Her first solo exhibition in the UK at the Dulwich Picture Gallery comes far too late, as the popular artist from Canada died 69 years ago; nevertheless, it is a clear display of Emily Carr’s essence. Her landscape canvases are revelations. Their meaning is absorbed by their visual representation and vice versa. They deny any distance between the painter’s inner space and her spatial surrounding, the territory of British Columbia.
Apocryphal binds of creation and destruction appear thematically throughout the exhibition and yet, as in Vidya Gastaldon’s work, these binaries are subsumed by an overpowering ambivalence between them, like the entangled symmetry of Andy Harper’s painting or the tragic birth of a volcano that forms the world: the dualism of beauty and decadence, life and death, utopia and dystopia, the sardonic or knowingly cliché, and a true, mystical sincerity. Ambiguity trickles down the inside of this re-purposed, post-industrial pillar like good-natured laughter.
That riot of colour that, for me, was one of the defining features of Pop Art, seemed to be non-existent, at least in the first room. It was curiously muted, almost as though saturation point had already been reached. The love affair with commodity that Pop Art had exemplified had been stripped down to neutral colours and oversized objects; it had been rendered as something big and ridiculous, as well as bare.