On February 9th Hilary and I visited the AGO in Toronto (Art Gallery Ontario at 317 Dundas Street West). First time ever for me, and last seen some 40 years ago by my wife.
The special draw had been an exhibit of French Impressionism (Gaugin, Monet, Van Gogh and others). It was a thrill to stand moments in front of Starry Night over the Rhone. The slapped on texture of the oils. The bold blue colours of the sparkling night sky and lively waters beneath. The curious interjection of the human element within the celestial grandeur. Van Gogh reputedly a crazy man and his works near the edge brilliant.
We were pleased that the permanent exhibits included much of our own Canadian impressionists, the Group of Seven. Their pieces honoured the cold north, the mountains, the small rural villages, the dense green Pacific cordillera and the wind and wavy wild around Georgian Bay. Names like Thompson, Jackson, Harris and Carr. Most students know of the strange disappearance of Thompson in a canoe trip.
At one point there was need for a sit-down and we found ourselves in a room honouring the “Prairie Ukrainian” artist William Kurelek. We just wanted to enjoy the big sofa but we found ourselves growing in fascination for the images. Small town with the big attraction of a mother moose and calf on the main street focus of a large entertained crowd, or a potato farmer hauling in his harvest by horse wagon before bad weather and with a young couple under a bright orange-leaved tree thinking of their romance, the full moon above and perhaps some apples.
In traveling Europe Kurelek admitted himself to a mental hospital in London. Studies and healing had both provoked the trip. Doctors used new pieces of his art as therapy and diagnosis. His piece called The Maze has drawn much comment. It represented an open section of the painter’s head with small compartments revealing life experience or fears or disillusionments. At the centre was a little mouse curled up in fear, purportedly Kurelek.
At the first hospital and the second he found himself increasingly drawn to the Gospels and he launched a series of images called The Passion. Impressionist ideas on the noble mission of Jesus.
My study is ongoing, but I will say that I am thankful that the 2 of us got tired of being on our feet and discovered this rich body of work, feeling and life experience.
Those stones had heard the children’s cries
Hosanna to the King
A donkey brought the Man of Peace
To hear Jerusalem sing.
But soon a dreaded whipping post
Placed on some others stones
Would hear the soldiers’ hateful jeers
And Mercy’s gasps and moans.
And blood would leave the Vessel pure
And pay sin’s awful cost.
A Mother wipes the crimson ground
To salvage what she lost.
There is a legend of an artist, who long sought for a piece of sandal-wood out of which to carve a Madonna. At last he was about to give up in despair, leaving the vision of his life unrealized, when in a dream he was bidden to shape the figure from a block of oak-wood, which was destined for the fire. Obeying the command, he produced from the log of common firewood, a masterpiece.
In like manner many people wait for great and brilliant opportunities for doing the good things, the beautiful things, of which they dream; while through all the plain, common days—the very opportunities they require for such deeds lie close to them, in the simplest and most familiar passing events, and in the commonest circumstances. They wait to find sandal-wood out of which to carve Madonnas, while far more lovely Madonnas than they dream of, are hidden in the common logs of oak they burn in their open fire-place, or spurn with their feet in the wood-yard.
(a helpful devotional book, 1891)
The greatest Soul
Who walked this orb
In loving deeds
Was hung up high
For fools to mock
“He moans. He bleeds!”
And like a lamb
Unmarked and pure
He hung in sin’s dread place
Saw justice done
To cleanse a needy race.
The Christ knew grief
He bore the curse
His Father’s tears
A sight so rare.
Are told “Rejoice.
In this transaction odd.
Are left amazed
Transformed, the righteousness
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
Note: Believer, you are the righteousness of God. Get this fixed in your consciousness from one of the richest of New Testament chapters. Stand in the thankful assurance of it when someone mocks your moderation or transformed tongue; when someone in terrible need asks for prayer; when someone rants that faith is just a crutch for losers; when someone humbled appears ready to hear the Good News.