Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Inspiration: William Kurelek

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.

1 comment:

  1. As some perceive humour writing, or romance (happy ending against all odds) fiction...why do we persistently discount the apparently naive, the "obvious" as having nothing to show us? Suffering rules where serenity mocks our reality? Interesting!