microcriticisms / salon



basquiat = young picasso > henry moore > old picasso

carr = kurelek > lawren harris = yvonne mckague housser > a.y. jackson > tom thompson

lermontov > nabokov > chekhov > tolstoy > dostoevysky




Emily Carr got better with time, Picasso got worse. He started to see the female body as a canvas to be stretched and distorted and hung. It was clear he thought he could do whatever he wanted with women. Basquiat died at twenty-seven and his work never had the chance to deviate much. Henry Moore drowned in Lake Ontario and when they finally discovered his body it was covered in zebra mussels, like it was anything, a boat or a shovel.

I realized today that I liked Moore more than Picasso, and that this feeling has slowly crept up on me, a deepening through association, almost like an arranged marriage. Moore belongs to Toronto and I grew up in Toronto and live in Toronto now. To arrive at this feeling I did not have to walk as far as McCaul, to the public statue I have poked my small body through. I only walked quickly through the Moore gallery in the AGO and I thought for a moment that if art is about putting work into the world that expands the notion of what is possible than maybe Moore is better than Picasso. But it was just Moore in there. I wasn’t sure I could say that he was better than Picasso unequivocally and so I split Picasso into two. Now I wonder if I was being too generous to Picasso in doing so.

This is isn’t about what it is better, except when it is.


Lawren Harris is godless and his work is inhuman. But it is undeniably good even though at times I have looked at his Arctic landscapes with a reflexive disgust. It depends on my mood. I have seen, in person, a single portrait of a woman named “Veronica” by Yvonne McKague Housser and I liked it more than anything I’ve ever seen by A.Y. Jackson or Tom Thompson and I thought it was as good as anything by Harris. Good enough to change a life, or a national destiny. I wonder what this country would be like if “Veronica” was considered our true portrait.

The space between human beings, between past and present, between objects crammed together on a batchelor’s shelves destroys me in Kurelek. The spaces are either too large or too small but there is always a field between one thing and another. His work could never be a national destiny because it is what already is—even his religious work already is. Kurelek is a vein or a heartbeat. To be Harris or Housser there needs to be some disturbance or friction. I mean that part of the disturbance needs to be at the centre of the work. Which is just not the case in Kurelek: even when the sea turns red with the blood of heresy, laxity, apostasy, it is the church on the rock at the centre of the image.


It hurts me to rank the Russians in any order, to point the carrots backwards or forwards, but for some reason I decided that I couldn’t use the equals sign with them, even though I might have put one in every position. Nabokov knows in his heart that he deserves to be on top in any ranking, and that’s true, of course, and Tolstoy and Chekhov deserve more than I’ve given them, and I’m not sure where Gogol has gone off to (he could be at the front or the rear), but I have ordered them according to a feeling and it is not an all-time feeling, it is smaller than that, and where this feeling lives Lermontov is first.

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