This “something that can be conceived but not seen nor made visible” is often referred to as the sublime, a quality of transcendent greatness “with which nothing else can be compared and which is beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation” (Wikipedia, 2006). The presence of this sublime element was felt to inspire the imagination in a specific direction based on which elements remain visible or understandable. Its significance is in the way in which it brings attention to the uncertainty of meaning inherent in the work, such that no resolution makes itself apparent. The ultimate goal for artists of this period was to forget the training they received in art school in order to recapture the sense of wonder and imagination reflected in art produced by children or ‘primitives’, those who had received no art training. It was by forgetting the rules that the intuitive or sublime elements of art were able to shine through. Artists such as Canadian-born Joyce Weiland were able to circumvent the rules of established art by exploring their creativity in more than one medium, but not all artists found it necessary to forget what they’d learned. For a Canadian artist such as Norval Morrisseau, the self-taught nature of his art enabled him to create images that translated to the canvas directly from his heart. Yet each of these artists managed to convey a deep sense of spirituality and connection to the land of their birth as a comparison of Weiland’s painting “Experiment with Life” (1983) with Morrisseau’s “Shaman with Sacred Corn” demonstrates.
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