Flash Fiction and The Group of Seven

The Fire Ranger by Franz Johnston -1921- National Gallery of Canada

A man guides his plane over the burning forest, scanning the horizon for a place he might land. As he does so he tries to comfort the little girl who is his passenger. 

Little Island by Alfred J. Casson -1965- McMichael Canadian Art Collection

A young woman becomes so engrossed by a painting at the art gallery that she is oblivious to the man accompanying her, a man she connected with on a dating app. 

Lake O Hara by J.E.H. MacDonald -1928-McMichael Art Collection

A woman who has been travelling the universe in her spaceship finally arrives at a place she can call home. 

Those are just a few plotlines from the short stories featured in a new book called The Group of Seven Reimagined published by Heritage House in Victoria.  

Cove by Emily Carr- Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

I was intrigued by this book because it has been my privilege to introduce so many guests at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to the Group of Seven’s work.  I always include Emily Carr and Tom Thompson in the group and so I was happy to see that the editor of The Group of Seven Reimagined, Karen Schauber has done so as well. She asked twenty flash fiction writers with Canadian connections to each craft a story based on a different painting by an artist from the Group of Seven. 

Horse and Train- 1954- Alex Colville

It is an intriguing concept and reminded me of a unit I used to do with my high school students where I had them write short stories based on a painting of their choice by Alex Colville. It encouraged my students to see pieces of art as a literary text, an idea that was new to most of them. 

I was also intrigued because a friend of mine Mitch Toews has just received a Manitoba Arts Council grant to do a similar project with former Free Press photographer Phil Hossack.  They will visit various Manitoba communities where Phil will take photos and Mitch will write flash fiction pieces about the things they see and the people they meet. 

The connection between art and literature can be tricky. Authors sometimes hesitate to have their text illustrated for fear it will impede the imagination of their readers. Artists sometimes hesitate to provide written explanations of their paintings because they want the viewer to interpret their work on their own.

The Group of Seven Reimagined has considered both concerns by having full spreads containing the images and information about the artwork displayed first and then having the stories follow on subsequent pages. Because the book is set up in this way we can appreciate both the image and the story on its own as well as consider the way the two complement one another. 

The Group of Seven Reimagined is perfect for art lovers and flash fiction lovers alike. 

Other posts…………

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Books

One response to “Flash Fiction and The Group of Seven

  1. Reblogged this on Mitchell Toews and commented:
    Photographic artist Phil Hossack and I will draw from people and places in Manitoba to create an ekphrastic prose-filled artbook. The photography will offer one interpretation and prose another.  

    To create an aesthetic that is worthy of the subject matter, our “design charette” has paid attention to the design on the printed page. Some benchmarks: Unity & Variety; Balance; Emphasis & Subordination; Directional Forces (visual flow of pages, spreads, covers, bleeds, etc.); Contrast; Repetition & Rhythm; Scale & Proportion.

    Leading our design… the recurrent themes or stepping stones will be People, Places, and Light. Phil and I are excited, eager to begin, but we’ll wait for the all-clear Covid siren to sound before we hit the road. Below: One of Phil’s evocative images, Roseisle artist Stephen Jackson near the Sourisford Linear Burial Mounds. This photo provides a possible example of how People, Place, and Light might combine to suggest a fictional narrative with a distinctive Manitoba inflection.  


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