I saw an exhibition this weekend of paintings by Emily Carr, Canadian painter and writer, a woman as independent and solitary as the landscape around her which she loved and which inspired her.
Wandering from room to room, I saw a change in her paintings that fascinated me – the artworks I loved most where those when she seemed to let go of convention most freely, when her brushstrokes followed wind and weather in the forest, unrestricted by any painterly ‘shoulds’ and ‘buts’, becoming more and more abstract. She became known as the ‘Canadian van Gogh’.
One painting I stayed with for a while is called “Happiness”. It seems unusually cheerful in comparison with the other paintings:
I left the exhibition with this on my mind – risking a little more freedom, letting go of more that binds me to what is expected of me… Not a new thought. Just a recurring one. When I get too settled in convention, I get restless? I still dream of a little house and regular work and a settled life. But I dream of a life too in which I allow myself more play, more joy, more freedom to try and see what happens – with less concern about what others will think of me if I fail, if I mess up – or is it about what I myself will think of me? If I could just care a little less about that… It seems to matter so much.
What would happen if I let go of this fear of judgment, just a little bit, a little more?
I think I am afraid that being different will mean being alone.
I enjoy solitude. I don’t enjoy isolation.
I’m just one of many who have this same struggle. Thinking this fear is the truth of what would happen.
And art, maybe most of all things, opens my eyes to the possibilities. Opens my eyes to what I am missing, what is there for me to take if I just had the courage or enough trust; it opens my eyes to all I could open myself to.
And to see the possibilities is all it takes, sometimes… Where is Emily going to take me? Into the wilderness she painted, the free movements of sky and see and trees, into a sense of natural being. And I try to let her.
All paintings by Emily Carr. I don’t own the rights to any of them.