Tracy Thomson at Propeller Gallery

Imaginary Interiors: Tracy Thomson at Propeller Gallery

The word room, for many of us, has a different significance after the past year. Encapsulating feelings of isolation and claustrophobia, but also safety and familiarity, our interiors will never feel the same after COVID-19. In My Room: The Reconstruction of Memory, Tracy Thomson’s solo show at Propeller Gallery, explores various imagined interior scenes through mixed media. Each complex image is drastically different from the next, conveying a multitude of emotions, ideas and questions. These works are built up of layers of mixed media and acrylic oil, with vibrant colors and strange shapes. Varying in size from small-scale to larger-than-life, each interior provides an intimate look into Thomson’s imagination and reality. Each room conveys a different mood, on a spectrum from dark to light.

Installation view of Tracy Thomson, In My Room: The Reconstruction of Memory at Propeller Gallery

Tracy Thomson is a Toronto-based painter and mixed media artist. Her practice aims to “create works that allow her mind into unknown territory”. As opposed to collage, she calls her compositions “reconstructions”; pulling apart painted paper and various materials, images are slowly and methodically turned into complete scenes. In the gallery’s exhibition statement, she described her process, “In my reconstructions, I created imaginary rooms by making little dioramas, pieced together with paint, paper, glue…and a healthy dose of love and hope! Decorated with objects that would pertain to the person inhabiting the room or simply experiencing that room, from a distance.”

Installation view of Tracy Thomson, In My Room: The Reconstruction of Memory at Propeller Gallery

One of the most captivating works in the exhibition is The Manichaean, a figurative piece, in a mostly black-and-white setting with eerie, colourless wallpaper, alchemical symbols on the wall and cold, industrial flooring. A male figure in a jacket and hat stands at the entrance, his back to the viewer, standing on ground that is lighter than the rest of the floor, as if suspended in a space between canvas and reality. Before him are surreal, organic shapes, rocks, an isolated table, and a vase with eyes. In front of the window, a figure with a woman’s face, half covered with stripes and eyes made of spirals looms over the scene, reminiscent of a hermetic Hannah Höch. The image is haunting, and terrifyingly inviting.

Tracy Thomson, The Manichaean, 2021, acrylic oil mixed media on canvas, 12” x 12”

The Gallerist is a much less foreboding, though no less intriguing image. Here, the interior is brighter, with fun, neon hues of pink and orange splashed across the floor, and beautifully textured white marbled walls. The gallerist is at first barely noticeably a human figure; has a head-shaped cut-out that looks like clouds, and the body is composed of books. On the walls, there are paintings reminiscent of Thomson’s own and an abstract sculptural form. In the corner there is a steaming mug on a saucer filled with neon green liquid: perhaps it’s a trendy cup of matcha, but its unnatural hue suggests something otherworldly and powerful.

Tracy Thomson, The Gallerist, 2021, acrylic oil mixed media on canvas, 12” x 12”

One of the few large-scale works in the show, The Somnambulist, depicts a complex, dark and fantastical dream-scape, framed as if the viewer is looking out of a window. The darkness and vastness of the landscape dwarfs the figure within, a pale, monochrome boy with yellow gloves standing alone and on guard; he appears not of this world, a mere passerby. Near him is a boat – is he coming, or going? The canvas is filled with colourful, abstract shapes and hints of rich, jewel-like textures. 

Tracy Thomson, The Somnambulist, 2021, acrylic oil mixed media on canvas, 48” x 48”

Thomson’s solo show is a fantastical escape from the quotidian interiors of reality. Each canvas has its own unique and amazing narrative. One could get easily lost for hours in these mesmerizing reconstructions, imagining themselves as the figures in the work, enriching their own imagination.

Bronwen Cox

Featured image: Tracy Thomson, The Diviner, 2021, acrylic oil mixed media on canvas, 30″ x 30″, Detail

Images are courtesy of Propeller Art Gallery.

*Exhibition information: Tracy Thomson, In My Room: The Reconstruction of Memory, November 3 – 21, 2021, Propeller Art Gallery, 30 Abell Street, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sun, 1 – 5:30 pm.

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