Ottawa artist Stefan Thompson is a bit of an enigma to most who see his work. Usually roughly sketched, slightly deranged looking animals appear either in portraits reminiscent of the prints by German artist Michael Sowa on Amelie’s bedroom wall or in an overlapped piece that evokes something between the haunting nature of Picasso’s Guernica and the fluidity of Inuit Art.
Thompson’s art will be up, down and all around at Wall Space Gallery in Westoboro on April 22nd to celebrate Earth Day.
I remember the first time I saw Stefan Thompson’s work in 2007. I arrived a hare too late to a vernissage at Invisible Cinema’s Wurm Gallery where I was awake in a dream. Like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz or Alice and her Wonderland, I stumbled upon a gallimaufry of wild and charming animals, not to mention Thompson’s art. His work was adorning the walls, though you almost felt like the creatures were out of their recycled frames and walking around.
With hundreds of beady eyes looking out at me, I dared to look back and found pride and tragedy, humility and bravery in the souls too big for their frame come cages. I say I arrived a hare (like the animal in Thompson’s work) too late, because most of the pieces had already been sold. However, I managed to take home a couple of the smaller pieces, which started a much-adored collection of his work that I have slowly been adding to. I remember the jewel of the evening a five foot 3-D piece of a nymphy rodent. I now visit it when I can at my dear friend’s house who has it perched lovingly in his dining room, so that it’s always welcome at potluck dinners, tea time and hangover brunch.
His work has been likened to surrealism and I can certainly see that, as it is fantastical. However, I’d say, as an homage to the recently deceased Gabriel Garcia Marquez, his work is more like that of magical realism as it seeks to express nature rather than human psychology. I say this because his army of creatures, no two alike, all seem to live in a natural world but have magical powers of outliving their due date, perhaps that’s why they look as gruff as they do. And, while highly detailed, are too strange to believe. They are mysterious and seem to belong to folk tales untold, stories of our own making especially since the elusive Thompson doesn’t openly share the creation stories of each little darling. The style is a hybrid, as I mentioned above, and the work itself is a critique of the mistreatment of the natural world. This is clear given the artist’s use of natural paints and recycled materials. Without a doubt, we can certainly find elements of the magical in Thompson real art.
Earth Day at Wall Space Gallery will be celebrated with lights out from 5 – 8 PM. It will be a fitting scene for Thompson’s creatures to come alive like something from Pan’s Labyrinth. His pieces will be on display until May the 4th be with you.
If you are drawn to quirky and magical representations of the natural world, do also check out pieces by local artist Drew Mosley. If you’re drawn to Thompson’s macabre aesthetic take a looksie at local artist Howie Tsui’s work.
Wall Space Gallery is located at 358 Richmond Road. New Works by Stefan Thompson Commemorating Earth Day is on exhibit from April 22 – May 4, 2014. The Earth Day evening vernissage is on April 22 from 5-8pm.