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Image et Récit

 | 
Héliane Ventura
, 
Simone Vauthier
, 
Jean-Michel Lacroix

I. Les mots et la peinture

Emily Carr: Text as Illustration

Marta Dvorak

Résumé

Chez Emily Carr il y a interaction constante entre image et parole. Le pinceau et la plume révèlent chez elle le même processus métaphorique et une cohérence de perception. Il est intéressant de confronter les tableaux d'E. Carr avec des extraits appropriés de son Journal, pour découvrir les interférences entre toile et texte. Les extraits, qui représentent un référent qui est déjà représentation, constituent une forme active de médiation verbale entre spectateur et toile. Se servir du texte comme illustration permet au spectateur de pénétrer derrière la surface plate de la toile, de voir ce qui ne peut être montré. Le croisement voulu de deux véhicules d'expression, linguistique et iconographique, pour représenter le monde suggère l'incapacité de l'un comme de l'autre de créer une représentation que l'on pourrait appeler pleine. Nous assistons à une recherche d'unité à travers une dialectique entre deux véhicules d'expression imparfaits dont seule la conjonction engendrera l'harmonie.

In the work of Emily Carr, an artist renowned both for her painting and her prose, the image and the word never cease to interconnect, functioning as generators rather than simply alternate forms of expression, and sharing a metaphorical process and perceptual consistency. It is interesting to confront E. Carr's paintings with suitable extracts from her Journal, to see what interactions exist between canvas and text. The extracts, representing a referent which is also representation, constitute a form of active verbal mediation between viewer and painting. Using the text as illustration enables the viewer to penetrate behind what is hidden, to see what cannot be seen. The deliberate intersection of two media — linguistic and iconographic, to represent the world suggests the powerlessness of either to produce a “full” representation. We witness a struggle for wholeness dialectically asserted, constant referral back and forth between two imperfect media whose conjunction alone can generate harmony.

Texte intégral

1What is the relationship between image and language? Already, towards the end of the 19th century, the legitimacy of painting no longer lay in its mimetic reproduction of reality. Once it broke away from iconography and from the theory of mimesis as imitation, painting cut itself off from whatever predisposed it to language. The verbalisable core found in figurative painting that was constantly reappropriated by discourse from Horace and his ut pictura poesis to our semiologists, was no longer there to assure a minimum mediation between the words of language and the things of painting. Any figures that subsisted, such as Cézanne's apples, no longer represented reality or told a story, were no longer illustrative or narrative but merely figurative. Meanwhile description, just like painting, was beginning to question language and its limits, the linguistic dimension of the tangible and the adequacy of language to do it justice.

Words and Paint

2I have chosen to focus this paper on Emily Carr, an artist renowned both for her painting and her prose, in whose work the image and the word never cease to interconnect. Witness the characteristic entry in her diary in 1936 equating words and paint:

  • 1 In Foreword by Ira Dilworth to Emily Carr, Klee Wyck, Toronto: Irwin Publishing Inc., 1965.

There's words enough, paint and brushes enough and thoughts enough. The whole difficulty seems to be getting the thoughts clear enough, making them stand still long enough to be fitted with words and paint1.

3For Emily Carr, writing was not merely an alternate form of expression to painting but a tool: setting her experiences/impressions down in words actually helped her to put them into pictorial form:

  • 2 Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands: The Joumals of Emily Carr, Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Co., 1966 (...)

Pulled out my summer sketches and tried to get busy. It wouldn't come. I got to the typewriter and described Fort Rupert minutely, its looks and feeling and thoughts. Then I got to some charcoal drawing and commenced to feel it2.

4If writing helped E. Carr to paint, painting also helped her to write. Throughout her fiction we find in her descriptions that her painter's eye dominates. In The Book of Small in which the narrator, alternately in the first and third persons, is a little girl, we perceive that the real voice is that of the painter and her feel for line:

The Cow yard was large. Not length and breadth alone determined its dimensions, it had height and depth also.

The moment Small sat down upon the cow-yard wood-pile the big rooster would jump into her lap and the cow amble across the yard to plant her squareness, one leg under each corner, right in front of Small.

5or a sensitivity to and propensity to exploit colour and hue, as in when she describes a character coming down the hall multi-coloured- green face, red dress, blue hair, or a feel for composition and design evocative of Analytic Cubism:

  • 3 Emily Carr, The Book of Small, Toronto: Irwin Publishing Co, 1966, pp. 15, 29, 56,138-9 respectivel (...)

When Victoria was young specialists had not been invented-the Family Doctor did you all over. You did not have a special doctor for each part... Dr. Helmcken knew each part of every one of us. He could have taken us to pieces and put us together again without mixing up any of our legs or noses or anything3.

6Elsewhere, her description tosses overboard such staple elements as depth, colour, sight, and touch, reducing everything to a question of surface. In Klee Wyck, what the eye sees out there in nature is compressed to the focal point of a painter transposing shapes onto a flat picture plane:

  • 4 Emily Carr, Canoe in Klee Wyck, Toronto: Irwin Publishing Co, 1965, p. 110.

Time and texture faded... (sic) ceased to exist... (sic) day was gone, yet it was not night. Water was not wet or deep, just smoothness spread with light4.

Genre Painting and the Verb

7The descriptive act in Emily Carr's fiction is generally successful in enabling the reader to mentally represent the picture she sketches verbally thanks to her homely metaphors, verbal equivalents of genre painting which depicts incidents of everyday life. Just as genre painting privileges still life, animals, and scenes from the interior, just so does she construct her prose descriptions around a stock of domestic imagery evoking familiar objects, activities, sensations that strike a chord of recognition in the reader:

  • 5 E. Carr, Klee Wyck, pp. 24, 61, 76 respectively.
  • 6 E. Carr, The Book of Small, p. 68.

she became dumb as a plate
I saw myself as a wet rag sticking up in a tub of suds (the triplets') six eyes were shut as tight as licked envelopes5
He was like the long cushion in the church pew-made to be sat on6.

8The humble, prosaic metaphors tend to focus on the activity dearest to our hearts-eating. Like many genre painters, E. Carr realizes instinctively that food is the privileged domain of the appetite, of desire, of pleasure. It is also the basis of cultural identity and social cohesion, generating understanding when shared. What better way then for E. Carr to make the reader mentally represent the picture than to describe her characters in culinary terms?

  • 7 E. Carr, Klee Wyck, pp.25 and 35.
  • 8 E. Carr, Small, pp.42 and 120.

Their brown, wrinkled faces were like potatoes baked in their jackets.
Resentment showed in his face, greeny-brown and wrinkled like a baked apple7.
Her eyes were like brown chocolate drops, hot and rich in colour when she looked at Alice, but when she looked at me they went cold and stale-looking.
Creatures (at the butcher shop) that still had their heads on stared out of eyes
like poached eggs when the white has run over the yoke8.

9The use of the culinary vocabulary which ushers in the human world in all its triviality contrasts enormously with E. Carr's painting, from which the human world is excluded: painting of a sublime nature where art and artefact alone are the representations of the gods (cf. ill. 1 et 2).

  • 9 E. Carr, Small, p. 131: Klee Wyck, pp. 27, 25, 83, 84 respectively.

10But just as genre painting often contains familiar animals as mediators, to transmit a "feeling" for the subject matter of the canvas, so too does E. Carr frequently have recourse to animal imagery to enable the reader to mentally represent her prose portraits. Her characters walk like elderly fowls, sound like tortured dogs, have hands like brown spiders, lie sprawling like starfish, have no more sense than a jellyfish9. We find this type of simile applied not only to people but to inanimate objects as well: both the plant world and urban structures are endowed with animal fonctions, or a form of consciousness/intelligence. For E. Carr, the rapidly growing town of Victoria

  • 10 E. Carr, Small, p. 126.

poked, bulged and hollowed over queer shapes of strange people, as a snake, swallowing its food whole, looks lumpy during digestion10.

  • 11 E. Carr, HT, p. 186.
  • 12 E. Carr, HT, pp. 133, 46, 47, 130 respectively.
  • 13 E. Carr, Klee Wyck, p. 63.

11And trees in shelter stand looking at the ones in the wind's path like a strange pup watches two chum pups playing, a little enviously11. In her letters and journals as well as in her fiction, her van, that elephant, turns into a motherly old hen, the mountains she paints brood like great sitting hens, one looking like a great, corsetless woman, the little pine trees wear sticking-out petticoats12, or look like little ladies in crinolines trooping down the bank13. In fact, prosopopeia seems to be E. Carr's favourite trope, the bridge between her two modes of discourse. The same metaphorical vision that generates the writing style of both her fiction and non-fiction also shapes her pictorial forms.

  • 14 Doris Shadbolt, the Art of Emily Carr, Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1987, p. 142.
  • 15 Carr to Dilworth, 1941 or 1942, Emily Carr Papers (MG 30, D 215), Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa

12In many of the paintings of the 1928-31 period, nature is personified and, as Doris Shadbolt points out in The Art of Emily Carr14, the canvas is designed like a stage set with its "characters" assigned different roles. We have only to look at The Little Pine (cf. ill. 3) (1931): the young tree, pulsing yellowy green with joyous growth at the front of the stage, with the older generation of trees looking on soberly but benevolently from the background. In A Young Tree, the dead, uprooted log in the foreground completes the cycle. In the oil canvas Scorned as Timber (cf. ill. 4), Beloved of the Sky (1935), and other variations of the same generic idea, such as Trees in the Sky (1935), E. Carr portrays the triumph of spindly little runts who had to battle for light under forest giants who had since been reduced to timber15.

Text as Illustration

13If the metaphorical process here is homologous to that in her writing, if the perceptual consistency between E. Carr's pen and brush can be attributed to her animism, we can wonder when she tackles the same subject in both media, when she chooses in her painting journal to describe her intentions, her plan of action, or a canvas under evolution or even completed, what interactions exist between canvas and text? Instead of the traditional picture illustrating a text, we have a text accompanying a picture: text as illustration. But if the pictorial form is not inadequate on its own, then what need of those intruders, words?

14A reflexion by Philippe Hamon on the relationship between architecture, narration and representation that we can take one step further and apply with equal pertinence to the visual arts, would allow us to point out that as a real object, both artificial and articulated, the canvas can function for a writer as a shifter, or

  • 16 Philippe Hamon, “Texte et architecture”, Poétique no 73, Paris: Seuil, fév. 1988, p. 12.

embrayeur privilégié, d'objet où le structurel s'est comme concrétisé, intermédiaire entre le texte (objet sémiotique) et le réel (non-sémiotique), opérateur privilégié pour récrire ce réel en textuel (ou inversement), pour "traduire" l'un dans l'autre16.

  • 17 Philippe Hamon, Introduction à l'analyse du descriptif, Paris: Hachette, 1981, p. 40.

15But how can one describe a painting, enable another to see it? Can a painting be described? To what extent can language render/evoke the view generated by the dots, lines, strokes, spots, colours, hues, and textures of a canvas? Indeed, along with the demise of representation in painting which we have already discussed, in which description was at the service of representation, we find modified the relations between the description and the painting, between the reader and the description. The descriptor, to use Philippe Hamon's terms17, writes what he secs. It is his status as spectator that gives legitimacy to his descriptive act. At the same time, in order to decode the message, the descriptee must read the text as if he/she saw the painting. What decides the success or failure of the descriptive act is the competence of the descriptee, his/her ability to mentally represent from a verbal sequence that which is described, which, having been seen, is to be seen. Picture is traded for language, and language for picture. But is not the picture outside of language? Do we not see, describe, and enable to see only that which can be said? Is not any linguistic mediation mere sham, an elaborate verbal pretence?

16The Vancouver Art Gallery has opted for an interesting policy. They have chosen to "illustrate" their collection of E. Carr paintings by suitable extracts from her painting journal. In the case of her Journals, the fiction (in the original sense of its Latin root fictio/fashioning, in other words the plans for the composition/elaboration of the painting), preceded the real object (the completed canvas). And if we may once more enlarge upon what Philippe Hamon points out in "Texte et architecture", representing a painting in a text

  • 18 Ph. Hamon, Texte, p. 13.

c'est donc représenter des référents qui font certes partie du réel, mais qui sont aussi, déjà, de la "représentation" concrétisée'18.

17These extracts then, by representing a referent which is also a representation, constitute a form of active verbal mediation between viewer and painting. They act upon the relationship directly, interfering notably when the reading of the text occurs before the actual viewing of the canvas or when it arouses a mental representation of the description. We find ourselves confronted by a situation described by Bernard Vouilloux in La description du tableau dans les "Salons" de Diderot:

  • 19 Bernard Vouilloux, "La description du tableau dans les “Salons” de Diderot", Poétique n° 73, Paris, (...)

une situation de communication où le message emprunte tour à tour ou simultanément les canaux du langage et de l'image, en termes peirciens: le code symbolique et le code iconique19.

18Thus, underneath an oil on canvas painting entitled Forest Landscape (1937) depicting virgin forest, we find the following extract:

  • 20 E. Carr, HT., p. 207.

Working on jungle... nobody goes there... The loneliness repels them, the density, the unsafe hidden footing, the dank smells, the great quiet, the mystery, the general mix-up (tangle, growth, what may be hidden there), the insect life. They are repelled by the awful solemnity of the age-old trees, with the wisdom of all their years of growth looking down upon you, making you feel infinitesmal-their overpowering weight, their groanings and creakings, mutterings and sighings — the rot and decay of the old ones — the toadstools and slugs among the upturned rotting roots of those that have fallen reminding one of the perishableness of even those slow-maturing, much-enduring growths... The sallal is tough and stubborn, rose and blackberry thorny. There are the fallen logs and mossy stumps, the thousand varieties of growth and shapes and obstacles, the dips and hollows, hillocks and mounds, riverbeds, forests of young pine and spruce piercing up through the tangle to get to the quiet light diluted by the overhanging branches of great overtopping trees. Should you sit down, the great, dry, green sea would sweep over and engulf you20.

19What is striking in this extract is the variety of sensory appeals other than visual:

  • odour (the dank smells)

  • hearing (a silence full of sound: the great quiet and then paradoxically the groanings, creakings, mutterings, sighings of the trees, sounds which are highlighted not only by the onomatopeia but through repeated use of assonance and consonance: the rotting roots, toadstools and slugs, mossy stumps, hollows and hillocks, pine and spruce piercing up etc.)

  • touch (rot, decay, slugs, density, tangle, thorny)

  • taste (the allusion to sallal berries and blackberries)

20By going beyond the visual, the text catalyses in the reader/viewer a stronger feeling for the canvas and its subject. The very length of the sentences produces the desired hypnotic effect of a sea sweeping over the reader, a metaphorical sea of ink corresponding to the swirling spirals and vortexes generated by her large brush-strokes in works like Rebirth and Swirl (cf. ill. 5) (also 1937). But whoever has contemplated any of E. Carr's nature paintings realizes that the insect life and animal life alluded to by her pen are totally absent from her canvasses. Through the medium of language E. Carr moves from the general to the particular, evoking a myriad of small details, from slugs to thorns, and insisting on the different varieties of plant and animal species, even multiplying synonyms for the variations of geological relief, whereas with her pictorial medium she does not concern herself at all with the details of nature but with its symbolic structure, its movement in space and pulsating energy.

Memory and Perception

21When one reads the descriptive passage, one truly cannot see the forest for the trees. But when, having read the passage, one then looks at the painting, its vision is projected onto the canvas and the close-up/zoom is projected onto the global vision. We actually see what no eye can see in one glance. Using the text as illustration enables the viewer to penetrate behind what is hidden, to see what cannot be seen. E. Carr's true subject matter is not forest but vision. She, like the Cubists (in particular Picasso and Braque in their period of Analytic Cubism 1909-1912), explores perception itself, the difficulty of holding objects in visual space, the structure of seeing. David Hockney explains his own experimentation with collages as another reflexion on how we see, declaring that vision

  • 21 Lawrence Weschler, "The Art World", in The New Yorker, July 9, 1984, p. 63.

consists of a continuons accumulation of details perceived across time and synthesized into a larger, continuously metamorphosing whole21.

22He points out that

  • 22 L. Weschler, op. cit., p. 63.

the general perspective is built up from hundreds of micro-perspectives. Which is to say, memory plays a crucial role in perception22.

23This role of memory that Braque and Picasso assert in their painting is also conveyed by E. Carr thanks to the intersection of two media-linguistic and iconographic. The interception of the verbal text strengthens the general perspective of the canvas by informing the reader of the micro-perspectives that made it up.

  • 23 Pierre-Henry Frangne, ″Et la notion de beauté s'obscurcira: L’Esthétique de Diderot et la modernité (...)

24To sum up, there seems to be one world but two ways to represent its vital energy: through detail (the text), and through architecture, i.e. structure/design (the canvas). This would suggest a powerlessness of both text and painting to produce what could be called a full representation. It is in the space created, in the dialogue between text and image that a total representation of the world can be constituted. The text elaborates and expands on the vision of the painting, and the painting synthesizes the mixture of sensations created by the text. This dialectic seems to imply, however, that the painting is mere surface, incapable by itself of producing multiplicity, depth, and variety, and that only the text can multiply perspectives, retain sensations. The text is an illustration of the painting: it develops what is enveloped in the canvas, what is both hidden and condensed. If this coincides with Diderot's conception of painting which is moving because it shows in silence, and poetry which is eloquent because it evokes and does not paint23, it also corresponds to a struggle for wholeness through dialectic, constant referral back and forth between two imperfect media whose conjunction produces harmony.

A Picture Equals a Movement in Space24

  • 24 E. Carr, HT, p. 185.

25Although a large part of E. Carr's prose concerning her painting activity is purely descriptive, functioning much like field glasses magnifying particular components, or X rays enabling the viewer to see behind and beneath, we often find elements of exposition mingled with the whole. The entry in her Journal dated 9 Feb. 1935 describes the work being completed on the oil painting Fir Tree and Sky (cf. ill. 6):

  • 25 E. Carr, HT, p. 170.

I am painting a sky. A big tree butts up into it on one side, and there is a slope in the corner with pines. These are only to give distance. The subject is sky, starting lavender beneath the trees and rising into a smoother hollow air space, greenish in tone, merging into laced clouds and then into deep, bottomless blue, not flat and smooth like the central part of the sky, but loose, coming forward. There is to be one sweeping movement through the whole air, an ascending movement, high and fathomless. The movement must connect with each part, taking great care with the articulation. A movement floating up. It is a study in movement, designed movement-very subtle25.

  • 26 L. Weschler, op. cit., p. 61.
  • 27 P.H. Frangne, "Pluralité des interprétations: Objectivité et subjectivité du jugement esthétique", (...)

26We can see how the descriptive act is first interrupted by the explanatory element: These are only to give distance. Then the use of the structure "to be to" and the modal "must" marks the ultimate shift to the explanatory mode. In this extract, E. Carr declares her artistic intentions, analyses the technique that will bring about the desired effect. Even the descriptive phrases are actually explanations of the various stages of fabrication. No personification, no metaphors, no onomatopeia here. No landscape that the artist wants to "come alive" for the viewer. For in spite of her initial declarations I am painting a sky, The subject is sky, E. Carr is not in fact painting a sky. She is painting space and movement, in effect conveying her perception of space and movement. The spectator without active verbal mediation might retain only the impression of luminous splashes of colour, almost blinding swirls of white. The extract with its emphasis on motion (rising, merging, coming forward, sweeping, ascending, floating up) incites him/her to focus on the subtle shift of one colour to the next to create flow. It reminds him how much thinking goes into seeing, into ordering and reordering an endless sequence of details which our eyes deliver to our mind. If painting is conventionally a more appropriate medium for the expression of space and movement than words are, E. Carr's pen is nonetheless an invaluable illustration of the thought behind it and also of the amount of time that has been put into the image. David Hockney points out that we can spend hours at a museum looking at a Rembrandt because we won't be spending as much time looking as he spent painting: observing, layering his observations, layering the time26 the same way, the viewer who has become aware of the thought processes behind E. Carr's design can spend much longer looking at her canvas without "blanking out" (to use D. Hockney's terminology). The verbal mediation actually enables him/her to see more. The text actually temporalizes the space of the painting, coinciding with Lessing's conception of poesis as defining itself through duration and succession, while a painting necessarily represents a fixed instant27.

27According to Philippe Hamon, it is because the plastic arts signify nothing but their pure presence that it is necessary at all cost to reinject them with meaning, so that the piece of art becomes

  • 28 Ph. Hamon, op. cit., p. 24.

support sémaphorique privilégié d'une prolifération scriptuaire compensatrice28.

28The writer copies, through language, a reality that is not made up of language,

  • 29 Ph. Hamon, op. cit., p. 14.

en choisissant de copier dans le réel, avec des signes, ce qui est déjà signes inscrits29.

  • 30 Le tableau est une chose plate qui nous donne artificieusement ce que nous verrions en présence de (...)

29For even if the visual arts, like articulated language, produce discontinuities and differences, even a form of communication between their integrated sub-spaces and with the space that encompasses them, it is far from certain that without the mediation of another system like language they can produce meaning. These are compensatory texts then that E. Carr offers us, knowing that the eye alone might take in the picture, but presumably not the mind. There seems to be a fundamental disjunction between the eye and the mind. To join Descartes's position as presented by Merleau-Ponty, E. Carr does not seem to believe that vision is a form of thought. She too seems to consider the canvas as a flat object whose third dimension would come from the text30.

30In another extract fom her painting journal resembling an artistic manifesto, associated with her oil on paper Strait of Juan de Fuca (cf. ill. 7) (1936), she declares:

  • 31 E. Carr, HT, pp. 106-7, underlined by the author.

I woke up this morning with "unity of movement" in a picture strong in my mind. I believe Van Gogh had that idea. I did not realize he had striven for that till quite recently so I did not come by the idea through him. It seems to me that clears up a lot. I see it very strongly out on the beach and cliffs. I felt it in the woods but did not realize what I was feeling. Now it seems to me the first thing to seize on in your layout is the direction of your main movement, the sweep of the whole thing as a unit. One must be very careful about the transition of one curve of direction into the next, vary the length of the wave of space but keep it going, a pathway for the eye and the mind to travel through and into the thought. For long I have been trying to get these movements of the parts. Now I see there is only one movement. It sways and ripples. It may be slow or fast but it is only one movement sweeping out into space but always keeping going — rocks, sea, sky, one continuous movement31.

  • 32 Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: the Logic of the Gaze, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1983, (...)

31It is evident by the use of the possessive adjectives in the second person (your layout, your main movement), or by the pronoun "one" that includes the addressee along with the speaker, as well as by the injunctions (the first thing to seize on, one must be very careful), that E. Carr is addressing her exposition to fellow artists, giving them advice on how to proceed. We the readers who are mere laymen, feel almost like eavesdroppers, flattered at this privilege of seeing/listening "behind the scenes" as it were. We have been allowed to enter what Norman Bryson calls the interindividual territory of recognition32. And just as E. Carr realized belatedly that she had not understood the idea that animated the work of Van Gogh, a fellow artist, so too do we realize upon reading the text that our appreciation of the canvas is more complete when our mind can travel through the space of the painting and into the thought.

  • 33 Hegel, L'Art symbolique, Esthétique. Il, Paris, Coll. Champs: Hammarion, 1979, pp. 7-148.

32E. Carr's painting seems to belong to what Hegel called symbolic art, in which the form is exterior to the content, inadequate with respect to the content. Like Egyptian art and its pyramids, its presence is so material and so strong that the idea remains indeterminate and enigmatic. It is an art that Hegel called mystérieux, muet, sourd, immobile33, characterised by excessive, monstrous, or bizarre figures (cf. ill. 8). Symbolic art is an art of the sublime, proferring artificial forms giving the appearance of nature (cf. ill. 9). It is a sacred art that expresses in an obscure and enigmatic way the power of the gods and of nature. We can see that E. Carr's art is silent and enigmatic, that through the grotesque forms of its totems it is a manifestation of the sacred, that through the depiction of skies, forests, mountains it celebrates the sublime in nature, that it is inherently architectural, and that it is an art from which man is excluded. How natural then, that this painting should need to be illustrated, explained, developed so that the thought can escape from the opacity of the matter. Where in E. Carr's painting we find fixity and mutism, in her text we find description and enumeration. Where on the one hand we find nature and the sacred, on the other we find human and social activities, a prosaic world. The eternity and immutability, the purity and virginity of the painting contrast with the text’s composite world ruled by time.

Description vs Narration

33Through her text, we realize that E. Carr’s painting, rather like a novel, is an exploration of the relationship of things. Instead of a pictorial representation of the world functioning as mere description, E. Carr's paintings are rather a form of narration. Besides a growing perception of the way things interconnect, we find in her texts a preoccupation with growth. Probably referring to the oil on canvas Rebirth (cf. ill. 10), and Reforestation, as well as the oil on paper Young and Old Forest B.C., E. Carr writes:

  • 34 E. Carr, HT, p. 295.

Three new pictures are on the way, an immense wood, a wood edge, and a woods movement. These woods movements should be stupendous, the inner burstings of growth showing through the skin of things, throbbing and throbbing to burst their way out34.

  • 35 E. Carr, HT, p. 185.

34Once more we come upon the desire to relate what is hidden, to show what cannot be seen. Accusing pictures of hav-ing swerved too much towards design and decoration35, E. Carr paints not the surface or exterior, but the energy/life-force pulsating behind it:

  • 36 E. Carr, HT, p. 301.

There is nothing so strong as growing. Nothing can drown that force that splits rocks and pavements and spreads over the fields... Man can pattern it and change its variety and shape, but leave it even for a short time and off it goes back to its own, swamping and swallowing man's puny intentions. No killing nor stamping down can destroy it. Life is in the soil. Touch it with air and light and it bursts forth like a struck match. Nothing is dead, not even a corpse. It moves into the elements when the spirit has left it, but even to the spirit's leaving there is life, boundless life, resistless and marvellous, fresh and clean, God36.

35A creation eternally renewed: this is the story that E. Carr's paintings relate. The original story, the divine story. E. Carr's technique, the huge brush-strokes, the hatchings and ripples, the bold sense of movement and direction, derives directly from her central idea, an idea that she declares

  • 37 E. Carr, HT, p. 105, underlined by me.

must run through the whole, the story that arrested you and urged the desire to express it, the story that God told you through that combination of growth37.

  • 38 E. Carr, HT, p. 185.

36We recognize here in E. Carr's statement the vatic stance of the Romantics: the firm belief in the artist as seer, mediator between this world and the beyond, whose function is to transmit his revelations and instruct his fellow men. The story that E. Carr desires to express in her paintings must be transmitted to a receiver, as she is well aware. She elaborates her strategy with great lucidity, planning the effects of certain brush strokes on the spectator as would a writer guiding his/her implied reader through the narration, designing the relationship of the objects so that the whole gets up and goes, lifting the looker with it38. The way the receiver will "read" the picture is thought out in advance, planified; in fact the intended trajectory of the eye is the very groundwork of the layout:

  • 39 Ibid.

Lines at right angles hold the eye fixed. Great care should be taken in the articulation of one movement into another so that the eye swings through the whole canvas with a continuous movement and does not find jerky stops, though it may be bucked occasionally with quick little turns to accelerate the motion of certain places39.

  • 40 E. Carr, HT, p. 294.
  • 41 Henri Bergson, Le Rire, Œuvres. Paris: PUF, éditions du Centenaire, 1959, p. 459.
  • 42 Plotin, Ennéades III, 8,10, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1981, p. 166.
  • 43 Schopenhauer, Le Monde comme volonté et comme Représentation, trad. A. Burdeau, Paris: PUF, 1966, p (...)

37E. Carr's strategy is elaborated to avoid a danger common to all canvasses, that of binding and crucifying the emotion, of pinning it there to die flattened on the surface. The desired result is to have it move over the surface as the spirit of God moves over the face of the waters40. By writing these journals and giving us access to her thought processes, E. Carr allows us to participate fully in the creation of her works of art. Instead of addressees as mere mortals to whom the artist-seer imparts her divine vision, we the receivers find ourselves assimilated with divinity, merged with the vital principle, the living moving energy that E. Carr calls God. Her painting too, is original, in the sense that it takes us back to the dawn of the universe, to its origins, showing us the world as it was before culture, before art, before science. It gives a purified and virgin vision of the world freed from what Bergson calls the thick veil of utility41 and which he claims it is the artist’s task to remove. It is a painting of unity which seeks to merge us with what Plotin calls l'Un: the One, which he likens to une source qui n'a point d'origine; qui donne son eau à tous les fleuves mais ne s'épuise pas pour cela42. It is a painting imbued with the transcendentalism of Emerson so dear to E. Carr's heart. It proclaims total fusion between the process of vision and the object of vision, greatly reminiscent of Schopenhauer's l'oeil unique du monde43. To borrow the words of Philippe Hamon

  • 44 Ph. Hamon, Texte, p. 21.

on est là proche du sublime, c'est-à-dire de ce qui dépasse et excède les "seuils" de la représentation, de ce qui ne souffre pas la distinction, de ce qui est indescriptible44.

IIl.1. Inside a Forest II (1929-30).

Ill. 2. The Welcome Man (1913).

Ill. 3. The Little Pine.

Ill. 4. Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky.

Ill. 5. Swirl.

Ill. 6. Fir Tree and Sky.

Ill. 7. Stralt of Juan de Fuca.

Ill. 8. The Crooked Staircase (1928-30).

Ill. 9. Cumshewa (raven), (1912).

Ill. 10. Reforestation (1936).

Notes

1 In Foreword by Ira Dilworth to Emily Carr, Klee Wyck, Toronto: Irwin Publishing Inc., 1965.

2 Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands: The Joumals of Emily Carr, Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Co., 1966, p. 21.

3 Emily Carr, The Book of Small, Toronto: Irwin Publishing Co, 1966, pp. 15, 29, 56,138-9 respectively.

4 Emily Carr, Canoe in Klee Wyck, Toronto: Irwin Publishing Co, 1965, p. 110.

5 E. Carr, Klee Wyck, pp. 24, 61, 76 respectively.

6 E. Carr, The Book of Small, p. 68.

7 E. Carr, Klee Wyck, pp.25 and 35.

8 E. Carr, Small, pp.42 and 120.

9 E. Carr, Small, p. 131: Klee Wyck, pp. 27, 25, 83, 84 respectively.

10 E. Carr, Small, p. 126.

11 E. Carr, HT, p. 186.

12 E. Carr, HT, pp. 133, 46, 47, 130 respectively.

13 E. Carr, Klee Wyck, p. 63.

14 Doris Shadbolt, the Art of Emily Carr, Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1987, p. 142.

15 Carr to Dilworth, 1941 or 1942, Emily Carr Papers (MG 30, D 215), Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa.

16 Philippe Hamon, “Texte et architecture”, Poétique no 73, Paris: Seuil, fév. 1988, p. 12.

17 Philippe Hamon, Introduction à l'analyse du descriptif, Paris: Hachette, 1981, p. 40.

18 Ph. Hamon, Texte, p. 13.

19 Bernard Vouilloux, "La description du tableau dans les “Salons” de Diderot", Poétique n° 73, Paris, fév. 1988, Seuil, p. 35.

20 E. Carr, HT., p. 207.

21 Lawrence Weschler, "The Art World", in The New Yorker, July 9, 1984, p. 63.

22 L. Weschler, op. cit., p. 63.

23 Pierre-Henry Frangne, ″Et la notion de beauté s'obscurcira: L’Esthétique de Diderot et la modernité″, in Questions d'Esthétique, Bulletin de Philosophie no 4, CRDP Rennes, 1989.

24 E. Carr, HT, p. 185.

25 E. Carr, HT, p. 170.

26 L. Weschler, op. cit., p. 61.

27 P.H. Frangne, "Pluralité des interprétations: Objectivité et subjectivité du jugement esthétique", in Questions d'Esthétique.

28 Ph. Hamon, op. cit., p. 24.

29 Ph. Hamon, op. cit., p. 14.

30 Le tableau est une chose plate qui nous donne artificieusement ce que nous verrions en présence de choses "diversement relevées" parce qu'il nous donne selon la hauteur et la largeur des signes diacritiques suffisants de la dimension qui lui manque. La profondeur est une troisième dimension dérivée des deux autres (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit, Paris: Gallimard, 1964, pp. 44-45).

31 E. Carr, HT, pp. 106-7, underlined by the author.

32 Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: the Logic of the Gaze, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1983, p. 131.

33 Hegel, L'Art symbolique, Esthétique. Il, Paris, Coll. Champs: Hammarion, 1979, pp. 7-148.

34 E. Carr, HT, p. 295.

35 E. Carr, HT, p. 185.

36 E. Carr, HT, p. 301.

37 E. Carr, HT, p. 105, underlined by me.

38 E. Carr, HT, p. 185.

39 Ibid.

40 E. Carr, HT, p. 294.

41 Henri Bergson, Le Rire, Œuvres. Paris: PUF, éditions du Centenaire, 1959, p. 459.

42 Plotin, Ennéades III, 8,10, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1981, p. 166.

43 Schopenhauer, Le Monde comme volonté et comme Représentation, trad. A. Burdeau, Paris: PUF, 1966, p. 255.

44 Ph. Hamon, Texte, p. 21.

Table des illustrations

Légende IIl.1. Inside a Forest II (1929-30).
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/, 48k
Légende Ill. 2. The Welcome Man (1913).
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/, 44k
Légende Ill. 3. The Little Pine.
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/, 48k
Légende Ill. 4. Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky.
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/, 40k
Légende Ill. 5. Swirl.
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/, 48k
Légende Ill. 6. Fir Tree and Sky.
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/, 40k
Légende Ill. 7. Stralt of Juan de Fuca.
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/, 48k
Légende Ill. 8. The Crooked Staircase (1928-30).
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/, 44k
Légende Ill. 9. Cumshewa (raven), (1912).
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/, 60k
Légende Ill. 10. Reforestation (1936).
URL http://books.openedition.org/psn/docannexe/image/5115/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/, 44k

© Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 1993

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540