Lang and Raymont’s stirring tribute Lawren Harris and his work
You know his work. And if not, you’re merely uninitiated. Those stark landscapes in supple blues, whites, and purple; the smooth, fat glaciers flirting with cubism are all Canadian and all Lawren Harris.
By the time of his death in the winter of 1970, the venerable Harris had more than earned his place as both national treasure and icon for the too-often disregarded field of Canadian art.
In his 70-odd years as an artist, Harris successfully shaped the way we look at our own country by exploring the things unique to the Canadian experience.
That is where directors Peter Raymont and Nancy Lang find footing in their latest documentary, Where the Universe Sings. Using recreated footage meshed with expert and celebrity analysis (Steve Martin graces us with a curious cameo in a curatorial role), Raymont and Lang explore Harris’ life and seemingly symbiotic relationship with Canada. The inspiration he took from the landscapes and wilderness were given back to us in the form of an identity.
However, the true genius of Harris (and, indeed, the film in question) is the contemplations surrounding the nature of art and artists. Harris believed, correctly, that our time on this planet is merely transitory; the job of the artist is that of a perpetual pilgrim. The artist creates work that acts as an anchor to a particular time and place—ideally, the work will live on long after the artist is gone.
Given the widespread interest and influence that still permeates from his work, it would appear that Harris was right.