A visit to the VAG
Harris underwent as broad and striking an artistic evolution as Picasso, from representative, to impressionistic, then sculptural, then geometric and finally spiritual. European training would seem to have moved him from representative to impressionistic, though this may have sown the seeds of theosophy as well. WWI seems to have caused a depression from which he was lifted by exposure to the wilds of Canada – to nature, and his most broadly recognized signature: voluptuous textured sculptural images of mountain and glaciers. I would like to have seen more of these, but gather many are owned elsewhere. The change from this to his ruler straight drafting of geometric shapes represents a seismic shift in style that is hard to comprehend. This shift, from the visual to the intellectual, to the spiritual demands an understanding of abstraction itself. Late in life, he seems to have loosened his geometrics to more organic forms. I find it striking how this retrospective of a long artistic life demonstrates that personal experiences can change the way one actually sees the world. This seeing extends from the ocular globe to the visual cortex, and then from other cerebral functions including imagination to the fabrications that produces. Abstraction can be a very personal process that leaves casual observers confused. Is it personal or universal?
Burtynsky’s photographs offer a global sampling of man’s impact on the landscape. The scale of his vision and his works is vast. It captures a terrible beauty, overwhelming but impossible to resist. The power of these works I found to be greater in his shows containing multiple variations on fewer themes (e.g. Sudbury tailings, shipbreaking, etc.). Some of his recent images (irrigation circles in Texas, for example), were it not for the tiny cars and farmhouses, remind me of abstract art more than photography.
Altogether, though, value for money & lots of food for thought.