Maloney writes: "The paintings in The Idea of North are fluid, frictionless semblances of place, composed of rhythmic forms that fold and undulate. They are ideas instead of sites. Each group shares the distinctive traits that signal the artist’s style during this period: centrally composed landscapes with slaking light and scant vegetation. Trees are bare or dead. The time of day is indistinguishable. Mountains and clouds predominate, homologously shaped by the same forces: wind, water, snow. Architecture is almost entirely absent ... Harris’s landscapes are unpopulated, and we are situated at their edge, peering in, as if not to sully them."
Homer writes: "Although Carr was one of the most advanced artists in Canada in 1913, she could not sell a single work. So her paintings languished for more than a decade in the lodging house that she opened to provide a new stream of revenue in 1913... That could have been the end of her story. But instead it was just the beginning. In 1927, the director of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa learned of Carr’s existence and selected her to be the principal exhibitor of a major show about the art of British Columbia. In Ottawa, she encountered the Group of Seven, whose member Lawren Harris, said: 'You are one of us.' Their collaboration opened a new chapter for Carr: she began to paint dramatic landscapes such as Indian Church (1929), with trees towering like totem poles at Friendly Cove, where Captain Cook landed in 1778. This friendship encouraged Carr to discover her own spirituality in the forest and the sea, reflecting the belief system of “theosophy” – the idea of searching for the divine in the everyday."
Cumming writes: "Dulwich has more than a hundred paintings and drawings on show, but [the] forests are the peak – the pitch – of them all. It feels as if the great firs, oaks and spruces, the birches and maples of British Columbia are Carr’s own private totem poles. They have force of personality for her, with their uprushing trunks and dancing boughs, and their enduring, towering masses. Forests are like cities in her art, places where humanity comes together, even though there is never another person in sight."
Milroy writes that "Ross King [recently] debunked the popularly held Canadian view of these artists as pioneer woodsmen-savants, revealing instead their ties to the painterly traditions of Britain, France and Holland. This well-timed exhibition thus allowed us the opportunity to reconsider their accomplishments in light of this argument, demonstrating how their passionate love of the land was married to a painterly sophistication honed in dialogue with inherited artistic traditions."
Enderby writes: "United by a common aim to challenge accepted authority, the modus operandi of Thomson and the group was to create a visual language and artistic identity to express the Canadian landscape, breaking all previous moulds... However, we also gauge from the work how these artists were interested in exploring and grappling with the desire for a new artistic identity through experimentation with style, such as (post) impressionism and fauvism."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.