DIFFERENT CONNOTATION.
IF YOU'RE A BASKETBALL FAN,
YOU'LL KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
LET ME READ THIS FROM BORDER
CROSSINGS MAGAZINE FROM A YEAR
AGO AND, TOBI, I'LL ASK YOU
ABOUT IT.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Representing Canada." The quote reads "Whenever I look at a cluster of landscape paintings by members of the Group of Seven I respond exactly as I was intended to, and I think of the very political term, nationalism. Their work would provide a visual language for Canadians that expressed the bracing vigour and wildness of a tough and untamed, empty young country. And then I remember why I always felt, growing up on the Prairies, that these paintings described another country, some place other than mine."
Quoted from Border Crossings, September 2015.

Steve says THAT FROM BORDER CROSSINGS.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT HARRIS'
PAINTINGS THAT HAVE ALLOWED
THEM, IN YOUR VIEW, TO STAND THE
TEST OF TIME?

The caption changes to "Fuelling Nationalism."

Tobi says WELL, I THINK
BECAUSE OF WHAT ANDREW WAS JUST
TALKING ABOUT.
THERE'S A UNIVERSALITY TO THOSE
IMAGES.
THEY DON'T BECOME ANCHORED AS
MUCH IN PLACE AS A LOT OF THE
OTHER WORK BY OTHER MEMBERS OF
THE GROUP OF SEVEN.
BUT I WOULD AGREE WITH THAT
SENTIMENT, HAVING GROWN UP IN
Montréal, I DID NOT GROW UP WITH
THE GROUP OF SEVEN EITHER.
THOSE LANDSCAPES, I'M NOT A
CAMPER...

[Laughter]

The caption changes to "Connect with us: @theagenda, TVO.org, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram."

Tobi says I'M NOT A
CANOER.
I RECOGNIZE... I RECOGNIZE THE
POWER OF THOSE IMAGES AND THEY
SPEAK TO A FACTION OF THIS
COUNTRY HISTORICALLY AND IN THE
PRESENT...

Steve says BUT NOT TO YOU.

Tobi says BUT NOT TO ME.
NOT TO ME FROM THE STANDPOINT OF
NATIONHOOD, FROM THE STANDPOINT
OF NATIONHOOD.

Andrew says I THINK THE
THING THAT'S IMPORTANT THAT I'VE
TALKED ABOUT A LOT IS HARRIS AND
THE GROUP REALLY SORT OF
EMBEDDED THIS IDEA OF THE
LANDSCAPE AND CANADA AND THE
NORTH AND WILDERNESS AND THE
BUSH WHACKING MODEL THAT REALLY
STUCK.
BUT IN THE EARLY 20s, HE IS
ALREADY MOVING AWAY FROM THAT IN
HIS WRITING.
HE IS ALREADY TALKING ABOUT
TRANSCENDENTALISM AND PHILOSOPHY
AND THE SPIRITUAL.

Steve says HANG ON, HANG ON.
YOU DROPPED A WORLD THERE.

Andrew says IN A NUTSHELL
THEOSOPHY IT'S CONNECTED WITH
TRANSCENDENTALISM.
IF YOU HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE, YOU
CAN SEE IT.
AND THAT IF WE CAN FIND THAT,
IT'S ABOUT SEARCHING FOR THIS
MORE POSITIVE, HOPEFUL FUTURE
T-H-E-O-S-O-P-H-Y.
DID I GET IT RIGHT?
I DIDN'T KNOW WE WERE ON BEAT
THE PRESS, IS IT?
SPELLING BEE.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTANDING
HARRIS AND I THINK IT'S AT THE
HEART OF WHAT BOTH MAKES THE
WORK STICK IN PEOPLE'S MINDS BUT
ALSO MAKES, IN A WAY, IS
PROBLEMATIC FOR HIM, IS THAT THE
STORY HE WAS TELLING IN THE
EARLY TEENS... IN THE TEENS AND
EARLY 20s, A VERY NATIONALIST
STORY HE MOVES ON FROM, AND IT'S
THESE CLASSIC NORTHERN
LANDSCAPES OF ISOLATION PEAK AND
THE ROCKIES AND THE ART ARCTIC.
IN HIS MIND IT'S ABOUT SOMETHING
ELSE.
IT'S A PROCESS TO IDYLLIC
SPIRITUAL SENSE.
PEOPLE LOOK AT THEM AND
UNDERSTAND THEM THROUGH THE
LANGUAGE OF EARLIER AND THERE'S
A DISCONNECT.
SO WHEN HE SPEAKS OF THE NORTH,
THE FRINGE, WHITENESS, AND YOU
WEAVE THAT INTO AN UNDERSTANDING
OF NATIONALISM, WHITENESS
NATIONALISM, THAT IS NOT A VERY
GOOD COMBINATION.
SO HE KIND OF SUFFERS, IN A WAY,
FROM THAT.
I THINK THAT'S IMPORTANT TO
UNDERSTAND ABOUT HIM.

Steve says LET'S BROADEN THE
CONVERSATION HERE ABOUT PAINTING
SPECIFICALLY TO CULTURE IN
GENERAL AND TO THAT END LET ME
QUOTE FROM CHARLES FORAN...

Another quote appears on screen, under the title "Societal anxiety." The quote reads "Can a vague societal anxiety thrive for a lifetime? In English Canada it sure can. That anxiety –Do we have much of a culture? Do we much care if we don't?- has underwritten our public conversations for 70-plus years. That the root of it may be based on an inadequate conception of the collective space we inhabit is only now starting to be discussed.
We do need to find a way to inhabit our entire cultural space."
Quoted from Charles Foran, The Globe and Mail, June 17, 2016.

Steve says TOBI, WHY ARE WE
STILL SO CONFLICTED ABOUT WHAT
CULTURE IN CANADA MEANS?

The caption changes to "Being Canadian."

Tobi says WELL, I THINK
IT'S BECAUSE IT'S AN EVOLVING
PHENOMENON AND I THINK IT'S
SOMETHING THAT WE NEED TO
CONTINUALLY THINK ABOUT WHAT WE
ARE PRESENTING.
WE, AS INSTITUTIONAL CURATORS,
HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY.
I MEAN, THE STORY OF THE GROUP
OF SEVEN IS A STORY THAT HAS
BEEN TOLD.
IT'S AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR
CULTURAL HISTORY.

Steve says BUT YOU KNOW WHAT?
YOU HAVE TO TELL IT EVERY
GENERATION BECAUSE YOU CAN'T
ASSUME EVERYONE KNOWS IT.

Tobi says IF WE WENT OUT
ON THE STREET RIGHT NOW AND
ASKED SOMEONE OUTSIDE THE ART
WORLD TO NAME A CANADIAN
HISTORICAL ARTIST, I WOULD
GUESS, BETWEEN TOM THOMSON, THE
GROUP OF SEVEN, EMILY CARR, ALEX
COLVILLE.

Andrew says DRAKE.

Tobi says WE'RE TALKING
ABOUT UNDER 10 ARTISTS HERE.
AS WE APPROACH OUR CENTENNIAL
THAT IS A WOEFULLY SMALL NUMBER
AND I THINK IT IS INCUMBENT UPON
US TO START TELLING THOSE OTHER
THERE IS NOT ONE NARRATIVE, THERE ARE SEVERAL NARRATIVES.

Steve says I DON'T KNOW THAT
AMERICANS WOULD BE ANY BETTER AT
ANSWERING THAT QUESTION AND THEY
HAVE THOUSANDS MORE TO CHOOSE FROM.

Andrew says STEVE MARTIN
AND I OFTEN TALKED ABOUT THIS
BECAUSE PEOPLE WOULD SAY, OH, IS
THERE AN ARTIST IN THE UNITED
STATES LIKE A LAWREN HARRIS?
HE SAID, NO, YOU CAN'T REALLY
PINPOINT ONE PERSON WHERE YOU
WOULD SAY, OH, THAT ARTIST
STANDS FOR THE UNITED STATES.
YOU CAN TALK ABOUT O'KEEFE DOING
A CERTAIN THING OR NORMAN
ROCKWELL.
JUST TO FOLLOW ON WHAT TOBI
SAID.
WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY AND AN
OBLIGATION AS PUBLIC
INSTITUTIONS TO BROADEN THE
STORY, TO BE COLLABORATIVE AND
TO BE GENEROUS.
WE CAN'T JUST KEEP... IF WE'RE
GOING TO BE ENGAGING AND DOING
PROJECTS ABOUT THE GROUP OR
HARRIS, WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO
CREATIVELY CRITIQUE.
TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN LEFT
OUT OF THE STORY HISTORICALLY.
AS I SAID BEFORE, CANADA IS A
MULTICULTURAL SPACE, IS NOT
BRAND NEW.
SO IF YOU WALK AROUND THE STREET
AND YOU ASSUME THAT ALL PEOPLE
WITHIN BLACK COMMUNITIES IN
TORONTO MUST HAVE JUST ARRIVED
HERE, RIGHT, BECAUSE CANADA WAS
ALWAYS... IT WAS INDIGENOUS,
THEN IT WAS ALL WHITE PEOPLE,
THEN YOU MISS THIS INCREDIBLY
RICH HISTORY OF THE CITY OF
TORONTO.
SOME OF THE EARLIEST COMMUNITIES
IN THE CITY OF TORONTO WERE
BLACK COMMUNITIES.
THE EARLIEST COMMUNITIES WERE
CHINESE COMMUNITIES.
PEOPLE WERE COMING HERE FROM ALL
OVER.
THE STORY JUST DIDN'T GET TOLD.
AND YOU KNOW WE'RE IMPLICATED IN
THESE INSTITUTIONS THAT HAVE A
HISTORY OF ONLY TELLING A
PARTICULAR NARRATIVE.
THEY WERE POLITICAL
INSTITUTIONS.
AND WE NEED TO BE AWARE OF THAT
AND EMBRACE IT AND I THINK...
YOU KNOW, I'M PROUD TO BE PART
OF A GENERATION OF CURATORS THAT
TAKE THAT ON, THAT KNOW THAT WE
CAN DO BOLD PROGRAMMING, PEOPLE
ARE GOING TO BE ENGAGED, THEY'RE
GOING TO BE INTERESTED, THEY CAN
SEE THE ART, GREAT ART, BUT
GREAT ART IS POLITICAL AND WE
NEED TO EMBRACE AND UNPACK THAT.

Steve says IF IT'S NOT, TOBI,
JUST THE GROUP OF SEVEN AND
LAWREN HARRIS AND EMILY CARR.

Andrew says AND DRAKE.

Steve says AND DRAKE.

Andrew says AND TANYA TAGAQ.

Steve says WHERE DO YOU WANT
OUR FUTURE TO BE GOING?

Tobi says AS BROADLY AS
WE CAN.
AS ANDREW SAID, WE ARE A SETTLER
NATION, WE NEED TO INCLUDE
INDIGENOUS VOICES, THE VOICES OF
WOMEN.

Steve says SHIRLEY CHEECHU.

Tobi says WE HAVE
CANADIAN PORTRAIT ARTISTS WHICH IS...

Steve says WHO HAVE YOU GOT?

Tobi says NAMES THAT YOU
DON'T KNOW.

Steve says YEAH, THAT'S WHAT I
MEAN.

Tobi says MARIAN LONG,
MARTHA ETACK, PAULINE JOHNSON'S
NAME WE KNOW.
WHAT WE DID IN THE CONCEPTION OF
THAT PROJECT, THOUGH, WAS TO
BROADEN THE IDEA OF SELF
PORTRAITURE TO INCLUDE IDENTITY.
WE COULD BREAK DOWN THE
AMATEUR-PROFESSIONAL DIVIDE,
INCLUDE INDIGENOUS AND SETTLER
VOICES IN ONE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK.

Andrew says WHAT'S GREAT
ABOUT THAT PROJECT... WHAT'S
REALLY GREAT ABOUT WHAT THIS
PROJECT DOES IS IT'S NOT LIMITED
BY SOME ESTABLISHED NOTION OF,
THIS IS GREAT ART OR THAT'S
OUTSIDE.
LIKE, THE PARAMETERS AND THE
BOUNDARIES HAVE TO BE OPENED UP.
IT CAN'T JUST BE LIKE THE
TRADITIONAL INSTITUTION THAT
SETS THE RULES OF WHAT IS OR
ISN'T ART, AND THAT'S WHY IT
REQUIRES US TO BE OPEN AND TO BE
MORE GENEROUS.
TOBI HAS A GREAT APPROACH OF
WORKING EXTREMELY
COLLABORATIVELY, AND THAT KIND
OF APPROACH SHIFTS THINGS.
IT'S LESS ABOUT A SINGULAR
AUTHORITY, AND I HAVE THIS
ARGUMENT TO MAKE AND I'M GOING
TO DRILL IT INTO YOU, WHAT I
LOVE ABOUT THESE PROJECTS AND
THIS ONE THAT'S IN HAMILTON NOW
IS A GREAT EXAMPLE, AND I THINK
THE HARRIS PROJECT HAS ALSO COME
OUT OF THAT, IS A MIX OF PEOPLE
FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS AND
PERSPECTIVES UNPACKING, THINKING
ABOUT WHAT THE STORY IS AND
REWRITING IT.
THE REASON WE INVITED
CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS TO MAKE NEW
WORK FOR THE PROJECT IN TORONTO
OF HARRIS WAS TO ALWAYS BRING
NEW VOICES, NEW CONTEMPORARY
PERSPECTIVE TO IT.
HOPEFULLY THAT'S A MOMENTUM THAT
CARRIES.

Tobi says AND A DIFFUSION
OF AUTHORITY.

Andrew says I CUT YOU OFF.

The caption changes to "Producer: Katie O'Connor, @KA_OConnor"

Steve says NOW I'M CUTTING YOU
BOTH OFF BECAUSE WE'RE OUT OF
TIME.
ANDREW HUNTER, ART GALLERY OF
ONTARIO.
TOBI BRUCE, ART GALLERY OF
HAMILTON.
GREAT TO SHARE THIS CANADA DAY
WITH YOU.

Andrew says YOU TOO.

Watch: Lawren Harris's Canada