|William Kurelek, The Ukrainian Pioneer, 1971-76, (source)|
|William Kurelek, I Triumphed and I Saddened With All Weather, 1970. (source)|
|Willian Kurelek, Across the River from the Capitol, 1976, (source)|
I'm a bit shamefaced to say that I haven't taken much notice of William Kurelek before now- but he's an icon in the Canadian art world, and has written a few books I should probably add to N's collection. I think it's easy to write off his paintings as naive folk works- idealizing the family and Canadian living. Actually, they are beautifully painted whimsical pieces, with a melancholic undertone that creates a pause in me when I look at them.
The idea that whimsy, or happiness even, when portrayed in art is somehow less instructive- or real- is very tenacious, and I feel as though it's more than a little unfair. It goes deep into our conceptions of the suffering artist, the one who creates the best work in the depths of a crack addiction, and it's unfair and unhealthy. The idea that one needs a source of misery to create good art is ludicrous, though in fact Kurelek created most his work as a way of dealing with his depression.
I love the idea of dealing with mental illness though art- and I think it's remarkable that even though Kurelek himself was depressed- and battling that negativity- he created work that is uplifting, and quietly positive, it's as though he was asserting a new normal through his works. I think that it's important to look on both sides of things through art- which means not necessarily focusing on the negative or traumatic, but also exploring the good- the idealistic, the warm memories. Which is not to say that one should only focus on those things- but just that work that is whimsical in content shouldn't be discounted.