Show Preview: Def Perspectives – curious arts

Detail of Clewe by Jesse Thomas. Photo supplied by UAlberta Museums and Collections.

Jesse Thomas blurs the boundaries of real and imagined worlds with series of works at Enterprise Square Galleries

Jesse Thomas’ large-scale oil paintings and charcoal drawings featured in a show called Def Perspectives at Enterprise Square Galleries until October 25 blur the boundaries between real and imagined worlds.

An assistant professor in painting at the University of Alberta, Jesse Thomas articulates this speculative notion in his artist’s statement for the exhibition:

“A work of art is understood to possess its own forms and structures, distinct from reality, but apprehended through its relation to our understanding of the world.”

In Def Perspectives, two main concerns have sparked the artist’s imagination; one is the status of visual narrative in painting in comparison with narrative structures in literature and cinema, the other is the effective limits of the medium of painting to convey political, cultural, and historical ideas.

CL10 by Jesse Thomas

CL10 by Jesse Thomas

Thomas brings together selective autobiographical images from his cultural identity, drawing our attention to the stories which are represented in front of us, conveying themes of nostalgia, desire, and personal memories.

The impact of Thomas’ painted stories are invigorated with the dominance of flat patches of bright and luminescent colours alongside the images of real people, and his imagined monster-like, contorted, surreal figures hovering throughout the works.

Formerly based in New Orleans and now based in Edmonton, we can see many discernible signifiers of Thomas’ personal memories and cultural background in each of the works in Def Perspectives. Historical locations such as Roman ruins, and specific spots in New Orleans and Edmonton with personal history figure prominently in the series as well as recognizable political figures in American history such as Henry Kissinger and Ronald Reagan.

Other famous logotypes of large enterprises like IBM and CBS, punk rock bands, and some personal evocative objects such as a skull and wooden spoons are also featured. With the juxtaposition of these elements, Thomas constructs his stories, inviting us to come closer, to think of how politics can affect the culture absorbed by artists, and consider these influences on the artworks produced artists.

As we see in the Buzz Spector-inspired work named OBJECT + LOGOTYPES, the Central Parking Corporation logo resembles minimalist paintings by Frank Stella and may be viewed as a metaphor for the manifestation of a culture which is affected by political ideology behind the large corporations.

Thomas refers to some famous paintings in the history of art, such as works by Italian mannerist Tintoretto, German pioneer of the New European movement Gerhard Richter, and Japanese Edo-period artist Katsushika Hokusai to recall their significance, adopting them as companion pieces in his works. Specifically, in the last work, CL10, with the appropriation of a famous work by Richter from the series of paintings called Baader-Meinhof Gang, Thomas re-emphasizes the role of painting as a medium with its distinctive narrative to demonstrate the social, historical and political milieu that holds us.

Def Perspectives provides a great chance to follow the vicissitudes and mysteries of the stories happening in the imagination Jesse Thomas and ponder the collective themes of our shared reality.

Presenter: University of Alberta Museums and Collections
Event title:Def Perspectives: Paintings and Drawings by Jesse Thomas
Exhibition dates: until October 25, 2014
Venue:Enterprise Square Galleries (10233 Jasper Ave, Edmonton)
Gallery Hours: Thursday and Friday: 12 to 6 p.m.
Saturday: 12 to 4 p.m.
Admission: by donation

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