Tracy Thomson at Propeller Art Gallery

On the walls at Propeller Art Gallery are 20 mixed-media artworks by Tracy Thomson—her story of hope and continuum within her world of regeneration and reconstruction. She “has no desire to create images of what already exists but instead, creates new worlds that transcend reality as we know it”. Even as each piece connects to this theme, each one has its own significance, illustrating the concept of a hopeful future.

Installation view of Tracy Thomson, Hope Springs Eternal   

Interior and exterior co-mingle here, as though time has eroded the barriers of man-made vs nature made, into one compatible environment. Organic life and beings are regenerated into something “other”. In “Of Sand And Stone”, new amalgamated life forms and mosses sprout throughout the arid landscape, seeping into the dry mud wall. A figure lies upon a beach blanket with transistor radio and a nice cool drink, again traversing time with a welcome injection of pop culture.

“If You See The Pink Tree (You’ve Gone Too Far)” is another good example of her sense of irony. This piece relates to driving too far and missing the next left turn. You’ve gone so far in fact; you find yourself in a different realm altogether. Where floating tree stumps and signs of life fight to reassemble and once again tether themselves to the earth. A planted flag reads “Point Of No Return”, a clear message of Thomson’s fear of our negligence in protecting our planet from demise.

(L-R) Tracy Thomson, Of Sand And Stone, mixed media on wood panel, 60 x 60 inches & If You See The Pink Tree (You’ve Gone Too Far), mixed media on wood panel, 48 x 48 inches

The tree trunk from “Of Sand And Stone” steps out of the two dimensional composition and becomes three dimensional in “Family Tree.” It is a one-of-a-kind family tree, really just a trunk covered by the mainly abstract motifs of Thomson’s paintings. Very strange indeed, as there are no branches coming out of the trunk, only fabric tubes inserted into the cylinder’s opening at the top; a true embodiment of Thomson’s fear of degeneration.

Tracy Thomson, Family Tree, mixed media on construction tube, 96 x 13 inches

Thomson wishes for a world into which we can adapt and move forward safely and thoughtfully into the future. As she says: “We’re always hopeful, right?  No matter what happens, we humans can always find hope hiding somewhere and it is this hope that creates change, so that we can be prepared for what may transpire in the future.”

(L-R) Tracy Thomson, They Dreamt Of Trees and Future Projections, both mixed media on wood panel, 12 x 12 inches

Her process is one of happenstance.  Images appear of their own volition and when they do, the element of surprise is a driving force. She states that “whatever appears is meant to be there for whatever reason and I’m careful not to edit these things out, even if they don’t quite make sense at the time, that’s like life.”  She considers her involvement in the creative process, similar to “just another brush or tool, I’m there to facilitate the work, not control it.” 

For example, for “Bone Of My Bone, Flesh Of My Flesh”, she had no intention of creating a portrait and when it began taking shape, she identified it as her great- great Uncle, Tom Thomson.  As she explains, “I don’t pre-plan these things but when they happen, they’re a bit of magic!”

Tracy Thomson, Bone Of My Bone, Flesh Of My Flesh, mixed media on wood panel, 12 x 12 inches

“White Curtain” is an example of her future world constructs. She told me, “This is like something in the desert, and these (containers) are representative of energy stations where we can plug ourselves in…These thoughts of the future can at times be unsettling. I find humour combats the unease.” In this piece she keeps the traditional landscape of a desert, however, it is a reconstructed futuristic view which is up for interpretation, so the viewer can decide what to see in the future.

Tracy Thomson, White Curtain, mixed media on wood panel, 12 x 12 inches

Also in this show, are 5 white orchids growing out of five white ceramic heads. Placed all in a line, like sentinels, standing guard for peace. The white Orchid symbolizes hope and innocence. Called “Talking Heads” for the word headlines attached to the mouth of each head.

Tracy Thomson, Talking Heads (L-R) Everything Is Transient, Fragments, Acts of God, Opening Soon and Long Dead Artists, each hand-painted ceramic pot, 20 x 6 inches

Thomson summarizes her artist talk with, “I am so consumed by all the natural disasters everywhere, all the eco-stuff that is so prevalent right now. That really does scare me.

When listening to Thomson explaining her vision and how she arrived at each piece of work, I realize the true scope of her search for eternal hope. She is searching not only for a way to cope with the impact of the world’s treacherous waves of conflict, but also to instill in the viewer a sense of acceptance of being, and to find trust in the natural order and optimism in the face of uncertainty. In her powerful diptych “Ever After”, an Indonesian Bird of Paradise sits placidly in the female figures hand. While a snake uncoils the arm of the male figure, a mouse in the other hand. “The enchanted mysteries of what may lie ahead. The uncertain treachery of such places. This is what fuels me”. 

Tracy Thomson, Ever After, mixed media on two wood panels, 72 x 36 inches

It is a show utterly worth seeing especially if you enjoy meaningful art with strong imagery.

Installation view of Tracy Thomson, Hope Springs Eternal

Cassandra Johnson

Images are courtesy of Propeller Art Gallery.

*Exhibition information: Tracy Thomson, Hope Springs Eternal, November 15 – December 3, 2023, Propeller Art Gallery, 30 Abell St, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat, 1 – 5:30pm, Sun 12 – 4pm.

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