One week before the final days of the Summer session and end-of-season exhibition, my work became more and more imaginative. The whole experience was like magic. On stage, a magician makes some things disappear into the ‘unknown’, while I was making things ‘appear’ from the unknown. There in the Canadian Rockies of all places, I crossed the “Great Divide”, or what I call evolving from “Landscape to Mindscape” (c).
What is “real” in art? We think that landscapes, still life and figurative works are real. We recognize the imagery; we see, translate and therefore ‘identify’ with the work. It is all a soothing exercise. In reality, of course, whatever an artist depicts on paper or canvass – say a mountain landscape or waterfall, pine trees and mountain flowers -- we cannot actually smell the fresh pines, swim in the lake, climb the mountain or take a refreshing dip in cascading waterfalls.
Often such imagery makes us “identify” with them. There are several reasons for this, mostly sentimental. Of course, representational works are recognizable, and can easily be ‘critiqued’. (“The best sailors are on the shore.”) However, one cannot argue about taste and preferences. All of us know what we like, don’t we?
In a sense the so-called “real” is in fact “surreal” or abstract. We don’t deny the existence of these phenomena in Nature, on the contrary; they are the blueprints, building-blocks and foundation that inspire and guide us. But in my case, such phenomena was used as a launching pad. Returning to those weeks at the Banff school, I’d discovered a hidden bonus. Tossed into garbage bins were tubes of oil, watercolour, gouache -- still with lots of paint, caps half on, but perfectly useable. Plus brushes of all kinds, including sable; these had been discarded by others. Material I welcomed and made good use of!
Towards the end of that Summer session, many students and a few faculty were really surprised how swiftly my work had changed. Having set my compass to this uncharted direction of that vast ocean called Imagination, I embarked with joy on this new voyage of exploration, never to look back. With one exception: the person who sponsored my trip to Banff.
Dr. Wilfred S. Goodman of Toronto asked if I could visit his parents at their farm in Baldur, Manitoba before returning to Toronto. An eventful overnight bus ride from Winnipeg aboard the “Grey Goose Line” made this possible. While there. I did an oil painting showing their pond.
This was the very last landscape painting I ever did. It is now with the Goodman family, together with all my other works from that eventful and pivotal summer, Banff 1959. More on that later. Signing off, Henri