News : 2010

"Frances Thomas featured in Canadian Art Online"
Terrence Heath

Frances Thomas: Natural Abstraction



Seldom does a viewer see what a painter sees. Writers about art often turn to other artists and schools to categorize the art they are looking at, or second-guess what they perceive to be emotional or psychological messages subliminally secreted in the works, or draw from their own experience to “complete” the paintings, that is, participate in the imaginative world from which the art comes. These approaches are often interesting and insightful, giving readers interpretations and guidelines for their own viewing. Frances Thomas’ work, however, I think demands just persistent looking, a means of permitting the paint and colour of her works to accumulate and separate into new experiences.

In “but wait,” the present exhibition of Thomas’ work at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie, paint has been applied in varying amounts from heavy, dripping gestures to carefully drawn shapes “fixed” on visually complex grounds. Sometimes, sections of the latter paintings have been scraped, giving the impression of being reworked in contrast to the immediacy of the shapes.


To this point in looking at the paintings, these are abstract works. There are, however, other perceptions that come with longer looking. By and large, Thomas works in a horizontal landscape format. The colour-shapes, whether heavy or defined, move across the painting surface, suggesting a relationship to a perceived world rather than an interior emotional expression. These have a certain visual objectivity without being figurative. This suggestion of landscape is strong enough that two works, a diptych and a triptych, seem to me to want to be separated into their parts and seen as individual paintings.


The landscapes seemingly underlying Thomas’ abstraction of gestures and delineations could be forests, hills, streams, clouds—the sense of an observed world is suggested by colours and shapes. However, one aspect of the paintings brings to mind a more basic “picture” of natural settings. Every painting, (including the diptych and triptych if separated into their parts) is unending. The traditional landscape painting freezes the scene depicted, contains it in a determined space and constructs it through composition and colour as a complete and completed view. Yet the essence of our experience of the world, urban or natural, is that it is unending. Nowhere are we made more aware of this continuation than in photography. La région centrale by Michael Snow attempted to contend with this very issue—the world surrounds us. Thomas’ paintings suggest that they could continue, could be any shape or size. In effect, through suggestion and ongoing, almost arbitrary movement of colour, Thomas gives us the experience of envelopment by nature in both time and space. (37 Mulcaster St, Barrie ON)


View Frances Thomas' online gallery