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Exhibition: New Scratches by Stefan Thompson

By Brenda Dunn on February 21, 2017

Stefan Thompson’s show New Scratches is giving us something to consider. A growing zero waste movement that has pointed a spotlight at the excess of our consumer culture is finding a face in the sustainable pieces now on display at Wall Space Gallery (358 Richmond Rd).

Thompson’s collection consists of gently implied creatures and chiaroscuro figures carved and curving on the recycled and repurposed materials he has very deliberately chosen. For once, the medium really is the message.

Stefan Thompson, Circle. Beeswax and soot, on recycled paper.

Stefan Thompson, Circle. Beeswax and soot, on recycled paper.

Distraught by the toxicity of traditional materials, curator Patricia Barr says that Thompson has turned away from chemical paints and factory-made brushes. New Scratches is a reference to the tools he uses to dig out his delicate drawings from their surfaces, favouring this over purchasing of new materials. “I chose [New Scratches] because I’m making a comment on the dominant technique I’m using in this body of work. Scratching to create fine lines instead of brushes. Except for the ceramic elements, the show is a little more gestural and chaotic in its line quality because of this limitation,” says Thompson.

His aesthetic is not just gestural – this is an artist who lives these values to the hilt and opted to have invitations to the show hand stamped and written on recycled materials. Even the prices are gently noted in pencil directly on the wall. No new paper will be used during the course of this show.

“Obviously I hope that the viewer understands that the work is made with very restrictive material limitations, that make it non-poisonous to the biosphere. The more I make everything I need, the less I take from a system that doesn’t seem to care about the environment. The materials I use reflect what to me is our deepest latent common sense. We all love the planet and the universe at least as much as the person or animal or plant in our lives that we love the most, because the planet makes that love possible.”

This mandate might sounds preachy and it could be, were Thompson the type to preach. He is in fact, one of the softest-spoken people I’ve ever met and listens intently, speaking as if words were another precious natural resource. Unruffled by social insistence that we must fill the air with chitchat, he seems utterly content to have the conversation prattle around him.

Stefan Thompson Large Animal Collage. Tempura and soot on cotton cloth wrapped on wooden board.

Stefan Thompson, Large Animal Collage. Tempura and soot on cotton cloth wrapped on wooden board.

“The materials I use reflect what to me is our deepest latent common sense. We all love the planet and the universe at least as much as the person or animal or plant in our lives that we love the most, because the planet makes that love possible.”

Stefan Thompson, Herd detail_ Pure clay with natural glaze derived from low temperature firing with Cow and Chicken bones, Mussel shells, beeswax and natural pigments.He speaks warmly about the process of creating the tiny ceramic sculptures that line the gallery’s walls. Tiny single files of woodland creatures all rough-hewn but fine and subtly coloured through a firing process wherein some parts are protected with fat and others charred. It’s an imprecise science and one that Thompson seems happy to be surprised by. “This late winter and spring, I’m planning to continue exploring ceramics and natural glazes. I’m doing a residency with ceramic artist Marie-Pierre Drolet at my studio in the Gatineau hills and our collective efforts will be on display at PAF-FAS in Farrelton, Quebec this June.”

Thompson is the type of artist you want to be purchasing sooner than later. The price range right now is extremely accessible with sculptural works and smaller drawings for as little as $20. Not surprisingly, they were being snapped up right left and centre during the opening so if you’re shopping, go early. His show will run until March 2 and I suspect will sell out.

Wall Space Gallery has stretched to accommodate Thompson’s values and he has done the same to partner with them. No small feat – and one born of a clear mutual respect. Make your way there, preferably by sustainable means, and buy a beautifully succinct reminder to tread lightly.


Stefan Thompson’s New Scratches will be showing at Wall Space Gallery (358 Richmond Rd) until March 2.

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