Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Toronto tourist - Aga Khan Museum

A couple of people recommended this museum to me so yesterday morning I headed out, in rush hour(s) to The Aga Khan Museum. I am amazed at the people that can balance their phone (talking on it, of course), a coffee, a lunch bag and a newspaper or book while standing on a swerving, bumping, lurching bus. They could handle a paddle board no problem. I hold on with 2 hands and still worry I am going to topple everyone like dominoes.
Took 3 buses but I was dropped off right at the entrance, near the Don Valley Parkway.
There are 5 reflecting pools in front of the stark, white building
relieved by bright flowers beside the restaurant patio.
The Museum offers visitors the artistic, intellectual, and scientific heritage of Muslim civilizations across the centuries from the Iberian Peninsula to China. (from their website) and is the only museum of its kind in North America (according to the Ismaili Centre guide).
I started with the Bellerive Room which houses the ceramic collection of  the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, donated by his wife with the stipulation that it be displayed as it was in their house in Geneva.

Beautiful and old plates, bowls, jugs and tiles.

Next stop was the permanent collection.
The world map wall showed the spread of Muslim influence, highlighting it chronologically. The room was organized in much the same way.

There were brief explanations of the faith and the intertwining of faith and art. Calligraphy is considered the highest form of art as it spreads the word of God.
Pages of the Qur'an were in one display case (gold and colourful inks were often used) and phrases from the Qur'an were also on tiles, plates, carvings ... This one was from the 9th century.
The articles on display were varied. Stone (a capital from 10th century Spain),
textile (from Egypt, first half of the 12th century),
metal (close up of candlestick decoration from Iran or Afghanistan, 12/13th century)
wood (Spain, 16th century)
bone (detail from an oliphant -ceremonial hunting horn,England, 17th century),
tile (detail from
this panel, France, 20th century).
The most prevalent though were the illustrated pages, some still in books, others were stand alone. Religious, educational, stories and myths on paper and preserved for centuries.
Iran, mid 17th century, first book in the Muslim world of the whole body anatomy.
This one depicted the end of a bad ruler.
Each of the two rooms was dominated by one large item;
This fountain which would have been in the ground was from 16th century Syria.
This carpet from 16th century Iran
was made from wool, cotton and silk.
Upstairs there were 2 temporary exhibits where I could not take pictures. One was of the fantastic creatures to be found in the collection (dragons, devils etc) and the other was an examination of the new entrance to be constructed for the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. George and I were there twice. The first time, on our own, we walked up the hill from a hotel in the city and were absolutely awe struck by the ornamentation in the palace and the Generalife gardens. The second time we drove, with Christine, and entered from the top parking lot. Still amazed by it. The new entrance will be low to the ground, to not compete with the site, and will also house a new museum. It will be built by the parking lots and it looks like a fitting addition to a magnificent site.
The Aga Khan museum was informative, interesting and had some beautiful pieces. It was expensive, though, for a relatively small collection, as I was able to compare it directly (although probably not fairly) with the AGO (about the same price).

More AGO

After the Lawren Harris exhibit I just wandered in the AGO for another hour. I skipped the European collection and stayed in areas of Canadian artists.
Each of the paintings in the Harris display were identified with a little card; title (though some were "untitled"), date (some had a date range) and medium. There was also text with commentary regarding the location, resources he used, relevance etc. In the rest of the gallery the information provided was not as accessible. Often there was no card beside the work and I had to look through a brochure, usually at one of the doors, to identify the painting I was interested in and get the basic information from that. Sometimes there was more than one artist represented in the room and as some pieces were unsigned I was left guessing which artist was the creator. Occasionally I have found this at other galleries but I find it frustrating that the onus is on the visitor to find the information rather than the facility making it readily available. So I am going to include some pictures here that don't have artists names attached because I took pictures of the info provided and when I look back at them find that some didn't list the artist in the place I took the picture.
For example
My apologies to the artist. His or her name must have been somewhere in the room or on the front of the brochure. It was one of the Group of Seven.
There were some more Lawren Harris that hadn't made it into the special show.
So I took some more
close-ups to look at technique.

This is a sketch by Franklin Carmichael. He signed everything, even his sketches.
"North Shore, Lake Superior" another Frank Carmichael.
I took a quick break from the paintings to look at the buildings architecture. This area overlooks Dundas St and has a coffee shop.
"Snowfall", Tom Thompson
Sketch of "The West Wind", Tom Thompson. I love seeing the original of paintings I recognize and this one is so well known.
"The West Wind". This completed painting was on Tom Thompson's easel when he died.
'Bess" by Lawren Harris (I would never have guessed)

My mother-in-law had a print of this painting in her bathroom. It is now in my bathroom. "After the Bath" by Paul Peel who was born in London Ontario.
I headed west on Dundas St
through Chinatown and TTCed (its now a verb) my way home.
Two was not impressed with the Lawren Harris calendar I had bought. Not soft enough.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Playing tourist in Toronto again - Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) - Lawren Harris

I am visiting Chris and Jason in Toronto, doing some tourist stuff and some painting for them. Today I got up and out the door with Chris (on her way to work). She walked me through how to use the bus, subway and streetcar to get to the AGO. Even highlighted the route on the TTC map.
Chris told me I would recognize the gallery because it looks like a big, gleaming, upside down boat on Dundas St.
The modern facade reflects the old neighborhood on the other side of the street.
Although I have never been to the AGO and love art galleries, this exhibit is what prompted me to finally visit.
This Lawren Harris exhibition is also traveling in the United States. The point was made that although he is considered an iconic Canadian painter he is little known in the States.
The first section featured "The Ward", an area, in Toronto, where Lawren Harris painted many of his early professional works. Later this area was redeveloped as Nathan Phillips Square.
Many of the paintings depicted poor, immigrant residential areas overshadowed by manufacturing and industrialization. Usually there was a figure or two.
Most of the paintings depicted winter, dismal weather or smog but some where of clear days and bright colours.
What I recognize as his style is developing in his Toronto paintings.
Undulating snow and huge skies.
The second section of the display was works that are set in more natural surroundings, Lake Superior,
Baffin Island and
the Rockies.
There were videos of interviews with the curators and Lawren Harris experts as well as his pencil sketches and oil sketches.
His pencil sketches included notes regarding colours.
Mnt Lefroy, sketch. His oil sketches experimented with colour, composition and abstraction.
Also Mnt Lefroy.
Final Mnt Lefroy painting.
I had, and still have, a limited amount of knowledge regarding Lawren Harris and his work. It was inspiring to see so much of his work in one place and the progression of his style. I saw a couple of his paintings that I had admired in print form and loved seeing the originals and being able to take close up photos of brush strokes and techniques.

The third section, from when he moved to the U.S. to teach, showed his continued move into abstraction.
Toronto's new city hall was built 30 years after he painted this.
Still vestiges of mountains.
I hope to rug hook a "Lawren Harrisesque" rug so took lots of close ups of water, sky, icebergs and snow. I spent an hour and a half in the exhibit and although I was there on a Tuesday morning it was quite crowded and I had to wait to read information on the wall or for the area to clear enough for me to take a picture.