Work-In-Progress (i.e. #WIP) is an AGGV podcast that offers some insight from behind the scenes to curatorial and educational projects and collaborations that could be seen as open-ended or process-based — highlighting some of the experimental and exploratory work that is taking shape both inside and outside of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s physical gallery spaces.
In this episode we will learn about the work of Trinidadian-Canadian artist Denyse Thomasos, and her important career and historic contribution to BIPOC voices in Canadian art. From December 2021 through March 2022 the AGGV was thrilled to host the exhibition Denyse Thomasos: Odyssey — a retrospective organized and circulated by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, with support from the Government of Canada.
During the run of the exhibition the AGGV hosted a Zoom conversation with the curators of the exhibition, Gaëtane Verna, Director of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, and Sarah Milroy, Chief Curator at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. They were joined by Victoria based award winning novelist Esi Edugyan who contributed to the exhibition publication. This conversation with Gaëtane Verna, Sarah Milroy and Esi Edugyan was an exciting opportunity to learn about Thomasos’s works from a range of perspectives.
Learn more about the #WIP Podcast at: https://anchor.fm/art-gallery-of-grea…
This podcast series is generously supported by a Canada Council for the Arts Digital Now Grant.
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is located on the traditional territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən speaking peoples, today known as the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations. We extend our gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to live and work on this territory.
Video editing by Marina DiMaio.Work-In-Progress (i.e. #WIP) is an AGGV podcast that offers some insight from behind the scenes to curatorial and educational projects and collaborations that could be seen as open-ended or process-based — highlighting some of the experimental and exploratory work that is taking shape both inside and outside of the Art Gallery of Greater V …
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I think one of the things, too, you mentioned in your essay that I know Gaëtane and I both
were really struck by, that felt so clear
it’s right there and we sort of had realized
it, is the fact that she’s dealing with
you know, certain themes in Black history,
like the Middle Passage and so on.
But there’s no bodies present.
And you made a really interesting point about
that. It was just great insight.
So I mean, I was delighted to be asked to take part of this.
Denyse Thomasos was not an artist whose work I was
very familiar with when I was asked.
So I was really happy, first of all, to be introduced
to a new painter, but that the work was so powerful for me.
It really spoke to me.
I think initially you’re hit with the sense of claustrophobia.
You’ve got those strong, powerful lines
and you’ve got the chaos of them as they’re intersecting.
And sometimes this is done a little bit off kilter.
And so it’s… disorienting. Really disorienting.
But then, you know, as you settle into it
and you really start to notice things, there just seems to be
in a lot of the
the paintings that I observed, a kind of exit point
in each of these structures and whether that’s,
a series of buildings that seem to not have roofs.
And so there’s a sense of,
of being able to escape,
whether that’s, you know, a coffin
that seems to have an open lid, like these kinds of things
where you have both the sense of containment
and oppression, but also the possibility of an exit.
And I think that that’s something
that’s so beautiful in her work.
You have all of these resonances,
but the possibility of hope is what remains.
And I would say, to second that, that
even if you look at the work like Burial at Gorée and,
you know, there’s a light somewhere that feels like
there’s something that’s taking you out of the frame.
So it’s not like a gloomy… I mean, the title says it,
but at the same time
there’s a sense of a light that lives beyond.
It’s as if, regardless of the condition, there is the soul that goes beyond the frame of the painting.
But I can tell you that the reception of the work
I mean at the McMichael… and so many people went and
and told me. And then Sarah, I think it was your son
who said when he was looking at Burial at Gorée… Yes.
He said it reminded him of Guernica. Yeah.
It’s just about the same size. Right? The main panel of it and
that sense of
like everything’s upside down and everything’s moving
and it’s black and white, but it still manages
to have all this incredible expressive force
and the graphic component in Picasso, in that work,
to create this kind of nightmare world
that is also so visually compelling
you can’t, sort of, tear your eyes away.
Representative of a great human injustice.
I thought… I was really impressed.
I was like, whoa, okay. I started taking notes.
I thought that was such a like…
even though we’re referencing Picasso,
but I think the way your son put it,
it’s like Denyse does this painting
by the title it speaks of enslaved people
and the tens of millions that were,
you know, had the same experience.
Yet they’re not present and yet it’s a testament
to those 400 years, to those… you know, those years.
And to me, when
when you told me that, I’m like, wow, like, this is another reading that just brings it all back together.
You know, this painting in itself
feels like the testament to this trauma.
And in a subtle way,
without taking advantage of the bodies
but yet expressing everything in it, you know. Yes.
Yeah, and it sounds like brilliant, kid you have,
He’s looked at a lot of art in his life.
Well, and let’s hope that her work
and maybe that piece in particular
gets brought into the scholarship and the conversations enough that it gets the mileage that Guernica’s had
and the impact, you know, like get it into that…
into that conversation, into that dialog.
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