(June 16, 2016 – Toronto, ON) While interest in Canada’s renowned Group of Seven artists has always been steady, lately there has been a huge uptick, in part because of the prices some canvases are attaining, in part because US comedy icon Steve Martin has taken an interest and in part because we, as Canadians, are simply getting turned on by ourselves, possibly because of the approach of the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Whatever the cause, the attention is welcome and can be found in many places including on television.
One of the places is this city’s Art Gallery of Ontario, which will launch The Idea of the North on July 1st focused on the work of Lawren Harris. But before that TVOntario, the province’s educational broadcaster, will present a new documentary from co-directors Nancy Lang & Peter Raymont and White Pine Pictures. Titled Where The Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris, the 60-minute production looks at this curious man and why he was so determined to battle the critics and paint a radical new vision of Canada with bold brush strokes and brilliant colours.
While this is an intimate portrait of Canada’s most renowned artist — his canvasses routinely sell at auction for several million dollars — Where The Universe Sings is also the most comprehensive film on Harris to date. It features over 130 of his paintings, dozens of previously un-seen photographs and 8mm family films, plus works by those who influenced him, including Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Emily Carr and Georgia O’Keeffe.
In addition to rare archival footage (some of which was shot by Harris himself), Where The Universe Sings is told through interviews with the top Harris experts including 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, Harris’ grandchildren Stew Sheppard and Toni Chowne as well as actor/comedian Steve Martin. Actors Colm Feore provides the voice of Lawren Harris and Eric Peterson is the voice of A.Y. Jackson.
The film is the directorial debut for filmmaker Nancy Lang, pictured above. Previously, Lang led the research and co-produced West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson and Painted Land: In Search of the Group of Seven. She also produced West Wind’s companion interactive website, www.tomthomsonart.ca. An exhibited artist, Lang is the force behind the book At The Ojibway: 100 Summers on Georgian Bay, by David McFarlane.
Secret Location, the award-winning content creation company for emerging platforms, is creating a Bell Fund companion website and augmented reality mobile app to Where the Universe Sings which allows audiences to experience the process and intimacy between Harris and his paintings. The app and website will be available in September.
Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris is produced by Peter Raymont and Nancy Lang. Jane Jankovic is TVO’s Executive Producer Documentaries and Linda Fong is the Independent Production Officer for TVO. Bruce Cowley is Creative Head for documentary Channel.
Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris will be broadcast to Ontario audiences on TVO, Saturday June 25 at 9pm EST, and will be available across Canada on tvo.org beginning the following day. The documentary will be rebroadcast on TVO Sunday June 26 at 11pm, and Thursday June 30 at 9pm and midnight.