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Leisure and pleasure as modernist utopian ideal : the drawings and paintings by B.C. Binning from the… Yamanaka, Kaori 1999

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LEISURE AND PLEASURE AS MODERNIST UTOPIAN D3EAL: THE DRAWINGS AND PAINTINGS BY B.C.BINNING FROM THE MID 1940S TO THE EARLY 1950S by KAORI Y A M A N A K A B.A., The University of British Columbia, 1994 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Fine Arts) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 1999 © Kaori Yamanaka, 1999 I n p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f t h e r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r a n a d v a n c e d d e g r e e at t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a , I a g r e e t h a t t h e L i b r a r y s h a l l m a k e it f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e a n d s t u d y . I f u r t h e r a g r e e t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e c o p y i n g o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y p u r p o s e s m a y b e g r a n t e d b y t h e h e a d o f m y d e p a r t m e n t o r b y h i s o r h e r r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t is u n d e r s t o o d t h a t c o p y i n g o r p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l n o t b e a l l o w e d w i t h o u t m y w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . D e p a r t m e n t o f T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a V a n c o u v e r , C a n a d a D a t e A (^ i ( 30 , D E - 6 ( 2 / 8 8 ) 11 Abstract Bertram Charles Binning's depiction of British Columbia coastal scenes in his drawings and paintings of the mid 1940s to the early 1950s present images of sunlit seascapes in recreational settings; they are scenes of leisure and pleasure. The concern for leisure and pleasure was central to the artist's modernism, even after he began painting in a semi-abstract manner around 1948. In this particular construction of modernism, Binning offered pleasure as an antidote to some of the anxieties he observed in postwar culture. Binning also thought that art could contribute to life in a direct way. In the mid to late 1940s, Vancouver saw a series of artistic community projects which explored the possibility of art as a social force; the Art in Living Group, of which Binning was a member, believed that art could have a therapeutic value in relation to housing projects and community planning. In certain ways, the Art in Living Group was a response to rapid changes in the social matrix of Vancouver. Binning's personal artistic practice, however, appears to have existed outside of what was embraced in his participation in those community projects. His essentially personal, self-authenticating expression in the form of drawings may be seen to resist the idealism of his more 'public' production, that is, his own idealism, his demand for an art thoroughly harmonized with the public sphere. Moreover, in this more personal body of work, his choice of leisurely scenes, rendered in a style reminiscent of Matisse, can be seen as far removed from the urban tensions of the time. It also seems to suggest that the i i i leisure-and-pleasure idealism which finds expression in these works was not only class-and gender- specific, but also antithetical to his strong desire to democratize art. Binning's preoccupation with personal expression took a turn when he shifted his concern from representational drawings to semi-abstract paintings. The shift coincided with his career move to the University of British Columbia as a professor of Art History in 1949. From then on, Binning's interest in regional cosmopolitanism became more pronounced in his work. In this sense, it is significant that Binning looked for guidance to Herbert Read's ideas about modern art and art education. At the same time, his reputation expanded beyond the West Coast. In 1954, Binning was chosen to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale. Binning's particular modernism, as represented by this range of work, all of which presents a pastoral version of U t o p i a , was in some ways profoundly at odds with the social circumstances of the time. Why was the interest in leisure and pleasure significant to his practice? What did it mean to promote this kind of idealism in the local context? And in what ways did it relate to the international art scene — for example, to the work of Matisse or to contemporary concepts of art? My thesis addresses these questions by situating Binning's work both regionally and internationally. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract i i Table of Contents iv List of Illustrations v Acknowledgements vi INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER ONE: LAID BACK ON THE WEST COAST — ? 5 CHAPTER TWO: MATTER OF PLEASURE AND ART 27 CHAPTER THREE : TO A HIGHER GROUND 49 Illustrations 67 Bibliography 85 Appendix: B.C. Binning Biographical Notes 91 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Figure page 1. B.C. Binning View of Fisherman's Cove 1944 1,4,27,41 2. B.C. Binning Seaside Trees no.2 1945 1,4,27,41 3. B.C. Binning Afternoon Boat. Bowen Island Wharf 1944 5,23,41,43 4. B.C. Binning Self Portrait in Ship's Cabin 1945 5,43 5. Jack L. Shadbolt Bombed Building(s) 1945 6 6. Jack L. Shadbolt Ferris Wheel (Cambie Street Fair) 1946 6 7. Jack L . Shadbolt Granville Street at Night (Evening. Granville Street; Granville Street. Wartime) 1946 6 8. Molly L . Bobak A Typical Day in the Life of A.C.W.A.C. 1943 7 9. Molly L . Bobak Canadian Women's Army Corps Laundry Workers Going to Dinner. Bordon.England 1945 7 10. Molly L . Bobak Roman Catholic Church Parade. Ottawa n.d. 8 11. B.C. Binning House 14 12. B .C. Binning Ships at Quiet Anchor 1948 47 13. B.C. Binning Ships in a Classical Calm 1948 47 14. B.C. Binning Fanciful Seascape in Primary Colours 1949 47 15. B.C. Binning Gav Regatta no.l 1949 47 16. B.C. Binning Departure from Bowen Island n.d. 48 17. B.C. Binning yjitltled 1945 51 18. "1923 - 1953 Compared" 1954 63 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS V I I am greatly indebted to my first reader, Professor John O'Brian, for his patience, continuous support and encouragement throughout the development and completion of this thesis. His expertise in the History of Art in Canada has always been most valuable to the entire process of this work. I also would like to express my gratitude to Professor Serge Guilbaut whose critical perspective on the art of the post-war period significantly affected my understanding of the issues discussed in this thesis. I would like to thank many others whose personal support for me made the completion of this work possible: my friends, Charity Mewburn, Lynn Ruscheinsky, and Professor Maureen Ryan who helped me go through difficult times. I also would like to acknowledge the academic support from Professor Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe as well as Professor F. Graeme Chalmers and Professor Ronald MacGregor whose knowledge in the specific fields related to my study greatly contributed to the broadening of this investigation. And of course, I thank Mrs. Jessie Binning who generously invited me to her much-admired house and spoke to me about the memories of her late husband, and Mr. Adrian Archambault with whom I had very stimulating discussions on Binning. And last, but not least, my very, very special thanks to Jennifer Cullen who had always been my guardian-figure in the Department. 1 INTRODUCTION Binning's drawings produced in Vancouver in the mid-1940 during the course of the war most frequently depict coastal scenes, boats, piers views of small coves, or ferry wharves. The images convey a sense of intimacy; they are private views of those places visited by the artist. The scenes, such as those depicted in View of Fisherman's Cove [fig. 1] and Seaside Trees No.2 [fig. 2], are filled with summer sunshine, as if the blinding reflection of intense white sunlight obscures the surface texture and colour of objects and figures, leaving only strong outlines which define their shapes. On an extremely tipped picture plane, the objects and figures are carefully arranged with controlled lines to produce curiously contained images which hold in place the seemingly whimsical rendition of tree branches, leaves, rocks and even tiny waves on the water. These are not the images of changing urban landscapes or industrial sites and their workers; they are the images of quiet British Columbian coasts which are perceived from the point of view of a person of leisure detached from the grim side of life. What Binning offered to viewers in these drawings were not scenes of disaster or human suffering, but scenes of an idyllic West Coast seascape. Much of Binning's art featured the idea of leisure and pleasure; it was expressed in both the subject matter and the manner of execution. The apparently idiosyncratic character of his work, in the context of war-time art as well as of the British Columbian and Canadian landscape traditions, reminds the viewer of works by Matisse. Matisse also created art in the mode of 'pastoral,' works which were described by Greenberg in 1946 as 'hedonistic': 2 Materialism and positivism when they become pessimistic turn into hedonism, usually. And the path-breakers of the School of Paris, Matisse and Picasso, and Miro too — no less than the surrealists and the neo-romantics, whose pessimism rests on cynicism rather than on despair — began during the twenties to emphasize more than ever the pleasure element in their art. The School of Paris no longer sought to discover pleasure but to provide it.1 Was Binning's pastoral art, then, —like Matisse's — the expression of pessimism manifested as hedonism? Was it created to 'provide' pleasure as an antidote to the world full of violence and destruction? Or, is it possible that there are different kinds of interpretations which may explain why this particular mode of expression was imperative? This thesis explores this latter possibility — the possibility that there might have been issues or ideas specific to the local as well as to international artistic theories and practices, and, especially important for Binning, to the system of art education. I will argue that Binning's art, despite its seemingly contradictory character with regard to the atmosphere of the time, was not only interconnected with contemporary thoughts on art and education, but was also a strategy which, with its later adaptation, created and promoted a particular trend of modernism on the West Coast. The interest of this thesis lies specifically with the segment of Binning's works of the mid 1940s to the early 1950s which are either drawings or paintings. It excludes other works which were produced in the mid 1950s as part of architectural projects, and which included mosaics and murals commissioned for institutional sites. In Chapter One, I will begin with an analysis of Binning's drawings in relation to works by other local artists as 1 Clement Greenberg in The Nation (June 29, 1946), quoted in John O'Brian, "Greenberg's Matisse and the Problem of Avant-Garde Hedonism," Reconstructing Modernism: Art in New York. Paris . and Montreal 1945 - 1964. ed Serge Guilbaut (Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 1990) 153. 3 well as to various artistic and community projects, and also to the contemporary social context. In Chapter Two, I will investigate a range of psychological and sociological theories of leisure and pleasure, as well as Herbert Read's theory of art and education, which was immensely influential during this time. The link between these theories and Binning's art will then be discussed. In Chapter Three, I will examine the changes which occured in Binning's artistic production around the time of his direct engagement with issues in the field of art education at the University of British Columbia. The characteristics of Binning's specific modernism will also be investigated in relation to other practices in local as well as international art scenes. My objective here is to illuminate the relationships between a range of social and artistic ideas in circulation at the time and Binning's artistic practice. It was through this practice that he wished to demonstrate his understanding of the local and to effect a change in the way in which art was positioned in society. This thesis does not, therefore, deal with the biographical details of the artist's life . Although the investigation follows closely the changes in his career in chronological order, with the purpose of elucidating the intellectual shifts articulated in his production, it is not my intention to exhume some untold anecdotes about Binning. However, I would like to stress here that this is a case study of a body of work produced by an artist at a particular period of time: Binning himself must be seen as the agent who gathered and extracted different concepts and information from available sources, transformed his ideas into art, and whose contribution to the University of British Columbia has made a significant difference in 2 Some biographical notes on Binning are provided in the Appendix of this thesis. 4 local post-secondary education in arts. For this reason, I have incorporated some significant events and aspects of his life which are relevant to my discussion in this study. 5 CHAPTER ONE: LAID BACK ON THE WEST COAST ... ? While many of Binning's contemporaries served as war artists, producing works in battlefields and camps, service factories and offices in order to record and describe their observations and experiences, Binning's drawings, considered to constitute his mid-war production, represented dramatically different views of the contemporary moment. These works frequently depicted coastal scenes, boats, piers, views of small coves, or ferry wharves For example, View of Fisherman's Cove [fig. 1] depicts numerous boats, large and small on the left half of the plane. In the foreground, three rowboats are resting on the pebbly shore exposed at low tide. Following up the pier and the little bridge leading towards the rocky ground on the right, the viewer's eye follows the wall of wooden boards which separates the seaside from the row of trees, little cars beyond it, and a house at the far right end of the background. Further, at the end of the fence, the eye follows down the bridge at the center in the background towards the left to another pier where numerous boats cluster. The boats float and rest weightlessly on the surface of the water. The details are meticulously, but merely, suggested; the lines indicate the existence of a number of objects, trees, grass, flowers, pebbles, houses, cars and their wheels, even a figure rowing a boat, but do not reveal their colours, textures or weight. In Seaside Trees no 2 [fig. 2], the foreground is a narrow space with a lush vegetation of ferns, pebbles and other small plants where a rowboat is laid upside down in repose. The diagonal line of the bottom of the boat leads the eye further, deep towards 6 the middle ground, through the screen of large trees (two of which frame the final destination of the eye) to the little floating pier, where a number of small boats flock in quietude. On the pier, there is a figure standing still as if contemplating the seascape. Both of these images convey the atmosphere of a personal leisurely visit to the non-urban areas where the viewer's eye, just like that of the visitor to these places, is trapped and contained in a secret delight. Is the central figure on the pier in Seaside Trees the artist himself? Possibly. Binning sometimes included himself (or part of himself) in his drawings, such as in Afternoon Boat. Bowen Island Wharf [fig. 3]. In this image filled with travelers and pleasure boats as well as the large commuter-ship, Binning added a figure of himself on the left corner of the foreground. In Self Portrait in Ship's Cabin [fig. 4], the artist included parts of his body — his feet and his hand in the act of drawing his own face in the small mirror hung in the cabin. These two images and the other two drawings discussed earlier demonstrate the particular pictorial device which establishes a direct and immediate relationship between the artist/the viewer and the space depicted; that is, the authenticity of the private experience of leisure recorded as drawings. Furthermore, these images are constructed and idealized to represent the artist's pleasure in a highly conscious mark-making. But why represent these placid coastal scenes to the exclusion of other sites in the city or its surrounding areas? And what about other aspects of life? Considering the urgent circumstances of the wartime moment , the question arises of how to situate Binning's drawings in the local socio-geographical landscape of that time. 7 These drawings are unique not only in terms of the particular devices, and techniques deployed and the whimsical and leisurely impression they convey — strongly reminiscent of Matisse3— but also, and importantly, in the way in which they stand out in contrast to a number of works done by other local artists;. As opposed to the works by his contemporaries, Binning's drawings communicate a curiously cheerful, even optimistic air in a rather cartoon-like, caricature style. This contrast becomes abundantly clear when these two types of works are juxtaposed. The works of two local artists who served in the war demonstrate the difference in terms of subject matter and formal treatment. Jack L . Shadbolt not only produced haunting images of destruction in London, England4, for example, but also paintings which represented various aspects of Vancouver's active urban life. Bombed Building(s) [fig. 5], for example, is an image which Shadbolt executed while he was posted in London in 1945. It illustrates a scene of destruction through the manipulation of jagged edges, bluntly cut-off lines pointing in all directions but ending in mid-air, torn planes of walls, and forcibly bent pipes. In this picture, the absence of human figures reinforces the haunting atmosphere, rendering the image of chaos even more ominous. Even after he returned to Vancouver in 1946, Shadbolt's work continued to include lingering echoes of war. Ferris Wheel (Cambie Street Fair) [fig, 6] and Granville Street at Night (Evening. Granville Street; Granville Street. Wartime) [fig. 7] both represent the presence of soldiers among the people crowding the business/entertainment environment. In 3 "Hint of Matisse and Picasso" (quote) was pointed out by Max Maynard as early as 1941 in "Medal Awards" which reported on Binning's award-winning drawing Young man at a table, in The Art Gallery Bulletin (Vancouver Art Gallery, v.9, n.3, November 1941). 4 Much or the biographical information on Shadbolt here has been gathered from Jack Shadbolt by Scott Watson (Vancouver: Douglas & Mclntyre,1990). 8 Granville Street, there is a stack of newspapers at the base of the lampost with street signs. The headline reads STRIKE, and below it, A R M Y . In both images, the juxtaposition of the figures of soldiers with strollers and fair-goers produces an ironic tension.. The viewer is positioned at an odd angle in relation to the street scene, the vertical lines of the buildings, shop signs and the lamppost appearing to have been shaken and about to topple over to the right. And the people walking on the street look expressionless, all marching towards the foreground. Even the couple in the immediate foreground holding on to each other, possibly drunk, create a mood of melancholy. The" old man on the left, perhaps trying to cross the street, is about to step out of the image, looking lost and going nowhere. In addition to the already dark evening sky, a gloomy atmosphere fills the air. Both these images, and particularly Ferris Wheel, are executed in a semi-illustrative style of social realism; producing effects which are the opposite to those of Binning's drawings. Another example of a direct engagement with wartime issues of is the work by Molly L . Bobak. She also served in the war, and executed numerous images of daily activities of service men and women within a diary format5. (See, for example, A Typical Day in the Life of A.C.W.A.C. , [fig. 8].) In these 'diaries', she used a popular cartoon-like device to depict an extraordinary range of subject matter (from daily chores, scenes of interaction with other service people, meals and entertainments, to landscapes of the places she visited) with humour and optimism. She also produced a number of single-sheet drawings and watercolour paintings with similar themes, but without the cartoonish 5 For detailed information on the sketches and diaries produced by Molly Bobak during the war years, see Double Duty: Sketches and Diaries of Molly Lamb Bobak. Canadian War Artist, ed. Carolyn Gossage (Toronto and Oxford: Duncan Press,1992). 9 flavour and more in the manner of documentary. In Canadian Women's Army Corps Laundry Workers Going to Dinner, Bordon, England [fig. 9], the workers are shown as little marching figures coming out from the factory-like buildings, blending into the bushy foreground of poppies and grass. Another image, Roman Catholic Church Parade, Ottawa [fig. 10], also depicts a row of service women in uniforms marching towards the door of the imposing church. The somber mood is augmented by the calcifying white of the wall, the black outlines and shadows, the faceless women, and the power poles which suggest the images of crosses at graveyard. It is significant that in these images, and many others, the theme is always "the people", the workers who are serving the war; however, often the workers are nameless, faceless, or expressionless, and grouped together, performing their duties or sharing their spare time. When Bobak came back from the war, the work which she executed featured the signs of people's daily activities and changes in the cityscape. These images suggest that local artists of the time were deeply affected, both psychologically and interms of their everyday practices by the war. Even, when the war is not directly represented their images reference its effects or its presence within the environment of wartime or post-war Vancouver. Are the differences between Binning's work and that of the other two artists simply due to the fact that Binning did not serve in the war6? Had he served, would he also have executed images of soldiers, war-industry workers and changing city scenery? According to Adrian Archambault and Jessie Binning, the artist's widow, Bert Binning could not serve at the war due to his illness. Interview with Adrian Archambault and Jessie Binning, 21 February, 1995. 10 Or could it have been that the effects of war were not blatantly evident — either physically or psychologically — to numbers of individual citizens in Vancouver? While it is true that the war did not physically destroy the city of Vancouver and its vicinities, it appears to have profoundly impinged upon the life of the residents in the area in many ways. Not only did a large number of young British Columbian men and women serve in the war, those who remained at home encountered and endured a series of events which caused them considerable anxiety. Reports relating to the war and its direct influence on Canada's and Vancouver's public were delivered in daily newspapers: "Food hoarding"7, "Gas rationing"8, "Metal Shortage"9. In this last article, for example, it was reported that people gave up their golfclubs in order to contribute to the supply of metal for the cause. It appears that all members of society were obliged to compromise various parts of their lives. While there is evidence then that the war brought some hardships to the West Coast, it ironically also brought to Vancouver a huge economic boom. This was due to the development of war industries such as ship- or aircraft-building10. At the same time this sudden burst of economic activity resulted in a dramatic increase in population with its accomopanying pressures, increaing the struggle to maintain or secure a basic standard of living and to bolster moral confidence. 7 "Food Hoarding Starts in Vancouver", The Vancouver News Herald. 9 September, 1939. 8 "Transport Famine Grows", by Paul Malone, The Daily Province. 13 March, 1942. 9 "Metal Shortage Hard on Sport", The Vancouver Sun. 5 March, 1942. 1 0 Alan Morley, Vancouver: From Milltown to Metropolis (third edition, VancouvenMitchell Press,1974), 232. "It was not just that 20,000 men and women were working in the shipyards in the place of the 5,000 of the First World War, or other thousands in the Boeing Aircraft plant on Sea Island, or that the port was daily setting records for shipping metals, timber and foodstuffs from the busy piers, there was a change in quality, as well as an increase in quantity." 11 The case of the housing shortage in Vancouver during this period will serve to illustrate more clearly some aspects of the social change. Social historian Jill Wade states that there was a huge population increase of 44,000 people between 1939 and 1944 in Vancouver, which was due to the largescale migration of workers and their families towards the wartime ship-building and aircraft industries, the arrival of Armed Forces dependents and the inflow of people from other provinces." The shortage of accommodation resulting from this overcrowding was further aggravated by the settlement of almost 8,500 veterans in the city by 1945. In addition to these factors, British war brides and servicemen and women continued to flow in after 1945. Before 1944, the government-instituted wartime Housing Limited had constructed over 1,000 units both in North Vancouver and Richmond, but did not build any in the city of Vancouver. This situation was aggravated 1944 when a series of evictions provoked public agitation, culminating in the 1946 occupation of the old Hotel Vancouver by thirty war veterans. By this time, the issue of accommodation had been further complicated by the problems of low-income citizens and their poor living conditions. While the occupation of the Hotel did not drive the federal and Vancouver municipal governments to take immediate and extensive measures, it did eventually force them to make improvements in housing regulations and to, at least temporarily, privilege the needs of war veterans over others. 1 1 The following information on this issue is taken from the study by Jill Wade, " ' A Place for the Public': Housing Reform and the 1946 Occupation of the Old Hotel Vancouver", in B.C.Studies. (nos.69-70, Spring-Summer 1986) 288-310. The issue of the war-time housing crisis is also extensively researched and discussed by Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe in his The New Spirit: Modern Architecture in Vancouver. 1938 -1963 (Vancouver, Douglas & Mclntyre,1997), 46 - 48. 1 2 It should be clear that a range of constituencies were vocally and visibly active in pressuring the governments of address their housing concerns. In other words, as Wade notes, "the Vancouver housing protests of 1944-1946 did not constitute a strictly 12 working-class movement against state and capital. " The Canadian Legion, a veterans' organization, for example, expressed its interest on behalf of both the working and the middle classes, and the Rehabilitation Council, created to accommodate veterans' needs, business, professional, labour and community groups as well. This inclusive policy was in significant part instituted to address a climate of popular discontent and an accompanying pervasive "fear of social unrest.13" As these events suggest, the mid- to post-war situation in Vancouver was a complex one. On the one hand, the anxiety of the war was clearly felt; but on the other, the war itself caused an unprecedented economic boom, promoting a rapid urbanization of the city which brought with it numerous problems. Considering these historical circumstances, Binning's work appears to be antithetical to an image of the city full of agitated activities and events. At the same time, however, it would be too simplistic to link his drawings to the 'optimistic' side of the economic surge. In fact, there were some other community activities in which Binning and other artists, architects and educators were involved that appear to suggest a more complex relationship between Binning's leisurely images and the anxiety-filled, ever-changing landscape of British Columbia. 1 2 Wade, 310. 1 3 Wade, 310. "While not class-specific, the Vancouver protests of the mid forties expressed a triumph of popular wi l l . " 13 These community activities derived their impetus from certain modernist theories with which Binning had come into contact during his pre-war studies in London, England. Having finished his training as a draftsman at the Vancouver School of Art in 1932, Binning had gone to London and studied with internationally known artistsAmedee Ozenfant and Henry Moore at the Ozenfant Academy in 1938. Although Binning had had, it appears, more direct contact with and immediate influence from Moore, 1 4 it is apparent that the artist's encounter with Ozenfant had a profound and lasting influence on his art. Ozenfant was known as a co-founder of 'Purism' with Charles Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier). According to Ozenfant, art had to be a serious interrogation of "Constants", or the essential and the universal of humanity.15 He called this pursuit Purism; "Purism is not an aesthetic, but a sort of super-aesthetic in the same way that the League of Nations is a super-state."16 "Purism is therefore not a form of art, but an attitude of mind and a procedure."17 Ozenfant maintained that great art is made possible by the living in harmony with the 'Universal' of human beings. To this end Ozenfant promoted the elevation of an art which integrated subject matter and the means of representation through geometric formulations. The aim was to produce a universal language that would be apprehended through intellectual understanding. The process of 'creation' would therefore require order and discipline, demanding very specific uses of color, form and composition. Binning talks about Moore in The Vancouver Art Gallery Videotaped Interview with B.C. Binning and Dorothy Metcalfe. June 10. 1974 (Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1974). 1 5 Amedee Ozenfant, Foundations of Modern Art (trans. John Rdker, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.,1952 [1928]) xi. 1 6 Ozenfant, xiii . 1 7 Ozenfant, xiv. 14 Although the link between Ozenfant's prescriptive ideals and Binning's artistic practice became much more recognizable in immediate visual terms once Binning started to produce oil paintings in 1948, his earlier drawings had already implied the application of similar concepts. In his article "The Teaching of Drawing" published in Canadian Art in 1947, Binning stressed the importance of clarity and discipline in the process of production in order to refine emotion and intellect to their essentials.18 In addition, he contended that both the intention and the process, including the experience of the study of art, were of greater value than the end product (drawing). While Binning shared with Ozenfant certain notions relating to an artistic ideal, his art was not rigidly bound to Ozenfant's dogmatic prescriptions. Not only did he refuse the strictly geometric forms for more organic and spontaneous style of drawing, he chose to stick to local subject matter. Binning's writing indicate an acute awareness of the specific regional conditions within which British Columbian artists were struggling to find their own art and create their artistic community: Living out here in the West means being outside the stimulus of the larger art centres with their activities and influences. Partly because of our isolation and partly because we feel the challenge made by this country we are committed to find our own way. It is quite natural then that we turn to drawing both for inspiration and as a tool to search out the forms that will best express for us our feelings for this strange and beautiful land. 1 9 Binning's awareness of and connection with Vancouver's art scene was in part articulated through his participation in the project of the Art in Living Group. This Utopian group, led by Fred Amess, a local artist, articulated a mission to involve all citizens in a process of community planning intended to eliminate socio-economic 1 8 Bertram Charles Binning, "The Teaching of Drawing", Canadian Art (5.1, Autumn 1947),.20-23. 1 9 Binning, "The Teaching of Drawing," 23. 15 20 problems and to improve living conditions in the city of Vancouver and its surrounding. For this purpose, it was believed, the modernization of art, the implementation of architectural city planning and the integration of both into everyday life was necessary. Thus, artists and architects played a central role in this project. Their particular notion of 'good design' was linked to morality as well as to the high aesthetic ideal; plans were conceived for 'model' nuclear families in order to provide them with a clean, healthy and orderly environment. To achieve this goal, it was hoped that artists and architects could work together to make a contribution to local society.21 Organized in 1943, the Art in Living Group mounted a series of exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, beginning in 1944. In the first exhibition, entitled Art in Living, Binning's own house [fig. 11], designed by the artist himself and completed in 1940, was shown in photographs as a pioneering example of an ideal house in which the modernist artistic concern was fully realized in a functional living space. It is important to note here that Binning's former instructor Ozenfant had himself collaborated with the architect 22 Jeanneret to design and construct his own house in the 1920s. Ozenfant's and Jeanneret's idea of Purist architecture aimed to create a functionally efficient living environment which expressed the Purist ideal. 2 3 What this suggests is a link between Ozenfant's conception of art, life and a utilitarian ideal as manifested in architecture and Binning's idea of the construction of an artist-designed house. Scott Watson, "Art in the Fifties — Design, leisure and painting in the age of anxiety," Vancouver: Art and Artists. 1931 - 1983 (Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1983), 75. See also Fred A . Amess, "The Art in Living Group," Canadian Art (v.5, n . l , Autumn, 1947), 13. 2 1 Amess, 13. 2 2 Ozenfant, 328. 2 3 Ozenfant, 121 - 122. 16 This interest in architecture from an artistic point of view was not just a whim of those artists and architects involved in the Art in Living Group. During the post-war years, the field of architecture provided the ground for discussing the role of the artistic process in the conceptualization of architecture and city planning. For example,in 1946 in Space, Time and Architecture: the growth of a new tradition, Sigfried Giedion discussed the issue of the relationship between art and architecture.24 Pointing out the parallel development in modern art and architecture, Giedion states, A good share of the misfortunes of the past century came out of its belief that industry and techniques had only a functional import, with no emotional content. The arts were exiled to an isolated realm of their own, completely insulated from everyday realities. As a result, life lost unity and balance; science and industry made steady advances, but in the now detached realm of feeling there was nothing but a vacillation from one extreme to the other.25 According to Giedion, "a recognizable common spirit" of a specific time period is shared in all contemporaneous human activities because the people of that time experience common temporal and cultural environments.26 For this reason, he goes on to explore modern art, especially Cubism and other 'isms' such as Purism, Constructivism, Neo-plasticism and Futurism, in order to analyze the issues of space and time with regard to architecture. In particular, Giedion discusses three architectural projects: The Bridges of Robert Maillart, Walter Gropius and German Development, and Le Corbusier and the 27 Means of Architectonic Expression. It is significant that Giedion chooses these specific Sigfried Giedion, Space. Time and Architecture: the growth of a new tradition (Cambridge: the Harvard University Press, 1946), 349 - 432. This book was used as a textbook for architecture courses at the University of British Columbia from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. 2 5 Giedion, 350. 2 6 Giedion, 350. 2 7 Giedion, 371 - 428. 17 examples for, as he repeatedly points out, each case indicates the conception of architecture as an aesthetic, moral, as well as practical (engineering) problem. And in this respect, he sees that art and architecture share the same instrumental role. Modern painters have enlarged our visual experience by working with relations between objects which we had never taken cognizance of in our ordinary, half-automatic seeing. Contemporary architects have been just as willing to anticipate public understanding. They too have refused to wait until they could be sure of universal approbation for their work. Following an impulse which was half ethical, half artistic, they have sought to provide our life with its corresponding shell or framework. And where contemporary architecture has been allowed to provide a new setting for contemporary life, this new setting has acted in its turn upon the life from which it springs. The new atmosphere has led to change and development in the conceptions' of the people who live in it. This is understandable enough if we regard architecture as Louis Aragon does painting: as a language, and not as a mere matter of taste.28 The idea that both architecture and art function as languages seems to explain why the modernist artists and architects in Vancouver of the time considered their collaboration in both public and private building projects to be important. Such languages werev used as a means to address the issues of social as well as individual necessities and ideals which emerged from the realities of contemporary life. Indeed, it was not only the public housing problem during and immediately after the war 2 9, but also the construction of some individuals' private houses which provided opportunities for architects and artists to express their common concerns and values. As already mentioned, Binning designed his own house with the help of C E . Pratt and R.A.D. Giedion, 430. For more information on this issue, see Windsor-Liscombe, 47. 18 Berwick. Indeed, the late 1940s and 1950s in Vancouver saw the constuction of a series of private houses designed by artists and architects, particularly in the suburban areas.31 From a broader perspective, architecture was considered important in relation to society as a cultural expression specific to the region. In his article "Regional Trends in West Coast Architecture", Fred Lasserre discusses various aspects of West Coast life ranging from climate, vegetation, and topography to housing tradition (or lack of it). 3 2 Lasserre laments that "There just are no examples to which any citizen feels he can point as a well-built building, suited to its needs and aesthetically native to Vancouver."33 At the same time, however, he points out: "From this background emerges the contemporary movement in architecture on the West Coast. Unfettered by sentimental or traditional cultural bonds with any fine architectural heritage, the design of buildings is approached objectively. Architectural design can now be the simple spontaneous expression of a building solution suited to needs, many of which are peculiar to this area."34 His idea of West Coast architecture was to take into consideration the lifestyle of the residents of the region, which, particularly in summer, demanded a fusion of outdoor- and indoor- living in a building plan in terms of material and space, creating a more open, flexible, practical and contemporary architectural style than was provided by traditional, derivative models. ' Windsor-Liscombe, 40. 3 1 Windsor-Liscombe, 39 - 44. The houses built by the collaboration of artists and architects during and following this period include: the Bobaks' by Douglas Shadbolt, D.Simpson's with John Korner's mural, by the architect himself, J.L.Shadbolt's by Douglas Shadbolt, Gordon Smith's by Arthur Erickson, Charles Stegeman by Arthur Erickson. See the following articles in Canadian Art: "For Artists — A Contemporary Home and Studio" (4.1, Autumn 1951, 31): Douglas Simpson,"Towards Regionalism in Canadian Architecture" (10.3, Spring 1953, 110- 113):R.H. Hubbard, " A Climate for the Arts" (12.3, September 1955, 99 - 105, 139): John Korner, " A Re-Union of Painting and Architecture" (12.3, Spring 1955, 106 -107). 3 2 Fred Lasserre, "Regional Trends in West Coast Architecture", Canadian Art (5.1, Autumn 1947, 7 - 12). 3 3 Lasserre, 9. 3 4 Lasserre, 10. 19 It is significant that in every aspect which is pointed out here by Lasserre, Binning's own house appears tohave been an excellent example of an ideal modern living space in Vancouver. Binning's house had a flat roof — which Lasserre strongly supported for its versatility in terms of the extension of internal / external (patio) space — large floor-to-ceiling living room / porch windows, locally available material, and a simple and flexible spatial plan which can be altered according to the residents' needs.35 Binning's contribution to local architecture through the realization of his own house was recognized as a 'pioneering' project in which an artist could work together with other specialists to produce something regional, innovative and private, while at the same time practical, highly applicable and adaptable to public needs. In this sense it was not at all incidental that Lasserre specifically noted the significance of the Federation of Canadian Artists and the Art in Living Group, along with the Department of Architecture at U.B.C. , as responsible for 'preparing the cultural ground' in his article.36 The interest in art as a significant contributor to society was not specific to the Art in Living Group. In 1945, the Junior League of Vancouver and the Community Chest administered a study and submitted a report called "Arts and Our Town" which examined some of the activities of cultural organizations in Vancouver.37 The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationship between recreational and artistic activities and demographic information about juvenile delinquency. This association of artistic activities in leisure time with morality is a remarkable one; just as the Art in Living ' For more details of Binning house, see Windsor-Liscombe, 40 - 42. 3 6 Lasserre, 11. 3 7 Watson, "Art in the Fifties," 77 - 78. See also "The Arts and Our Town", The Art Gallery Bulletin (16.2, October 1948, n.p.). 20 Group sought moral order through the application of art in building a living space, the Junior League and the Community Chest looked into the rehabilitative effect of artistic leisure activities in solving social problems. As a result of this report, recommendations were made to establish art-related community organizations, which led to the formation of the Community Arts Council in 1946 and its first Festival of the Arts, which includied a show at the Vancouver Art Gallery called B.C. at Play in 1948.38 Although Art in Living Group and B.C. at Play shared the notion of 'utilitarian and leisurely art for the public', it is important to note here that there are crucial differences between the the two projects. Although the Art in Living Group purported to bring art into life, art itself remained in the hands of artists and architects who then only made suggestions; the group's project was never realized as a direct result of their effort. Instead it was a demonstration of an ideal, an exhibition as a goal in itself. Even in relation to international forms of U t o p i a n modernism the Group's guiding principle was unique. For example the Group's notion of 'art in life' set itself apart from the Bauhaus' utilitarian ideal, which embraced both artists and workers in a rejection of 'salon art'. However, like the Group the Bauhausian ideal was to blur the distinction between art and craft. B.C. at Play, on the other hand, aimed at incorporating artistic activities into people's everyday leisure time, turning every citizen into an active participant in art, or an artist himself or herself. In this sense it was also a democratization of art which the B.C. at Play project proposed to effect. Nonetheless, in all cases art was accorded an eminent role of moral saviour in a troubled society. Watson, "Art in the Fifties," 77. For the development of the Community Arts Council and its activities, see also Moira Sweeny, "Community Arts for Vancouver", Canadian Art (11.2, Winter 1954, 62, 72, 73). 21 It might be argued that a project such as the Art in Living Group was the contemporary artists' and architects' response to the housing problems, poor neighbourhood conditions and other related issues which are exemplified in Wade's 1986 housing study. In addition, these concerns were understood to be not only material, but also of serious moral urgency. Under these circumstances, however, Binning's personal practice seems somewhat impervious tovolatile social conditions. Remaining consistent with the already problematic conception of the Art in Living Group, which failed to acknowledge and understand workers' lives as part of a larger economic system39, Binning's idealist-Utopian modernism refused to deal with a number of issues about which many Vancouverites were concerned, in the same manner in which he carefully selected and excluded certain elements in his drawings. "One of the cardinal principles of my drawing is this whole business of selection and rejection ...." 4 0 As I have already pointed out, there were other contemporary artists who were responsive to Vancouver's changing cityscape of Vancouver or images of war workers. Of particular interest in relation to the practice of some local artists at that time was an organization called the Labor Arts Guild, formed in 1944, which held an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the same year. The exhibition, entitled British Columbia at Work, displayed images celebrating war industry labour.41 In some respects, the concept of the Labor Arts Guild Watson, "Art in the Fifties," 76. Also, it was only in the beginning of the 1950s when the government started to make an attempt to address the issue, the failure of which has now been pointed out by artist Stan Douglas in his work Win, Place or Show. 1998. 4 0 Quote from the interview by Doreen Walker with Binning, 13 June, 1972, in Nicholas Tuele, "B.C.Binning: A Classical Spirit", in B.C.Binning: A Classical Spirit, ex. cat. (Victoria: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1986, n.p.). 4 1 Watson, "Art in the Fifties," 73. See also The Art Gallery Bulletin. "British Columbia at Work" (12.1, September 1944, 4). and "B.C. at Work -- Prize Awards" (12.3, November 1944, n.p.), as well as "Labor and Art" (12.6, February 1945, n.p.). 22 shared with the Art in Living Group the idea that artists participate in the improvement of community life. However, the Labor Arts Guild appears to have been based on a far greater stake in the position of artists as workers in society. In addition, the Guild's exhibition, British Columbia at Work, was organized with some serious concerns about the exclusivity of the art scene in B.C. as well as the elitist relationship between art galleries and their patrons. As the Guild stated: ... it is an endeavour to wean our local artists away from depicting the scenery of British Columbia in its varied aspects in favour of persuading them to apply their gifts to showing people in their varied occupations. A predilection for Canadian landscape rather than for Canadian humanity is a characteristic of most exhibitions of painting which we show in the Gallery. The Allied Art War Service Council is therefore breaking fresh ground by providing a stimulus for the creation of pictures of everyday working life in British Columbia. People doing things rather than thinking about them.42 (bold letters original) Further the Guild argued that the exhibition worked "... to dispel the impression, of course entirely erroneous, that the Art Gallery exists to serve the interests of a privileged few." 4 3 What Binning was taking up as his favourite subject matter was of course the very scenery of B.C. from which the Allied Arts War Service Council, referred to in the Guild's statement, wanted artists to move on. However, he was not at all oblivious to the idea of 'artists as workers'; in the 1939-to-1940 issue of the Vancouver School of Design and Applied Arts student publication Behind the Palette, Binning wrote about the Works Project Administration in the United States (the W.P.A.), which included an art program called the Federal Art Project sponsored by the U.S. government: This is no mere vocal encouragement but in millions of dollars set aside for the employment of thousands of unemployed artists and artisans. Most important, they are organized much in the spirit of the old guild system and directed to "British Columbia at Work", The Gallery Bulletin. (12.1, September 1944), 4. "British Columbia at Work," 4. 23 necessary work. Not as half starved Bohemian garret dwellers, but as workers, they find a place in the community and receive concrete encouragement for their t o i l 4 4 In this article, Binning champions the W.P.A. program not only for its role in giving artists opportunities to contribute to society, but also for the possibility of art as a life-enriching, creative activity deserving of respect from the public (and therefore eliciting respect for artists). Despite his consciousness of art as a socially significant force, Binning's drawings remained devoid of any images of 'struggle' or 'work.' Not only had Binning been producing drawings of leisurely coastal scenes since the pre-war days when he was teaching at the Vancouver School of Art, but he studiously ignored any changes that occured after the war began. For example he recorded no signs of the immobilization of the Japanese fishing fleet in 194145, nor the approapriation of the Vancouver harbour as an outlying base by the United States navy during the war.4 6 Neither did he record the changes in theactivities of the sea transportation industry (due to the rising cost and competition with air transportation)47 Nevertheless, it can be argued that Binning's practice did not exist entirely outside of the contemporary social context. Rather, the contingency of the current historical circumstances on his art is inscribed in his drawings in different ways. It may be argued that Binning's persistent coastal images are the extension of the common B.C.Binning, "W.P.A.", Behind the Palette (Vancouver: Vancouver School of Art student publication, 1939 - 1940), n.p.. 4 5 Morley, 233. 4 6 Morley, 233. 4 7 Morley, 243. 24 practice of sketching trips at the V.S.A. when Binning was a student in the 1930s and an instructor through the 1940s.48 More importantly, however, as Scott Watson has pointed out in his analysis of the 1944 Art in Living Exhibition , "the idea of an image of a modern living room, from whose large sun balcony will be seen a tree-screened view of a planned city," 4 9 indicates the ideal location of the modern "home" was, in fact, in the then affordable suburb of West Vancouver, and not in the city centre. Binning was looking at his coastal scenes through the screens of trees in West Vancouver where his house placidly stood. What is significant here is that the Art in Living Group had promoted the suburbs as the ideal residiential area and that Binning, a Group participant, actually built and lived in these suburbs. West Vancouver was at that time an affordable place to own a house and indeed Binning had taken great pains to make his own house as inexpensive as possible50. And it was here that he was creating the kind of work of art that exemplified the ideal. What is ironic is that soon this particular area became somewhat of a well-to-do neighbourhood. As Alan Morley observed, "West Vancouver became the home of the wealthier class and proved to be the opportunity of gifted young architects whose handsome and harmonious designs for homes became famous throughout continent; ...." 5 1 In this environment, Binning was "paddling around the coves, bays, and little snugs that you find around the coast here in B . C . " 5 2 in his own boat. It was the very coast which, by this time, had become one of the major tourist attractions to be listed in guide books 4 8 Sketching trips and excursions were regular part of the activities at the V.S .A. See, for example, the student writings on sketching trips in many of the issues of Behind the Palette (the V.S .A. student publication) during the 1930s. 4 9 Watson, "Art in the Fifties," 75. See also "Art in Living Exhibition" The Art Gallery Bulletin (12.1, September 1944). 5 0 "Bertie wanted to do something with the cheapest materials," Jessie Binning quoted in " A Pioneer Spirit", (The Arts section), Globe and Mail . 1 February, 1992; A l . 5 1 Morley, 241. 25 and souvenir photo albums of British Columbia." Binning, however, rendered this public space as a site of personal enjoyment; the images were framed and constructed to express his subjective view of the coastal scenes. In fact, those sites — the coves and ferry wharves, or Strait of Georgia and Burrard Inlet, which Binning was musing upon — were the very spaces in which a number of social interactions and changes were taking place. They were the sites where tourism, the transportation industry and the local people's everyday-life activities intersected. The ferry boats were part of the tourist industry as well as part of a transportation system which supported local economy. The small coves also represented the local fishermen's space for survival. In his drawings such as Bowen Island Wharf [fig. 3], however, these aspects of the seascapes are considerably subdued. The signs of social interactions and events which mark struggles, conflicts or resistance in people's everyday life are distanced and aestheticized. Nonetheless, those images of beaches and piers were for Binning intensely real. [the image] as an event does not exist any longer. The old union steamships which used to ply our coastal waters visited so many of the little ports within about a hundred miles of Vancouver: Bowen Island was one of the nearer excursion centres, and certainly one of the most popular.... The happy time and informality of atmosphere which existed on the pier was something everyone took for granted. Now, of course, you do not see it any more: So this drawing is one of which has become a kind of documentary record.54 Binning also recalled: y i Quoted from the interview by Walker with Binning, 1972, in Tuele, n.p.. 5 3 See, for example, Two Glorious Weeks at Vancouver. British Columbia (Vancouver: Vancouver Tourist Association, n.d. [circa 1940]), or Beautiful Vancouver: Souvenir Album Based on Vancouver Sun Photographic Contest (ed. A . George Bulhak, Vancouver: The Sun Publishing Co. Ltd., n.d.[circa 1948?], with numerous photographs of coastal areas and boating scenes. 5 4 Quoted by Doreen Walker, "The Rich Architectonics of Binning", reprinted from Vie des Arts. XVIII 72, 1973, in B.C.Binning: A Classical Spirit, appendix 1, n.p.. 26 View of Fishermen's cove, 1944, I think in some ways reflects more than any of the drawings the haphazard, rather jerry-built quality that existed all up and down the coast... the makeshift floats, the hodge podge of boats, the not always sandy beach, and the not too tidy foreshore. These things were all characteristic of the scene at that time;5 5 These comments reveal that Binning was well aware of the conflicting historical conditions around the B.C. coasts at the time. Yet his images refuse to describe any disruptive changes or disquieting aspects occuring in the seascapes. Instead, these coastal scenes appear cleansed, purified and almost exorcised of any social evils, featuring a joyous, and even comical impression of the objects and people observed. While leaving a subtle reference to the space of interaction and change, his drawings insist on the fantasy of leisure and pleasure. Walker, n.p. \ 27 CHAPTER TWO: THE MATTER OF PLEASURE AND ART Despite the fact that Binning's art represented a strong committment to progressive social change, the question remains why the concept of 'leisure and pleasure' was so central to his project. While he was not unique in imaging pleasure at a time of humanity's distress and great social change, it must be asked why the idea of leisure and pleasure was so important in the context of the West coast artistic scene or, more specifically, to Binning's own vision of modernism. In order to examine this issue, it is necessary to explore the ways in which notions of leisure and pleasure may be explained. It is significant that notions of 'modernism' developed rapidly and in complex ways in the late 19th century. Social historian David Harvey points out in his book The Condition of Postmodernity, the experience of 'the modern' in this period involved "the sense of the ephemeral, the fragmentary, and the contingent."56 And it was this experience, according to Harvey, which stimulated artists, writers, architects, thinkers and philosophers to respond to social conditions, and more specifically, to redefine "the eternal and immutable," and "the essence of humanity."57 Harvey states that modernism is "a troubled and fluctuating aesthetic response to conditions of modernity produced by a 58 particular process of modernization." The 'modernization' which Harvey discusses is, of course, the capitalist modernization which included the development of processes of mass production (such as Fordism) and consumption, as well as the resulting ' David Harvey. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Cambridge and Oxford: Blackwell, 1990) 11. 5 7 Harvey, 10-38. 5 8 Harvey, 99. 28 suburbanization, the notion of individualism, the sense of alienation and so on. 5 9 This understanding of modernization allows Harvey to suggest that the conditions of modernity profoundly affected the ways in which individuals experience time and space both materially and conceptually.60 It appears that the development of notions of modernity coincided with the development in the interest in concepts of leisure and pleasure. It was also in the late 19th century when ideas of leisure and pleasure in relation to the context of capitalist society started to become a subject of sociological and psychological enquiry Sociologist Thorstein BunceVeblen, the author of The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), provided one of the first analyses linking the notion of leisure to a classed subject. Discussing leisure as "non-productive consumption of time,"61 he goes on: Time is consumed non-productively (1) from a sense of the unworthiness of productive work, and (2) as an evidence of pecuniary ability to afford a life of idleness.62 Veblen argues that this exemption from work (specifically menial and economic) is particular to the "leisure class," whose social status is based on the conditions of ownership, accumulated wealth, popular esteem or honour, and self-respect.63 What is interesting in his analysis is that the concept of leisure is linked not only to social structure and its economic activities, but also to the sense of self-satisfaction and personal fulfillment accessible through economic success. 5 y Harvey, 99-112, 125-140. 6 0 Harvey, 201-239. 6 1 Thorstein Bunce Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (New York:The Modern Library, Inc.1899, reprinted 1934) 43. 6 2 Veblen, 43. 6 3 Veblen,24 - 34. 29 This point is further explained by Veblen in relation to the "archaic theoretical distinction between the base and the honourable in the manner of a man's life." 6 4 He explains that the "vulgar" aspects of material life, which are associated with "spiritual contamination," have been considered inappropriate for people of "high thinking," an idea whose origin he traces to the ancient Greeks.65 Thus, the conditions which supply leisure time and distancing from industrial processes have been recognized as "a prerequisite to a worthy or beautiful, or even a blameless, human life," or a life which is "beautiful and ennobling in all civilized men's eyes."66 Is it then possible to interpret the ideas of leisure and pleasure in Binning's work as an expression of the status of a privileged class? Are his images such as View of Fisherman's Cove [fig. 1] or Seaside Trees No.2 [fig. 2] simply a display of the 'nobleness' or economic accomplishments of a distinguished citizen? If so, how are we to understand the relationship between Binning's drawings and his particiption in the Art in Living Group? While Veblen's study examined the relationships of archaic systems of society and privileged classes, later researchers focused on the various forms of leisure activity. From the 1920s to the 1960s, many studies were conducted in order to categorize and quantify leisure-time habits or activities. This may be linked to the rapid development of capitalism which was disrupted by the Depression and the two Wars that complicated the relationships of individuals with their experience of time and space. These studies measured and classified different types of activities (such as sports, music, art, reading or 6 4 Veblen, 37. 6 5 Veblen, 37. 6 6 Veblen, 38. 30 writing, and so on ) which were performed in the 'residual' time which is left when life's necessities have been addressed.67 This type of research was followed by a series of works which emphasized "the functional view of leisure" in which "leisure fulfills certain / T O personal needs." A 1950 study speculated: Play may prove to be the sphere in which there is still some room left for the would-be autonomous man to reclaim his individual character from the pervasive demands of his social character.69 It is not clear as to why this 'functional view of leisure' emerged at this particular moment in 1950. However, it may be explained in relation to the two wars and the Depression, which will be discussed later in this chapter. The passage above suggests leisure was also considered capable of helping to constitute and / or restore an individual's personal sense of self which was lost in capitalist society. This perspective from which leisure has been regarded as functional and personally meaningful allows for a view that leisure time activities can be personally and socially instrumental and morally significant — that they act as balancing or controlling agents by which individuals cope with various external realities of life (such as work, social relations, and so on). From this point of view, it makes sense that, in Vancouver in the 1940s, artistic activities in leisure time could be understood to be beneficial in dealing with community issues as well as individual concerns. A project such as B.C. at Play appears to have been intended to address these concerns and to promote positive effects with its emphasis on diminishing social as well as individual problems, such as juvenile delinquency. John Neulinger, The Psychology of Leisure: Research Approaches to the Study of Leisure (Springfield; Charles C. Thomas, 1976 [1974]) 6. 6 8 Neulinger, 7 - 8 . 6 9 Neulinger, 7; this is a quote from Riesman, Flazer and Denney The Lonely Crowd (1950) 314. 31 The notion that leisure has functional merit in fulfilling personal needs has been further explored by more recent studies which investigate subjective experiences of leisure time. In her 1994 sociological study of leisure, Patricia Stokowski suggests that one way to consider leisure is to examine it as attitude, not as activity or time. According to her, the current (as in the context of the developed capitalist society in 1994) notion of leisure includes "a subjective, internal feeling of sublime experience, freedom, satisfaction and emotion."71. Psychologist Neulinger also suggests that the primary dimension in the conceptualization of leisure is freedom, and specifically, 72 perceived freedom, (emphasis original) "To leisure implies being engaged in an activity as a free agent and of one's own choice."7 3 This means that to have leisure time is to have a sense of control over time and activity during a specific period of time defined as 'free time.' The concept of freedom associated with leisure is of particular importance in relation to the international context of the mid- to the post-war period which imposed on indivicuals the threat of totalitarianism. It is also significant in terms of resional conditions^ in which Vancouver was experiencing a rapid industrial as well as social change due to the Second War, which ironically accelerated the local development of consumerism. The connection between leisure and the idea of personal experience is also pointed out by sociologist Chris Rojek: "leisure relations are often associated with the 7 0 Patricia Stokowski, Leisure in Society: A Network Structural Perspective (London: Mansell Publishing Ltd., 1994) 3 - 4. 7 1 Stokowski, 4. 7 2 Neulinger, 15. 7 3 Neulinger, 15. 32 experience of personal authenticity."74 Rojek contends that the concept of personal authenticity, or 'self-realization' is central to the modern bourgeois experience of leisure and pleasure, for the 'private, egoistic form' (which Rojek refers to in Bakhtin's writing), is "the ideological shield of the rising bourgeoisie."75 Rojek further identifies the "false representation" of individuals as being separated from society, which generates "ambiguities and tensions in bourgeois consciousness"76 because of the notion's inherent contradiction to the restrictive and structured character of capitalist society. Rojek's analysis is relevant to this discussion of notions of leisure and pleasure in that it points out bourgeois perceptions of leisure and pleasure in the process of formulation of capitalist society. In the mid- to the post-war period in Vancouver, aspects of daily life and economic as well as social relationships were in the state of constant change. In this situation, individuals were seeking to establish and define their identities and roles in society in their own ways. In the theories explored above, the key concepts which explain the notion of leisure are freedom, authenticity, and the terms 'perceived' or 'false representation', indicating the imaginary rather than concrete reality. Returning to Binning's drawings, then, the question arrises as to whether they were a representation of personal imaginary space, a construction of a non-existent experience. Binning was in fact depicting the actual coastal scenes as he experienced it. Also, the formal treatment of the drawings suggest that Binning's act of drawing itself was the act of pleasure. How can these aspects of his art be understood? 7 4 Chris Rojek, Capitalism and Leisure Theory (London & New York: Tavistock Publications,1985) 173. 7 5 Rojek, Capitalism and Leisure Theory. 175. 7 6 Rojek, Capitalism and Leisure Theory. 176. 33 According to a 1989 essay by psychologist Harvie Ferguson, leisure as a pursuit of pleasure can be understood as a humanizing endeavour against mechanized social systems in a capitalist society.77 Based on the Freudian psycho-analytic perspective, this view offers an explanation of 'fun' as the experience of enjoyment which is a primordial sense of delight in one's own physical processes. And it is only in children that this form of bodily enjoyment, unrestrained and uninhibited, can be observable.79 However, as the ego emerges in the process of human growth through the inhibition of fun, the pursuit of pleasure begins; the world of fun which was one and whole in the infantile phase is now divided into self and object (outside of self), and the quest for the oneness or 'realizing the true nature' of a personality is pursued through the process of desiring 80 and gratification. Ferguson argues that this process of desiring and gratification — the pursuit of pleasure — is realized by consumption of material objects in the world of capitalism.81 It is noteworthy that the link between leisure / pleasure and the childhood expression of desire had been discussed in the journals and books which were circulating in Vancouver in the 1940s. Binning must have been aware of those discussions, for he was teaching art to local children during this period, when the practice of creative or expressive art as part of childhood education was being promoted by educators and art instructors. In one of the 1940 issues of an educational journal The School, Charles H. " Harvie Ferguson, "Sigmund Freud and the Pursuit of Pleasure," Leisure for Leisure : Critical Essavs.ed. Chris Rojek (New York: Routledge,1989) 60. 7 8 Ferguson, 63 - 64. 7 9 Ferguson, 64. 8 0 Ferguson, 64 - 68. 8 1 Ferguson, 62. "For the bourgeois ego pleasure was a form of possession. It was the emptiness opened up between subject and object (or subject and subject, or subject and itself), that was felt as passion." 34 Scott, who was then director of the Vancouver School of Art, quoted Herbert Read: " A study of drawing is not only the necessary basis of all scientific art criticism: it is the best training for the private sensibility."82 Scott noted that there was a recognition by artists and writers that art is a "release in visual terms of a felt experience" and that this recognition led educators to "place more value on these spontaneous expressions of the child-mind." 8 3 At this time, Scott lamented that, despite the recent revision of school curricula in B.C., which "placed considerable emphasis on the subject of art as a factor of personal expression capable of integration with the other school subjects and with life in general," art education was offered only from grade 8 onwards as an elective, and that it OA was not given at the provincial university. That Scott quoted Read is of particular interest. Read was one of the most influential art educators and theorists whose concepts of education through art affected many instructors and educators of the time. Scott's call for more interest in art education had been joined by a number of art educators who wrote articles in The School both before and throughout the war period.8 5 It appears that it was also an awareness of social issues arising from the Depression and the impending war which directed educators' attention to the potential value of art; while some educators such as C. Dudley Gaitskell, an educator in British Columbia, found that 8 Z Charles H. Scott, "Art Teaching in British Columbia," The School (28.7, March 1940) 613. -8 3 Scott, 615. 8 4 Scott, 615-616. 8 5 See, for example, the following articles: Frances B. Briffett, "Correlating History and Art" The School (28.2, 1939) 152 -156: Jack Blacklock "Correlation of English, Social Studies and Art in the Smaller School" The School (28.3, 1939) 246 - 248: C. Dudley Gaitskell "Art and the Universities" The School (29.10, 1941) 936 - 939. Even during the war period, art was promoted as a functional means to serve defense training for civilians; see Leonard Brooks "The Art Department and Defence Training" The School (31.3, 1942) 204- 209. 35 the degree of interest in art instruction might correspond to. the degree of economic prosperity, others believed that art was a kind of cleansing agent which could transform the misery of contemporary life into a Utopia: But the banishment of these social maladies [war and want, insecurity and unemployment] by a revitalized spirit of cooperation can be no more complete without the remodelling of the material environment, than the poor man, suddenly become rich can be complete without appropriate clothing. The abolition of squalor implies the elimination of unsanitary houses, mean streets and ugly towns, and their replacement by structures of a wholesomeness and dignity befitting the new concepts of human association It is here that the fine and applied arts enter naturally and positively into the national life, and should play and increasingly vital part in it. But the promised land is still a long way off, and education is needed, in art as much as in other fields, for even a partial realization of our Utopia. 8 7 Towards the end of the war, the idea that art education was a socially important undertaking persisted. However, the emphasis was to shift from the ideal of individual growth to the expression of "the ideals of community life": The elements of disorder which have been rampant in many communities must give way to a sense of balanced harmony. There is, for instance, the reconstruction of communities in which the amenities that minister to the spiritual, physical, emotional, and aesthetic welfare of the people have a part. Ideally we are thinking of that kind of community balance in which all people will be made to feel pride of possession, whether in the building of well-planned communities, participation in the activities of the art museum, or the many and varied phases of community life demanding the artistic judgment of its inhabitants.88 Despite these educators' persuasion, art was not fully incorporated into school programs through the war period. Therefore, any practice of art among the public outside art schools was primarily relegated to leisure activity. It appears that this situation contributed to the emergence of community projects such as B.C. at Play which sought to Gaitskell, 936. Lawrence A . C. Panton, "In Defence of the Art Course," The School (32.1,1943) 28 - 29. Alfred Howell, "Art Education in the Post-war World," The School (33.1, 1944) 17. 36 introduce artistic activities, particularly to youth, as an educational alternative to the perceived danger of juvenile delinquency. Furthermore, the idea that child art is expressive, creative and suggestive of a sense of freedom was enormously popular around this time. 9 0 This idea may be understood as an indication of the interest among many contemporary educators in Freudian psychological analysis of personality. It was Herbert Read who theorized the concept of art as a principal component of education which would shape the individuality of children.91 As the later part of this chapter and Chapter Three explain in detail, Herbert Read's ideas about art and art education have a critical significance in understanding Binning's work. It is not only because Binning was teaching children or Read's writings were widely read, but also because Read's concepts addressed the problems of education and society in the contemporary context from modernist artistic perspective. Building on Freud's psychoanalytic framework, Read created a new theory of education in which the use of child art was central to the process of analysis itself and an important tool in the development of individual characteristics. Read believed that "art should be the basis of education."92 ....the general purpose of education is to foster the growth of what is individual in each human being, at the same time harmonizing the individuality thus educed with the organic unity of the social group to which the individual belongs 9 3 8 9 "Drawing became a medium for mental hygiene," Foster Wygant, School Art in American Culture 1820 -1970 (Cincinnati: Interwood Press, 1993) 87. 9 0 E. G. Dickinson, "Pictorial Art and Freedom," The School (30.7, 1942) 589; " 'Creative art' seems to include anything which the child produces spontaneously by his own effort and initiative." 9 1 Herbert Read, Education through Art (London: Faber and Faber, 1954 [1943]). 9 2 Read, Education through Art, 1. Read was not alone in supporting this idea. See also The Nature of Creative Activity (1939) or Creative and Mental Growth (1947, 1950), both by Viktor Lowenfeld. 9 3 Read, Education through Art. 8. 37 And in the process, Read thought, aesthetic education was crucial. According to him, aesthetic education (which would include activities pertaining to sensory, intuitive, emotional and cognitive aspects of aesthetic experience) could provide an integrated system of learning which would allow individuals to achieve their highest possible level of persona] development, thus making them become fully functional as members of society. For Read, human productivity was measured by the degree to which an individual could sublimate his or her personal growth through different modes of expression (further interpreted as occupational 'expressions' such as those of the musician, craftsman, labourer, and so on). In order to foster an ability to express, he argued, people should be educated to become 'artists' — to become "efficient in the various modes of expression."94 In formulating this theory, Read relied heavily on Freudian - Jungian psychoanalysis and Gestalt psychology. By using these models, he wished to explain the basic building blocks of the human mind and the way in which the society had failed to allow the individual mind to become naturally integrated, to express freely its emotional, sensory or intellectual capacities.95 In order to investigate the mechanisms of human mind, Read looked at children's artwork. It was important for him to examine children's art not only because he considered "child mind" to be a 'natural artist' full of imagination and creativity and capable of making "free expression,"96 but also because he believed that an analysis of Read, Education through Art. 8-11. 9 5 Read, Education through Art. 169 - 205; "the secret of our collective ills is to be traced to the suppression of spontaneous creative ability in the individual." 9 6 Read, Education through Art. 108 - 109. 38 childhood in the process of social development would reveal the workings of the integrated being. Read thought that there was a direct relationship between expressiveness and the degree of integration of the mind — a mind whose consciousness of 'self was yet undeveloped and therefore still free of the internal tensions that could inhibit or interfere with the process of expression. In addition, children's play was considered by Read to be a form of art, for art was defined as "mankind's effort to achieve integration with the basic forms of the physical universe and the organic rhythms of life." 9 8 There is an important underlying concept by which Read's theory was made possible: from Piaget's study of childhood cognitive development to Jung's idea of the collective unconscious, Read's use of the theories of psychology is based on the assumption that children's expressiveness — and therefore their art — is a universal phenomenon innately shared by all humans, because it springs up naturally from the shared reserve of the unconscious. He contended that the 'mind pictures' created by children contained many common elements (thought to have emerged from the unconscious) which he recognized as "primordial images" (collective images / archetypes).99 Read believed that this particular level of the unconscious (the collective unconscious) to be the only thing capable of connecting individuals into a cohesive society: "What is common to the psychic structure of mankind is the only secure foundation for a community of behaviour and aspiration."100 In addition, Read compared Read, Education through Art. 108 - 166. Read, Education through Art, 110. Read, Education through Art. 183. 5 Read, Education through Art. 195. 39 children's creation of symbols or signs representing the mind image in the semi-abstract manner with aboriginal art in the non-Western world, and concluded that both had the function of "a social language of a rudimentary kind." 1 0 1 Read's ideas demonstrate the inherent modernism of this belief, the concept that the universal and essential aspects of humans have to be sought and practiced, and therefore the exploration of the 'primitive' (undeveloped) characteristics of human expressions were particularly important. Read's thesis and other psychological theories of leisure and pleasure explain many of the concepts behind the artistic and community projects in Vancouver in the 1940s, including those in which Binning participated, which have already been described in Chapter One. For example, even during the period of economic and political uncertainty — or, because of the perceived economic and political uncertainty, as Rojek would express it — a life of leisure and pleasure was considered an ideal, a noble way of living which could ward off the emergence of an element of base crudity in human nature, an element which threatened to emerge in situations of desperation. The life of leisure and pleasure connoted the idea of a cleansing force against social ills and dehumanizing realities of life, for the pursuit of pleasure was a humanizing effort, the search for personal authenticity, the recovery of the lost 'self in the mechanical world of capitalism. At the same time, the notion of leisure and pleasure (and play) was linked to art, particularly children's art, at least partly because of the contemporary state of art education in which it was given only through supplementary courses in grade schools or as a vocational program within the school system. The efforts of art educators such as 1 0 1 Read, Education through Art. 129. 40 Read, who analyzed children's artwork by using the psychoanalytic explanation of the unconscious, also contributed to the process in which art education was considered essential in child education.. In addition to the ways in which this understanding of leisure and pleasure contributed to the particular kinds of contemporary artistic practices, the concept of 'freedom' had a specific significance to the artists and art educators of the time. As I have noted, Read called children's uninhibited expressive activities "free expression"; according to Read, the possibility of free expression is profoundly related to the condition in which an individual's internal being is integrated. To be internally integrated is to "let 102 things happen in the psyche." For us, this becomes a real art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is for ever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace. It would be a simple enough thing to do, if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things. It consists solely in watching objectively the development of any fragment of fantasy.103 (italics Read's) Read was convinced that, if individuals in a community are not psychologically integrated and therefore not connected to one another by sharing the same primary (or organic) psychic structure, then "the rational systems of state socialism will always remain unreal and unsuccessful precisely because they are logical and not artistic constructions — because they are theoretical and not organic patterns."104 He argued that this volatility produces a variety of social problems ("social ills") and is the consequence of a civilization which does not allow "spontaneous creative ability in the individual": Jung quoted in Read, Education through Art. 193. Jung quoted in Read, Education through Art. 193 - 194. Read, Education through Art. 195. 41 "The lack of spontaneity, in education and in social organization, is due to that disintegration of the personality which has been the fatal result of economic, industrial, and cultural developments since the Renaissance."105 In order to avoid a disastrous outcome, Read thought, the potential for natural human growth had to be realized. Life has an inner dynamism of its own; it tends to grow, to be expressed, to be lived. It seems that if this tendency is thwarted the energy directed toward life undergoes a process of decomposition and changes into energies directed towards destruction.... The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.106 To live life was to express sensuous, emotional and intellectual capacities of human beings. For this reason, it was of utmost significance for Read that the existing educational system be changed. And to him, only education through art, which starts from childhood experience of free expression, would realize this ideal. It is important to note here that Read was writing this treatise in the wake of the Second World War after having witnessed the First War and the period of rapid downfall in the worldwide economy leading to the Depression. It is evident that what Read thought of as 'social ills' were the destructiveness of civilization and the disaster of human potential gone wrong. More specifically, Read was concerned about any form of socio-political doctrine imposing its agendas on or interfering with the organic growth of 107 artistic expression. It is interesting that, although Read was something of an anarchist regarding his idea of art, the notion of freedom associated with artistic expression was 0 5 Read, Education through Art, 202. 1 0 6 Erich Fromm quoted in Read, Education through Art. 205. 1 0 7 Herbert Read, Art and Society (London: Faber and Faber, 1947 [1936]), particularly pages 128 - 133; he was critical of both capitalism and soviet-style socialism which he thought was manipulative and controlling. 42 supported by other art educators such as Lawrence A. C. Panton, Director of Art at Northern Vocational School in Toronto, who wrote in The School in 1942. .... And because the fine arts distill their essence from the yearnings and struggles of a people for a life of beauty, the integrity of the arts must be sustained. They will remain vital only to the extent that artists are free to interpret life as they feel it, in their own peculiar fashion. This freedom, incompatible with totalitarian codes, is the essential core of the democratic way of life. Liberty in the intellectual spheres (as in the political and religious fields) can be protected and extended only by eternal vigilance; and such vigilance is necessary if the arts are 1 OR to reflect truly and richly the national aspirations. Here the concept of artistic freedom is associated with democracy as opposed to totalitarianism. To Panton, the issue of free expression (in the context of art education) was a matter of political urgency, the ideal which had to be defended from the Nazi threat . It is significant that the notion of freedom in artistic practice was given political relevance; it was the issue of human survival at the global and philosophical level which the contemporary educators such as Read or Panton perceived as the basis of their support for art education. However, it was believed that the actual process of education could not just be left to 'free expression.' Read observed that the patterns of children's social interaction, which develop among themselves without the imposition of rules set by adults, is established by attachment, reciprocity, and co-operation.109 This, he believed, was the evidence that the organic growth of individual minds leads them to operate on their own internal principle, this principle being "the morality of harmonious societies."110 For this condition to be realized, it was necessary that children be raised Panton, "In defence of the art course" The School (32.1, 1942) 28. Read, Education through Art. 272. Read, Education through Art. 272. 43 and educated in a communal environment where freedom could be ensured, and co-operation and reciprocity encouraged.111 These notions coming from psychological as well as educational theories were strongly supported in many aspects of Binning's work. Not only had Binning actively promoted and been deeply engaged in art education for children since before the war 1 1 2, he also looked to Read's ideas for guidance later in his educational career. What is important, however, is that these ideas of leisure, pleasure, children's art, freedom and internal principle, are incorporated directly into Binning's art. Binning focused on drawing scenes of leisurely coastal life with a whimsical manner of expression. In addition to the squiggly lines and 'simplified' representations of individual elements (as opposed to a more detailed rendition), the radically tipped picture plane also evokes the idea of children's rather naive expression of spatial relationships (see, for example, figures 1 to 3). The images convey an impression of spontaneity and immediacy. The dreamy and fantastic qualities of his drawings suggest those carefree moments when the enjoyment of scenery and relaxation is the end in itself. They are also scenes of momentary freedom. The coastal areas which Binning depicted are not large shipyards constructing war ships or a harbour where the immobilized Japanese ships clustered idly; they are the spaces where individually operated fishing boats were observed in a manner suggestive of pastoral peacefulness. These are the spaces where the threats of urban growth or war-related activities had not yet reached. In terms of their socio-historical context, these coastal scenes look as if they were the last 1 1 1 Read, Education through Art, 290 - 292. 1 1 2 Binning taught art to children both at the Vancouver School of Art and the Vancouver Art Gallery during the 1930s and the 1940s. 44 retreat free from all things threatening, controlling, or destructive. The seashore was the threshold of the free space beyond; boats would cross freely or simply float quietly on the water that expanded infinitely. No imposed order, no absolute control was possible. The sea was the only space which could not be claimed by any concrete or permanent means that human beings could devise. They could only float, cross or get carried away. At the same time, Binning's depiction of the seascape evokes a sense of discipline; Their various elements and components including the rendering of line, appear to have a kind of internal logic which maintains an overall unity and harmony. This, of course, was achieved by the way in which Binning skillfully exercised control over his expressiveness. The apparently haphazard lines are never really out of place or discordant with other elements of the pictures. Every aspect of the drawings exists in relation to others while still maintaining fluidity and quirkiness. Binning was perhaps fully aware of what Ozenfant contended in terms of the matter of 'control' in works of art. However, in Binning's drawings, the suggestion of control is far more subtle, and delicately balanced with whimsical aspects. Although the idea of the seascape evoked in Binning's drawings is general and generic, the places which he chose to depict were very specific; as noted earlier, Binning was aware of the historical changes and temporal aspects of the areas where he used to draw. This aspect, I suggest, allowed his drawings to be profoundly personal as well as historical, linking the artist's own experience of drawing to the here and now and to the specificity of his emotional responses at the time. Those drawing sessions at the shore were the moments of his 'authentic' experience; the act of immersing himself in the 45 seascape. Drawing the scene which contained him was his mode of self-realization. These ends were achieved by the specific choice that Binning made — the choice of the seascape from which the public and the masses are excluded or distanced. In his drawings, Binning eliminated the traces of more obvious historical and public events and objects by rejecting the kinds of subject matter which involved larger social issues. The 'social' elements in his drawings were aestheticized, and do not reveal their 'realistic' sides, — even fishermen appear to be happy-go-lucky or elegantly pastoral. One particular characteristic of his drawings, however, seems to reveal a remarkably different aspect of his practice. Many of the drawings in which he included himself in the image represent him as somewhat distanced or even alienated. Despite the integrated whole of his individual work, he represented himself as an outsider. For example, Afternoon Boat, Bowen Island Wharf [fig. 3] images Binning as an observer who is taking notes of the appearance of the passengers. Although he is part of the picture, he is the one who is doing the looking; he is not being looked at. On the other hand, in Self-Portrait in Ship's Cabin [fig. 4], Binning is looking at himself — his feet and one of his hands —however, his face is observable only in the mirror. These aspects of his drawings appear to suggest a strange sense of detachment, an atmosphere of alienation which does not seem to allow Binning to become fully 'integrated' in the picture. It is an interesting dissonance in relation to the overall intimacy and coherence of his drawings. It is not known what kind of political views Binning had at this time. The only clear indication of his position in relation to larger contemporary social issues can be 46 found in his writing on W.P.A., which has already been discussed. Binning considered that the integration of the artistic mind into the social system was an urgent matter. However, his art up to the late 1940s completely rejected an association with the dynamic and rapidly changing aspects of life in Vancouver. Rather, Binning's drawings appear to testify to his ambiguous position regarding politics, the economy and social issues. His desire to transform existing local conditions were confronted by his own reality which demanded that he remain working as an art educator for children and for the predominantly female population of the students at the Vancouver School of Art. He was also confronted by the fact that the local art scene of the time was inundated with 'English-style' paintings. While the art scenes in the East — Toronto and Montreal — were animated by fresher non-academic and 'Canadian' styles and approaches (particularly from the emergence of the Group of Seven in the pre-war period to the politically charged practice of Paul-Emile Borduas in the post-war period), the situation in Vancouver was stagnant. This meant that, in the context of British Columbian art, Binning's art was rather idiosyncratic, and his works were not even 'paintings.' Binning's position was, in a sense, not just different from that of other local artists, but it also represented a marginalized and 'feminized' practice in relation to all the powerful male protagonists of society as well as those of the art scenes. His drawings could be understood, then, as a kind of self-expression which communicates frustration, alienation, disappointment and resignation. But at the same time, this space of escape was an excellent vehicle with which he could build his own dream of the ideal world; it could be constructed to become an exclusive retreat, a place where there was no threat of war or 47 social instability. And most importantly, this space was readily accessible; it was in fact within the reach of any person living in the lower mainland area. A l l one needed was a little imagination to believe that it truly was a U t o p i a . It was an experience which could provide the sense of authenticity (the real) and the imaginary at the same time. Nonetheless, it appears that Binning's art did engage in the discursive formation of a kind of modernist utopianism at this particular moment in Vancouver. Art, leisure and pleasure are identified with each other and are assigned a dominant role as a major contributor to a better life, better community and better world. And this utopianism was not just a local development of an artistic ideal; the local artists and art educators of the time were informed by the contemporary international theories of psychology, and believed that a new practice of art and education would profoundly change the society for the better. In order for this to be realized, it was believed that the entire social system had to be altered; the change had to be made from the level of every individual child in every community in a democratic manner. Despite the ideal, Binning's drawings stayed within a relatively restricted world of 'gallery art' circles until the late 1940s in contrast to the democratizing efforts of the Community Arts. His works were most frequently shown as part of group exhibitions at 113 the Vancouver Art Gallery. The images, however, were published in art magazines and known throughout Canada.1 1 4 His drawings were admired as having "hints of Matisse 1 1 3 Binning had one-man exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1944 and 1946, and at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1946. See also lists of exhibitions in B.C.Binning: A Retrospective (1973) 31, and B.C.Binning: Drawing (1979), not paged. 1 1 4 His drawings were discussed in the following articles in Canadian Art: "Coast to Coast in Art: West Coast, Vancouver, Drawings by B.C.Binning" (1.4): Doris Shadbolt "Two West Coast Artists: The Drawings of B.C. Binning" (3.3) : B.C.Binning "The Teaching of Drawing" (5.1). See also Martin Baldwin "Art as a Household Word" Canadian Homes and Gardens (November 1947) 37. 48 and Picasso but [were] decidedly Binning himself,"1 1 5 "revealing a wit, fantasy and sharp characterization only too rarely seen in Canadian painting."1 1 6 Doris Shadbolt and Martin Baldwin also referred to the quality and elements of his work which convey an atmosphere of a holiday or vacation. "If it concerns people, they are people on vacation, having a picnic, lunching on the terrace .... If the drawing is a landscape, then it is seen through the eyes of a person on holiday...."1 1 7 And his drawings were appreciated as 'prized images of a happy West Coast holiday, as was the case in the request by Dorothy Burritt, the wife of Oscar Burritt who won one of the Canadian Film Awards, wishing to own a Binning drawing as a prize. We would like to have one of a fair size on a West Shore scene: sea, wharves, rowboats with rowers and small fishing craft dotted about, and rocky shore are the elements in the drawings which we remember seeing on exhibit in the West and which we thought so amusing and clever....1 1 8 Binning's art was, in a sense, an elevated form of tourist memorabilia, an object for a very private consumption, which perpetuated the idea of the B.C. coast as forever a sunny, joyous and relaxed vacation destination. See note 3: Max Maynard, "Medal Awards," The Art Gallery Bulletin. (Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 9.3, November 1941). 1 1 6 J.Delisle Parker in The Vancouver Daily Province Magazine Section. (December 30, 1950): A l . . 1 1 7 Doris Shadbolt, 95 - 96. See also Baldwin, 37, and "Coast to Coast in Art," 169. 1 1 8 A letter to Binning from Dorothy Burritt, dated June 7, 1949, in B.C.Binning Papers, box 1, file 19. C H A P T E R T H R E E : T O A H I G H E R G R O U N D 49 In 1948, Binning's depiction of West Coast seascapes took a dramatic turn to geometric semi-abstraction. The artist started painting in oil on wooden or paper board, or on canvas. However, the motifs depicted (lines and shapes) were still taken from his favorite coastal scenes, including boats, larger ships and their various parts, their reflection on the water, and the effects of light and the movement of water. Some of the works appear almost cool, solemn and static, while others retain the same cheerfulness which is found in his drawings. For example, Ships at Quiet Anchor [fig. 12] consists of a repetition of the shape of a hull in various sizes, reflected on the horizontal surfaces of the water, all arranged on a grid. Ships in a Classical Calm [fig. 13] also reveals a similar compositional scheme. In both images, a subtle gradation of colours is used to enhance the effect of repetition, with dark or intense colours accentuating some shapes and giving a balance to forms of different sizes. Fanciful Seascape in Primary Colours [fig. 14] and Gay Regatta No. l [fig. 15] display somewhat more fantastic characters. Although evocative of a Miro-esque handling of forms and lines, 1 1 9 these images are constructed with a calculated use of geometric shapes and lines. The apparently arbitrary forms interlock with each other to become a tightly knit surface, on which a play of texture is Scott Watson suggests that it may have been because of his participation as an instructor in children's drawing classes at the Vancouver Art Gallery that Binning's attention was drawn to child art. Watson, "B.C.Binning, Modernism in a Classical Calm" Vanguard (15.3, Summer, 1986) 24. See also Walker, 1973, reprinted in B.C.Binning: A Classical Spirit, appendix 1, not paged. 50 featured by the use of board or burlap.1 2 0 In these images, the colour schemes are increasingly whimsical and fantastic. Despite the change in the formal approach to his art, Binning's theme of lyrical seascapes with boats persisted. What is striking about his paintings, however, is the insistence that discipline and order be imposed on such fanciful subject matter. Together with the elimination of representational details, this emphasis on ordered structure makes the images appear more impersonal, and objective, despite their intrinsic subjectivity. Indeed, they recall Ozenfant's belief; "The necessity for order, the only efficiency, has brought about a beginning of that geometrisation of the spirit which more and more enters into all our activities."1 2 1 According to Ozenfant, understanding the uses and effects of geometry was the key to producing universally 'good' art. The use of geometry, particularly the grid, is a very significant element in Binning's new style. What is interesting in his paintings, however, is that there are not just one but multiple sets of grids which are often somewhat 'off,' imperfectly ordered, and are sometimes overlapping. Especially in the case of those paintings executed on burlap, the threads of the coarse weave actually provide a back-ground set of grid on which other geometric lines and shapes are laid. (See fig. 16, Departure from Bowen Island for example.) Binning's interest in these materials suggests his romantic preoccupation with wooden boats and the burlap seen around them. See also Kay Alsop "The artistic Credo of B.C.Binning" U.B.C. Chronicle (Vancouver: the University of British Columbia, 27.2, Summer, 1973) 21. 1 2 1 Ozenfant, 117. 51 The grid is a uniquely modernist device which, as art historian Rosalind Krauss contends, "declarefs] the modernity of modern art." In spatial terms, the grid arranges pictorial elements according to a non-organic, and purely aesthetic order independent of any natural referents, while temporally insisting on its modernity because of its own time-1% specific existence as a modern phenomenon. Therefore, the grid is not only purely self-referential and autonomous, but also universal. According to Krauss, the seemingly ultra-modern simplicity of this structural device also projects an association with something spiritual, while transforming the sequential or narrative to two-dimensional spatial relationships.124 The use of grids in Binning's paintings could be interpreted as demonstrating certain concepts quite typical of modernism from the pre-war to the post-war periods. However, Binning's grids are not perfectly geometric; some lines are angled with respect to others, they also curve and twist, and the pictures also contain organic forms. In addition, curvy lines and spiky elements are placed in a rhythmical and whimsical fashion, although with careful observation they are all found to be strategically arranged for a subtle balance in colour and shape. The paintings appear to defy the tyrannical force of the grid; the organic elements of the pictures seem to counteract the rigidity of geometric lines which are also affected by the use of contrasting colours. Another element in Binning's painting which is also strongly suggestive of typically modernist strategies in art — and which concerned Ozenfant as well — was the idea of 'the Orient.' Ozenfant conceived of 'the Orient' as Renouncement in opposition Rosalind E. Krauss, "Grids" The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (London, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1985) 9. 1 2 3 Krauss, 10. 1 2 4 Krauss, 12-13. 52 to to 'the Occident' as Action. 1 2 5 He was convinced that it was the Action of 'the Occident' which allowed for high civilization in Europe, while the Renouncement of 'the Orient' inhibited the same degree of development. In a typically Western conceit, 'the Orient' functions as a concept by which to measure and evaluate 'the Occident', and to legitimize its superiority. But while in Ozenfant's idea the otherness of 'the Orient' was a kind of backdrop against which Western civilization plays the main role, a number of other contemporary artists used many aspects of the visual material from non-Western cultures as sources of inspiration and as actual visual motifs or pictorial elements. However, unlike those who looked at the artifacts of the indigenous cultures of Americas and Africa, Binning's interest in 'Oriental' references lay specifically with Japanese aesthetics. It is significant that Binning had always been attracted to the idea of 'the Orient', although there were certainly many other sources of 'modernist primitivism' which were accessible to him and to other local artists of the time. For example, the international surrealist publication Dyn was available in Vancouver from 1942 to at least 1944. In the magazine, the images of the Pacific Northwest artifacts are discussed in detail with photographs and illustrations with regard to the Freudian - surrealist interpretation of the collective past, the imaginative and the unconscious. Even though those crest poles, canoes and other visual material of the Northwest Coast First Nations were within the reach of local artists, Binning chose instead to incorporate elements of Japanese art into his work. Ozenfant, x. 53 Binning's fascination with things Japanese and its significance to his view of life has often been discussed. Binning commented that the city of Vancouver itself had always been influenced by the Far East. 1 2 7 Our only physical contact with any foreign land came to us by way of those great Empress liners which docked at the foot of Granville Street — and you could smell it, you know, the wonderfully Oriental smell, the Asiatic crew and all the strange cargo. Smuggling went on like billy-o all around there, and every home in Vancouver had its display of Oriental things, that we just took for granted.128 In this particular environment, Binning came to adopt some signs of Japanese culture in his art. His practice in this sense is comparable to some of the abstract paintings by Lawren Harris or J.W.G. Macdonald. 1 2 9 However, while to Harris and Macdonald 'the Orient' was a generalized notion of the Far Eastern philosophy which was part of their theosophical doctrine, and was therefore spiritual in character, and acted as the principle of pictorial expressions, Binning's idea of 'the Orient' was essentially experiential and secular. As the above quotation suggests, things Japanese had a physical, especially visual presence for Binning. Thus, his interest in Japanese art is revealed in a very particular manner. For example, in Untitled [fig. 17], the wooden patio and bridge structures shown in a bird's-eye-view plane, which is radically tipped and almost flattened to display even the figures in the background in a scale equivalent to that of the objects in the foreground, are strongly evocative of the imagery of Japanese wood-block prints and maps. In Binning's paintings, Japanese flags appear as a formal motif For example, see Alvin Balkind "Foreword" B.C. Binning: A Retrospective ex. cat. (Vancouver: Fine Arts Gallery, the University of British Columbia, 1973) 6. 1 2 7 His comment is quoted in Alsop, 19. 1 2 8 Alsop, 19. Binning also experimented in woodblock prints (for example, Untitled. 1942, depicting a female nude). 1 2 9 Macdonald also produced a number of representational works at the same time. 54 whose components of a square and a circle are repeated in a manner reminiscent of a Japanese screen painting composition. The picture plane is now completely flat, and areas of colour appear as blocks and patches defined by black lines. Binning's understanding of Japanese aesthetics is also implied in his paintings through a concept of duality and balance: the public and the private, activeness and tranquillity.1 3 0 It is worth noting here that journalist Daniel Wood points out that Binning's interest in the Far East was also fostered by the artistic orientation of his instructors at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (V.S.D.A.A.) which became known as Vancouver School of Art since 1934. According to Wood, Grace Melvin, who contributed to the establishment of the V . S. D. A . A . and taught design there for 25 years, was a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art where "she had specialized in the Japanese-influenced Art Nouveau."1 3 1 The Glasgow School had been established by Charles Rennie Mackintosh who was particularly fond of Asian art and well informed in Japanese design and architecture. He was also known to have built "the world's first modern home based on traditional Japanese design."1 3 2 These circumstances that Wood describes suggest that an interest in the formal qualities of Japanese art and architecture already existed at the V.S.D.A.A. when Binning started his training there in graphic art in 1927. In any case, Binning's attraction to Japanese art as form, pattern or motif, designates his paintings as antithetical to Harris's or Macdonald's abstract paintings. u u Balkind, 6. 1 3 1 Daniel Wood, "Design of the Times" Western Living (June 1985) 25. The following information concerning the Glasgow School is also found in this article. 1 3 2 Wood, 24-25. 55 The shift in Binning's art appears to indicate the artist's even stronger identification with what was then considered to be 'modern,' contemporary, or 'new' in the local context. At the same time, however, the intensely local character of his representational drawings disappeared and more abstract, non-specific aspects started to emerge in his paintings. The overall geometric impression of his later work demonstrates a change in his interest from the organic process of figuration to a highly calculated and structured manner of composition. The year 1948 also marked the beginning of an important transitional period in Binning's career as an art educator. In 1948, he withdrew for a year from teaching at the Vancouver School of Art, and spent his time experimenting with his new medium. 1 3 3 And in 1949, he was appointed an assistant professor in the School of Architecture at the University of British Columbia. From this moment on, his public role as an educator and a collaborator in architectural designs became significant. In 1951, he conducted an extensive survey of art education in North America and Europe, the report of which was submitted to the then-President of U.B.C. Norman McKenzie. 1 3 4 Binning's recommendation resulted in the establishment of the Department of Fine Arts, and Binning became an associate professor and the first Head of the Department in 1955. As for his paintings, they were included in large international exhibitions, such as a 1950 survey of Canadian Art in Washington D . C , the 1952 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting at the Carnegie Institute, the San Paulo Biennales of 1950, I J J Walker, 12. 1 3 4 B.C. Binning, A Report on Art Education in European and American Universities. (Vancouver, the University of British Columbia, 1952). Binning was the Chairman of the Fine Arts Committee of the University which was organized to establish a curricular study in art at the University. 56 1952, and 1954, and the Venice Biennale in 1954.1 3 5 In addition, from 1955 on, Binning worked on large murals such as the one for C K W X radio station. By this time his beloved motif of boats had begun to appear less frequently in his paintings. What was this shift, then, from drawings to paintings? What did the change in his practice signify? It appears that his paintings were still very much a part of the system of art-leisure-pleasure integration in life. From the beginning of the emergence of his paintings in 1948 through to the mid-1950s, Binning's images continued to celebrate playful coastal subjects. However, it seems the intensely private and subjective representational character of his drawings was no longer compatible with his new and more visible position in the local community or national art scene, or with the socio-economic conditions of the time. The reason that Binning chose to start producing paintings is unknown. The practice of painting itself, however, definitely contributed to the national and international recognition of this artist. Some of his earlier paintings, including Ship in a Classical Calm of 1948, were purchased by the National Gallery of Canada.1 3 6 Furthermore, the semi-abstract form allowed his art to participate in the Greenbergian formalist discussion of modern art. As Donald Buchanan wrote in 1949, What a sudden transformation then to see him emerge now as the exponent and practitioner of a new architecture in paint! Gone are the wayward lines; all is now emphasis on surface textures in pigment and in abstraction of form. Yet he has not given up his old and constant love of row-boats, sailing sloops and dinghies. These, in a moving and changing panorama over the water, he watches daily along 1 3 5 In this exhibition, Binning's paintings were shown together with Borduas' and Riopelle's as representative of Canadian modern art. See R.H. Hubbard, "Show Window of the Arts — X X V I I Venice Biennale" Canadian Art (12.1, Autumn, 1954) 14 - 20. 1 3 6 Two of his drawings, Old Maple Tree and Seaside Trees were purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in 1944. See the biography sheet in the Binning. B.C.. artist file, U.B.C. Fine Arts Library and B.C. Binning: Drawings, 1979, "Chronology," not paged. However, it is his paintings, particularly Ships in a Classical Calm, which are most often reproduced in publications. 57 the waterfront beneath his home in West Vancouver. But it is the larger craft, the coastal vessels, which pass down the sound on their way to various harbours and inlets of the mountainous west coast of British Columbia, or the liners and freighters, which move seawards to the Pacific and the Orient, that provide the imposing shapes and dimensions most suitable to his new interpretations. These paintings of ships are highly formalized; in the hulls and riggings he draws he creates a cool and almost mathematical balance between subtle curves and precise straight lines. 1 3 7 Binning's paintings, which were often described as "architectural" by a number of reviewers and critics, were represented in Canada as well as abroad as fine examples of leading Westcoast modernism. While his artistic production gained considerable recognition domestically and internationally, Binning's role as an important public educator also became indisputable by the mid-1950s; he was regarded as a public figure rather than as an artist or a private self. He appears to have been quite conscious of the significance of his position as a professor teaching students of Architecture. Much later in an interview, he recalled that when he was offered the position, he thought : "look, here I am teaching drawing and painting to a bunch of female students [at the Vancouver School of Art] who really don't care a heck of a lot about art — they're just using it as a kind of finishing school — when I could be out there teaching architects something about art."138 His words betray not only gender and academic hierarchies but also his continuing interest in the relationship of art, architecture and their positions in society. In addition, Binning envisaged a specific idea of education. He perceived that there were three groups of people in this world: those who love arts without being taught, Donald W. Buchanan, "Exponent of a New Architecture in Paint," Canadian Art (6.4, Summer, 1949) 149. 1 3 8 Quoted in Alsop, 21. 58 those who absolutely hate arts, and those who stay in the middle between these two 139 extremes. They're the people who are curious, who may not know much about the arts, but who are ready to listen if approached the right way. The doctors, lawyers, and merchant chiefs who eventually become leaders in the community, who sit on boards for the opera or the art gallery or the symphony, who ultimately have the say in how our community develops. And these are the people I've always thought we should go after — to educate them in the arts, and the appreciation of the arts.1 4 0 In this rather elitist notion of art education, art becomes associated with those who come to hold power in society and who ultimately determine the criteria for the kind of leisurely artistic activities the public will consume. What the quotation above indicates is not only that Binning's notion of art in life was remarkably consistent with a modernist utopianism which produced an aesthetic system to establish social order around the mid-1940s, but also that the duality of his career,141 both as an artist who privately engaged in the pleasure of leisurely activities and as a public art educator who made'logical' the connection of his art to the public sphere. Although Binning;s practice rejected the representation of a variety of aspects of society, his idea of art was inseparable from the public realm. At this point, Binning's attempt to bring art to a level at which it would functions as an integral part of education — and by extension as an integral part of the social system — appears to have at least partially succeeded. It meant not only that art was now formally included in the higher educational program at the university level, but also that Alsop,20. 1 4 0 Alsop, 20-21. 1 4 1 This is also noted by George Woodcock, "The Business of Serious Joy: B.C. Binning 1909 - 1976" Artscanada (33.1, 1976), reprinted in B.C. Binning: A Classical Spirit, not paged. 59 art would have the potential to affect the ways in which prospective male leaders would chart the course of society. What this meant, however, was that art was being elevated to the realm of philosophical inquiry and intellectual pursuit and away from the material, economic and everyday aspects of artistic practice which Binning had formerly considered important. Read had warned that this kind of condition would undermine the expression of an integrated self.. Because its objective lay with the art education of the specific group of people (the bourgeoisie), the implementation of the new program resulted in a new locus of control with regard to the appreciation and evaluation of artistic production. As I have suggested, various aspects of art education which Binning now, from his new position at the University, promoted as conducive to effective social changes begin to appear to contradict many of Herbert Read's propositions. According to Read, art provided a classless, democratic and organic process of human development which would foster a harmonious and cohesive growth of social relationships. From this point of view, the way in which Binning came to associate art with a particular segment of society at the University seemed to aim for quite the opposite effect. This new approach appears to have created a division in the existing local artistic community: while the Vancouver School of Art continued to provide art education for men and women of different social classes with an emphasis on the practical and material aspects of artistic production as well as the immediate concerns of artists as individuals, the new program at the university was directed towards male students who were expected to be concerned with broader social issues of which art was only one aspect. 60 Despite the apparent incongruity between Read's ideas of art education and what came to be realized at the University of British Columbia, Binning continued to follow Read's treatise for instruction. Binning used Read's book Meaning of Art as one of the textbooks for his course.1 4 2 What is significant about this book, which begins with a discussion of the abstract quality of art in general, is its emphasis on art as the expression of an ideal: this ideal could be any ideal, but it needed to manifest the emotional in plastic form. Particularly, Read contended that the expression must achieve the overall effect of harmony which is "the satisfaction of our sense of beauty."143 And the sense of harmony, according to Read, was not necessarily a rigid rule of geometry without any room for variation or irregularity: in the plastic arts certain geometrical proportions, which are the proportions inherent in the structure of the world, may be the regular measure from which art departs in subtle degrees. The extent of that departure, like the poet's variation of his rhythm and metre, is determined not by laws, but by the instinct or sensibility of the artist.144 Read thought that, while there are some recognized proportional laws which can be perceived to be 'perfect,' they are "cold and lifeless" (like Greek vases).145 It was necessary for the artist to utilize certain degree of distortion or rearrangement which would allow the viewer to perceive it rather as 'beautiful' or 'harmonious.' The most important point which Read stresses in this book, however, is that "[T]he real function of art is to express feeling and transmit understanding."146 (Original emphasis.) According ' 4 Z Herbert Read, The Meaning of Art (London: Faber and Faber, 1972, originally published in 1931). Read's book was first used in the 1950 - 1951 session, along with History of World Art by Everard M . Upjohn, Paul S. Wingert, and Jane Gaston Mahler, for the course "History of Art" offered for the students in the Department of Architecture at U.B.C. . 1 4 3 Read, The Meaning of Art. 35. 1 4 4 Read, The Meaning of Art, 28. 1 4 5 Read, The Meaning of Art, 28. 1 4 6 Read, The Meaning of Art, 266. 61 to Read, what is crucial in a work of art is not the transmission of the artist's emotions to another artist/viewer, but the force of the work which allows the viewer to recognize and appreciate with a sense of admiration and wonder the ability of the artist to transform and transcend his/her emotions into harmony and beauty.147 To explain this point, Read I AO quotes Matisse's 1908 comments regarding his own compositional methods Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the various elements which the painter uses to express his sentiments Everything which has no utility in the picture is for that reason harmful. A work of art implies a harmony of everything together (une harmonie d'ensemble): every superfluous detail will occupy, in the mind of the spectator, the place of some other detail which is essential.149 This quotation is of special significance in relation to what Read regarded as "(the) gifts" of the artist, who calmly contemplates his/her emotions in the creative process, which is the ability to take "the heat out of our emotional problems" by presenting the sublimation of those raw emotions.150 The creation of beauty through the artistic process of sublimation was, then, for Read, a moral issue in society: while the artist as individual agent is responsible for his/her own "will to form," his/her relationship to the community renderes the work of art contingent on particular historical moments.151 Binning's use of Read's book appears to demonstrate the particular interest he held in relation to his new position as an assistant professor teaching art history to the university Architecture students. While Read maintained his psychoanalytic exploration of the practice of emotional expression, he focused in this book on the issues of 1 ' Read, The Meaning of Art. 266 - 267. 1 4 8 Read, The Meaning of Art. 264. The quotation was taken from "Notes d'un Peintre" published in La Grande Revue. Paris, 25 December 1908, p 731 - 745. 1 4 9 Read, The Meaning of Art. 264. 1 5 0 Read, The Meaning of Art. 267. 1 5 1 Read, The Meaning of Art. 267 - 268. 62 understanding, appreciation of and philosophical enquiry into artistic production. It seems to have been more appropriate for Binning to adopt this particular approach in a situation where Architecture students were to investigate aspects of art, not necessarily as artists or draftsmen, but as the planners who would evaluate and make choices in matters of taste or moral judgment. What was important for these students was to have a vision of a better society, rather than be absorbed in self-expression. While the individualistic, more personal ideal of education from the pre-war era of 'progressive education' persisted, the concern for structural strength and stability in contemporary social life grew in the face of the developing Cold War's threat to democracy, a concern expressed by educator A. Barclay Russell in his statement, .... In unity — nothing less — but unity must have a general purpose, a common enterprise and discipline, a certain vision to inspire it. I submit that in the long run, such a discipline will be found in the common strivings for achievement and in fostering and propagating a common ambition of service in creative activity; it is the nature of the function and the raison d'etre of the arts that they would provide this basis for communal activity and instill that discipline, that quality which is the equivalent in peace to the esprit de corps of war. (Italics original.) How, then, did this kind of 'vision' for a 'communal' spirit, a society relate to Binning's paintings? His art does not seem to provide an obvious answer to this question. Rather, it appears to resist any simplistic interpretation. The paintings, while displaying the common modernist interest in formal characteristics, contain conflicting forces of control and whimsy, contrast and harmony, abstraction and representation. As I have already mentioned, Binning was not only very much interested in and well aware of • A . Barclay Russell, "The Relation of the arts to education and society" Art Education Today [1951-52], (New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1953; 89 - 102), 99 - 100. 63 the practices of other artists both in Canada and in the United States,153 he was also engaged in a search for the pictorial evocation of emotion by color, form and composition, especially in the form of abstraction, a common concern of the artists of the time in many places in North America and Europe. Read pointed out the cross-continental search for a pictorial language of subjectivity among contemporary artists.154 Art historian Allen Leepa refers to this preoccupation of modernist painters as an attempt to create their own "symbols of expression" of "the inner world of man." 1 5 5 This concern was also central to Binning's exploration of abstract imagery, but his emphasis was heavily on the manipulation of formal elements. I am more interested, really, in the idea of form than of content. Though they ultimately come together, my starting point has always been the form, the colour, the textures, the relationships, the idea of the flat canvas, the rectangle in which I work, and so on , . . . 1 5 6 Binning's own comments about his art suggest that he, as an artist, was producing works from a very different perspective from that of an art educator; instead of focusing on the social implications and moral issues of artistic practice, he concentrated on the actual process of materialization. However, I believe that his paintings demonstrate a certain degree of ambiguity in relation to the artistic proposition expressed in the quotation above as well as to his position as an art educator at a university. Binning's approach to painting reveals a curious mixture of the local subject matter of seascape, the fanciful and child-like rendering of colours, lines and forms, and 1 5 3 The issue of modernism was frequently the topic of a series of lectures held at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the late 1940s and the early 1950s. (See The Art Gallery Bulletin volumes during this period.) Also, Binning himself commented that he liked Miro and Klee. (Walker, "Introduction" 12.) 1 5 4 Herbert Read, A Concise History of Modern Painting (New York and Washington: Praeger Publications, 1975 [1959])271,274-275. 1 5 5 Allen Leepa, The Challenge of Modern Art (New York: The Beech Hurst Press, 1949) 247. 1 5 6 Walker, reprinted in B.C. Binning: A Classical Spirit, appendix 1, not paged. 64 the typically formalist concern for the flatness of the picture plane. On one hand, it seems that his images continued to engage in the pursuit of the pastoral ideal with a continuing interest in the seascape and with a playfulness in the manner of execution. On the other hand, the suggestion of intense exploration of formal approaches to painting appear to literally flatten the vivaciousness, making the images look awkwardly 'arrested' or harnessed. Although the lines and shapes in his paintings superficially resemble those in Miro's images, Binning's are never completely 'free'; instead of floating without anchor, his elements are tied to others with geometric lines and the negative-positive effects of juxtaposed strong colours. While those elements appear to struggle to break free, they are somehow contained in the rectangle as if the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle fit together. There is a strange, mechanical and frozen gleefulness in them which keeps the viewer at a certain distance. This tension in Binning's painting may also manifest the contradictory and difficult condition of the artist both as an art educator at an academic institution and as a creator of works of art. As an educator, Binning must have been painfully aware of a multitude of concerns existing in society, as well as various kinds of discussions on the relationship of art to those social issues. In addition, he understood the demands of his position, in which he was expected to deal with art as a body of knowledge, a subject to teach at the level of higher education for academic purposes. However, as an artist what he was interested in and what he chose to take up was the formal exploration of pictorial structure. It may be interpreted that Binning believed in the study of certain formal issues which were considered to be 'universal' concerns among contemporary artists and 65 therefore socially significant in light of the propositions of popular theorists such as Read. In Binning's paintings, many aspects of formal exploration co-exist within the framework of his theoretical understanding of expressiveness. Gone are the fluidity of the lines which had been characteristic of his witty and whimsical drawings. The idea of leisure and pleasure was now under more obvious control, and existed for the most part in abstract terms. It departed from the shores of British Columbia and transcended to a realm remote from the material reality of the local coastal scenes. During the late 1940s and the early 1950s, public interest was captivated by the acceleration of consumerism towards aggressive commodity consumption, further promoting the relationship between art and design. At the Vancouver Art Gallery, there were series of exhibitions concerning 'design': 1949, "Design for Living"; 1952, "Industrial Design"; 1953, "Canadian Design for Living." Although these shows differed from each other in their specific goals, all dealt in general with the idea that the modern design of consumer products should be utilitarian and at the same time aesthetically pleasing. In a photograph of the 1954 issue of Canadian Art, a Binning painting was shown hung on the wall of a 1953 model room as if it were a 'design' 1 5 7 [fig. 18]. Ironically, Binning's abstract image had in fact been produced from his intensely personal interpretation of a seascape. In the photograph, Binning's picture was integrated into the environment of commercial products through the very characteristic which Ozenfant thought of as the 'universal' language of geometry. This notion of universality has also been an indispensable component of a bourgeois humanist ideal. 1 5 7 Humphrey Carver, "The Design Centre - The First Year," Canadian Art (11.3, Spring, 1954) 108. The painting by Binning, Reflected Ship (1950) appeared in a 1953 model room which was compared with a 1923 'old-fashioned' room. 66 The 'universal' gives order and discipline to the world of individualism, another pillar of bourgeois ideology. Binning's art embodies these inherently contradictory notions by imposing order and discipline on subjective aesthetic forms. In addition, unlike Lawren Harris's abstraction which was essentially spiritual, Binning's was completely secular. While his paintings could still be considered as part of the British Columbian landscape tradition, and by extension part of a Canadian regional landscape tradition, Binning's idea of a local paradise rejects the notion of an iconic spiritual North established by the works of the Group of Seven. Binning's abstract art was not only readily absorbable into the rapidly developing consumerist society in Vancouver as well as in Canada at the time, but also re-defined itself to create a new artistic meaning in relation to the commoditization of taste. 67 Fig . l . B.C. Binning View of Fisherman's Cove. 1944. Ink. Collection of Mrs. B.C. Binning. Fig. 2. B.C. Binning Seaside Trees no 2. 1945. Ink. Collection of Mrs. B.C. Binning. 69 Fig. 3. B.C. Binning Afternoon Boat. Bowen Island Wharf. 1944. Ink. Private collection. 70 Fig. 4. B.C. Binning Self Portrait in Ship's Cabin. 1945. Ink. Collection of Mrs. B.C. Binning Fig. 5. Jack L. Shadbolt Bombed Building(s). 1945. Watercolour, ink and pencil on paper. Vancouver Art Gallery. Fig. 6. Jack L. Shadbolt Ferris Wheel (Cambie Street Fair). 1946 Watercolour. Private Collection. Fig . 7. Jack L. Shadbolt Granvi l le Street (Even ing. Granv i l le Street/ Granv i l le Street. War t ime) 1946. Waterco lour . Private col lect ion. . pact aj &oa*tt C • « • T . S . CLE Amu (, up tutocXE if HA 3 CfiHtHW O F W C C T S . ... — Fig. 8. Molly L. Bobak A Typical Day in the Life of A.C . W. A. C. 1943. Watercolour. National Archives of Canada. 75 Fig. 9. Molly L . Bobak Canadian Women's Army Corps Laundry Workers Going to Dinner.Bordon, England. 1945. Conte. Canadian War Museum. Fig. 10. Molly L. Bobak Roman Catholic Church Parade. Ottawa. Canadian War Museum. Fig. 11. B.C. Binning House. 78 Fig. 12. B.C. Binning Ships at Quiet Anchor. 1948. Oil on board. Vancouver Art Gallery. Fig. 13. B.C. Binning Ships in a Classical Calm. 1948. Oil on board. National Gallery of Canada. so Fig. 14. B.C. Binning Fanciful Seascape in Primary Colours. 1949. Oil on canvas. Sarnia Public Library and Art Gallery. 15. B.C. Binning Gav Regatta No . l . 1949. Oil on board. Private collection.. Fig. 16. B.C. Binning Departure from Bowen Island, n.d. O i l on burlap and board. Private collection. 83 Fig. 17. B.C. Binning Untitled. 1945. Watercolour. Collection of Mrs. B.C. Binning. 84 Fig. 18 "1923 - 1953 Compared," 1953 model room. Humphrey Carver, "The Design Centre -- The First Year" Canadian Art. 11.3, Spring (1954): 108. 85 B I B L I O G R A P H Y Alsop, Kay. "The Artistic Credo of B.C. Binning." U.B.C. Chronicle. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 27.2, Summer (1973): 18-23. Amess, Fred A. "The Art in Living Group." Canadian Art. 5.1, Autumn (1947): 13, 52. Archambault, Adrian. Personal interview. 21 February, 1995. Arnold, Serena. "The Dilemma of Meaning." Recreation and Leisure: Issues in an Era of Change. Ed. Thomas L . Goodale and Peter A. Witt. Pennsylvania; Venture Publishing, 1985. 5 - 22. "Art in Living Exhibition." The Art Gallery Bulletin. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 12.1, September (1944): n.p. "Arts and Our Town." The Art Gallery Bulletin. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 16.2, October (1948): n.p.. Baldwin, Martin. "Art as a House-Hold Word." 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Beautiful Vancouver: Souvenir Album Based on Vancouver Sun Photographic Contest. Vancouver: The Sun Publishing Co. Ltd.. n.d. Burritt, Dorothy. Letter to B.C. Binning, 7 June , 1949. B.C. Binning Papers. B o x l , file 19. Vancouver: Special Collections Division, Main Library, University of British Columbia. Carver, Humphrey. "The Design Centre — The First Year." Canadian Art. 11.3 Spring (1954): 105-108. "Coast to Coast in Art: West Coast, Vancouver, Drawings by B.C. Binning." Canadian Art. 1.4, April - May (1944): 169-170. Dickinson, E.G.. "Pictorial Art and Freedom." The School. 30.7 (1942): 586-590. "Food Hoarding Starts in Vancouver." The Vancouver News Herald. 9 September, (1939). 87 "For Artists — A Contemporary Home and Studio." Canadian Art. 4.1, Autumn (1951): 31. Ferguson, Harvie. "Sigmund Freud and the Pursuit of Pleasure." Leisure for Leisure: Critical Essays. Ed. Chris Rojek. New York: Routledge, 1989. 53-74. Gaitskell, C. Dudley. "Art and the Universities." The School. 29.10 (1941): 936-939. Gossage, Carolyn, ed. Double Duty: Sketches and Diaries of Molly Lamb Bobak. Canadian War Artist. Toronto and Oxford: Duncurn Press, 1992. Giedion, Sigfried. Space, Time and Architecture: the Growth of a New Tradition. Cambridge: the Harvard University Press, 1946. Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1990. Howell, Alfred. "Art Education in the Post-war World." The School. 33.1 (1944): 17 -21. Hubbard, R.H.. " A Climate for the Arts." Canadian Art. 12.3, Spring (1955): 99-105, 139. —. "Show Window of the Arts - X X V I I Venice Biennale." Canadian Art. 12.1, Autumn (1954): 14-20, 35. Korner, John. "Re-Union of Painting and Architecture." Canadian Art 12.3, Spring (1955): 106-107. Krauss, Rosalind E.. The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. London and Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985. "Labor and Art." The Art Gallery Bulletin. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 12.6, February (1945): n.p. Leepa, Allen. The Challenge of Modern Art. New York: The Beech Hurst Press, 1949. Lasserre, Fred. "Regional Trends in West Coast Architecture." Canadian Art. 5.1, Autumn (1947): 7-12. Malone, Paul. "Transport Famine Grows." The Daily Province. 13 March , 1942. Mason Don. "City Yards to Launch 4 Ships This Month." The Vancouver Sun. 4 March 1942. 88 Maynard, Max. "Medal Awards." The Art Gallery Bulletin. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 9.3, November (1941): n.p.. "Metal Shortage Hard on Sport." The Vancouver Sun. 5 March, 1942. Morley, Alan. Vancouver: From Milltown to Metropolis. Vancouver: Mitchell Press, 1974. Neulinger, John. The Psychology of Leisure: Reserch Approaches to the Study of Leisure. Springfield: Charles C. Thomas, 1976 (1974). O'Brian, John. "Greenberg's Matisse and the Problem of Avant - Garde Hedonism" Reconstructing Modernism: Art in New York. Paris, and Montreal 1945 - 1964. Ed. Serge Guilbaut. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990. 144 - 171. "Ontario Society of Artists." The Art Gallery Bulletin. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 18.3, November (1950): n.p. Ozenfant, Amedee. Foundations of Modern Art. Trans. John Rdker. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1952 (1928, trans. 1931). Panton, Lawrence A.C. . "In Defence of the Art Course." The School. 32.1 (1943):28-30. Parker, J. Delisle. The Vancouver Daily Province Magazine Section. 30 December, (1950): 8. "Pioneer Spirit." Globe and Mail . 1 February (1992): C2. Read, Herbert. A Concise History of Modern Painting. New York and Washington: Praeger Publications, 1975. —. Education through Art. London: Faber and Faber, 1954 (1943). —. The Meaning of Art. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1972 (1931). Rojek, Chris. Capitalism and Leisure Theory. London and New York: Tavistock Publications, 1985. —. Ways of Escape: Modern Transformations in Leisure and Travel. London: Macmillan Press, 1993. Russell, A . Barclay.. "The relation of the arts to education and society." Art Education Today. 1951 - 1952. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1953. 89-102. 89 Scott, Charles H. . "Art Teaching in British Columbia." The School. 28.7, March (1940): 613-616. Shadbolt, Doris. "Two West Coast Artists: The Drawings of B.C. Binning." Canadian Art. 3.3, March-April (1946): 94-96. Simpson, Douglas C . "Towards Regionalism in Canadian Architecture." Canadian Art. 11.3, Spring (1953): 110-113. Stokowski, Patricia. Leisure in Society: A Network Structural Perspective. London: Mansell Publishing Ltd., 1994. Sweeny, Moira. "Community Arts for Vancouver." Canadian Art. 11.2, Winter (1954): 62,72-73. Tuele, Nicholas. "B.C. Binning: A Classical Spirit." B.C. Binning: A Classical Spirit. 1986, not paged. Two Glorious Weeks at Vancouver. British Columbia. Vancouver Tourist Association, not dated. Vancouver Art Gallery Videotaped Interview with B.C. Binning and Dorothy Betcalfe. June 10. 1974. With transcript. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery. Veblen, Thorstein Bunde. The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: the Modern Library, 1934(1899). Wade, Jill. " ' A Palace for the Public' : Housing Reform and the 1946 Occupation of the Old Hotel Vancouver." B.C. Studies. 69-70, Spring - Summer (1986): 288-310. Walker, Doreen. "Introduction." B.C. Binning: A Retrospective. 1973: 10- 16. —. "The Rich Architectonics of Binning." Vie des Arts. XVIII, 72 (1973). Reprinted in B.C. Binning: A Classical Spirit. 1986, appendix 1: n.p.. Watson, Scott. "Art in the Fifties — Design, leisure and painting in the age of anxiety." Vancouver: Art and Artists. 1931 - 1983. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1983.72- 101. —. "B.C. Binning: Modernism in a Classical Calm." Vanguard. 15.3, Summer (1986): 23 - 27. —. Jack Shadbolt. Vancouver: Douglas & Mclntyre, 1990. 90 Windsor - Liscombe, Rhodri. The New Spirit: Modern Architecture in Vancouver, 1938 ^ . 1963. Vancouver: Douglas & Mclntyre, 1997. Wood, Daniel. "Design of the Times." Western Living. June (1985): 22-26. Woodcock, George. "The Business of Serious Joy: B.C. Binning 1909 - 1976."; Artscanada. 33.1, 1976. Reprinted in B.C. Binning: A Classical Spirit. 1986, appendix 2: n.p. Wygant, Foster. School Art in American Culture 1820 - 1970. Cincinnati: Interwood Press, 1993. APPENDIX: B.C. BINNING BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 91 In order to clarify the relationships of Binning's life to his career as artist and 158 educator, this appendix offers a brief summary of biographical information. Bertram Charles Binning was born at Medicine Hat, Alberta, in 1909. After having moved to Vancouver with his family in 1913, he started studying art at Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts in 1927 under F. H. Varley and C. H. Scott, and graduated from the school in 1932. He began his career as an art instructor at Vancouver School of Art (formerly Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts) in 1934, and remained employed there until 1949. During these years, Binning went to London, England, in 1938 and studied at Central School of Art under Bernard Meninsky, at Westminster School of Art under Mark Gertler, and at Ozenfant Academy under Henry Moore and Amedee Ozenfant. He also visited Art Students' League, New York, in the next year, 1939, and studied there with Morris Kantor. While teaching and studying, he had one-man exhibitions at Vancouver Art Gallery and at Art Gallery of Toronto by 1946, and participated in numerous group exhibitions held in various places including Vancouver, Ontario, and San Paulo by the end of 1949. In the same year, 1949, Binning was appointed assistant professor of the School of Architecture at the University of British Columbia. Two years later, in 1951, he conducted a survey of fine arts programs in universities in Canada, United States, • The biographical notes on Binning introduced here are taken from the following sources: B.C. Binning Papers, box 1, the University of British Columbia, Special Collections Division: the artist file Binning. B.C. . the Fine Arts Library, the University of British Columbia: the artist fde Binning. B.C. . the Vancouver Art Gallery Library. 92 England and other parts of Europe, and submitted the resulting " A Report on Art Education in European and North American Universities" to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and to Dr. Norman MacKenzie, then President of U.B.C.. In 1955, Binning became the first head of the newly established Department of Fine Arts, U.B.C. . Meanwhile, he worked on some 'public' works such as the mural for the C K W X radio station in 1956, the B.C. Hydro Building in 1957, as well as the mosaic work for the Imperial Bank of Canada (now Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) in 1957 - 1958, all in Vancouver. He travelled to Japan in 1958 with the Canada Council Grant. He received numerous awards including Allied Arts Award, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 1962, Canada Council Senior Fellowship in 1963, and Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971. He was also made member of Visual Arts Committee, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, 1964 - 67, and Advisory Panel for the Arts, Canada Council, 1965 - 67. After 1949, he continued to have his works exhibited in one-man as well as group exhibitions, both inside Canada and abroad, including the Venice Biennale in 1954. He retired in 1968, and died in 1971 in Vancouver. 


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