Ignorance was truly bliss when I spotted this staggering, large painting at the AGO last month. I didn't know of the artist, so I viewed it at face value, no back story. It was the only photo I took during my luxuriously long, first-time visit to the Frank Gehry-redeveloped gallery. I needed more Denyse Thomasos.
The painting hits as a visual mash-up of Leviathan nightmare and architectural chaos, created with a free, confident, skilled hand. Art can do that: have you gasping in front of what is just canvas and markings. It can rock the centre of your being or reinforce exactly where you sit in the universe at that moment in time. Maybe this is what they mean by having an out-of-body experience.
Some post-viewing googling unveiled the tragic news that the artist Thomasos, born in Trinidad and raised in Canada until moving to New York in 1989, died this summer "after an adverse reaction to a dye injected for a routine MRI," according to a statement at the Olga Korper Gallery, where her work has been shown throughout her professional life as an artist. She was my age, recently married, a mother.
An important Canadian artist with an international reputation, a professor at Rutgers University in New York CIty, Thomasos has since had many news stories written about her work and her life, interrupted.
Her brilliant paintings, which deal with heavy themes ranging from super-prisons to slave ships and rampant globalization, are left to speak for themselves.
Here are a few examples, and an interview, where Thomasos generously explains her process: