Two modes of seeing: David Milne and Emily Carr coexist in a single painting

The title sounds so wistful: “David dreams of Emily.” You might think, perhaps, that a youthful romance is at play here; it is a study in contrasts, perspectives and styles.

There are two clear parts to the painting — the top and the bottom; both of nature — one with precise lines and one more expansive. Each point of view says something particular about the world; put them together, they say something entirely new.

The David and Emily of the title are, respectively, the Canadian painters David Milne and Emily Carr. Their names refer not to a romance, but a joining of perspectives. Toronto artist and University of Guelph professor Monica Tap has acted as a metaphorical matchmaker, bringing Carr and Milne together.

Tap often works in collage, using “excerpts” from other artists, which is the way this painting began. The inspiration to bring Milne and Carr together in a single work was part of a larger process.

“As I worked on the painting, these two came to dominate and a conversation emerged between the three Milne-inspired patterned trees above what became a shoreline, and the inverted, attenuated trees below, a loose quotation of Carr,” explains Tap.

“I am deeply sympathetic to both: their approaches to landscape and their connection to their respective landscapes. The breathtaking economy of line, shape and colour that characterize Milne’s work result in, for example, trees that appear as individuals, each attentively regarded and sensitively reported. Carr, on the other hand, famously looked for what could not be directly observed: the numinous, the spiritual heart of the forest. The reflection loosely echoes but does not mirror the scene above.

“In the painting, I was searching for how these two modes of seeing — and being — might coexist,” Tap says.

In this act of creation, with two interpretations of a familiar landscape — trees on a shoreline — brought together, we can imagine a conversation. It sounds so wistful; as David dreams of Emily, we might dream, too, of making a connection: with a person, a place, a landscape that has room for all of us.

To see more of Tap’s work go to her website at monicatap.com or to the gallery that represents her work in Toronto, MKG127.com.

Deborah Dundas

TORONTO STAR