“Art is a realm of life between our mundane world and the world of the spirit.”- Lawren Harris
Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris is an intimate portrait of Canada’s most renowned artist and the landscapes that inspired him. Co-founder of the legendary Group of Seven, Harris is an artist of international stature. His paintings of northern wilderness, of tangled and brilliant colour, wide blue expanses, and mountain vistas are an essential ingredient of Canada’s visual identity. His canvasses are widely admired and routinely sell for millions of dollars – “Mountain Forms” just smashed a Canadian art auction record with a gavel price of $11 million. That painting had been in a recent exhibition, Ideas of North, curated by actor-comic and art collector, Steve Martin.
With Colm Feore as the voice of Harris and Eric Peterson as that of fellow Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson, the film provides an illuminating look at of one of Canada’s icons.
Over 130 Harris paintings are featured in the film, including his iconic colourful houses, Lake Superior shorelines, ethereal Rocky Mountain peaks and Arctic icebergs. Also featured are his less well-known abstracts which reflect the end of Harris’ artistic and spiritual journey. Photographs and 8mm films from the family collection, works by those who influenced him, including Van Gogh, Emily Carr and Georgia O’Keeffe, offer additional context to his story.
In addition to rare archival footage (some of which was shot by Harris himself), Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris is told through interviews with Harris experts – curators, authors and artists including actor/comedian Steve Martin, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Andrew Hunter, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Ian Thom, curator and former Globe art critic Sarah Milroy, biographer Peter Larisey, author Dennis Reid, curator Roald Nasgaard, collector Ash Prakash, author Lisa Christensen of Heffels and Harris’ grandchildren Stew Sheppard and Toni Chowne. The cinematography transports the audience to glorious and remote locations across Canada where Harris painted.
Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris explores the man and the painter. His artistic journey showed daring and confidence. Raised in a family of wealth and privilege, Harris pushed boundaries and painted a radical vision of Canada with bold brilliant strokes of colour, knowing critics would denounce him. He gathered around him a group of fellow artists to help accomplish this mission. When Harris’ work was finally recognized and admired, he moved on to the spiritual realm of a less popular stylized abstraction. Harris’ private life was not always easy. A lonely marriage, scandalous divorce and relationship with another artist led him to leave Canada, a move which contributed to the dissolution of The Group of Seven.
Co-directed by filmmakers Peter Raymont and Nancy Lang, Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris delves deeply into Harris’ restless and curious nature, one which led to a life of constant exploration and reinvention. The film provides insights into his philosophy of painting, its aesthetic and cultural purpose, all which contributed to his extraordinary life and legacy.