Elegy for Tom Thomson on the hundredth anniversary of his death
(July 8, 1917-July 8, 2017)
July 8, 1917 was the last time anyone saw Tom Thomson alive. In just five years his paintings had become a touchstone for a national identity based on a wide open wilderness. Thomson’s small oil sketches of the lakes in and around Algonquin Park retain the existential immediacy with which they were captured. Tom’s vehicle of choice was a custom painted light grey canoe, which he skillfully piloted through the vastness of the park. His painting friends formally became the Group of Seven in March 1920, encouraged by his example “to always take the bolder course, to find new trails.” Tom Thomson was a trailblazer, an inventor of a new land, a poet of colour, and a master of en plein air oil painting. On July 16, 1917, Thomson’s waterlogged body was found floating in Canoe Lake. He was 39 years old.
This series of lake scapes is an elegy to Tom Thomson, highlighting the invention of new forms, new colour combinations, and new meanings, comprised of 100 panels, 24”x24”, oil on wood. The traditional idea of landscape is called into question. While national identities continue to grow and struggle with history, the land as the hypostasis of humanity continues. This series of paintings celebrates the impermanence of borders, meaning, truth, shores, and reflections, and reminds us of our mortality, our contingency, and our good luck.