Jeremy Thomas Canvas at Charlott Jackson Fine Art in Santa Fe
A gentle sloping curve. A twist. A shadowed dimple, a ripple. An arc like a fin. Orange-red that passes through all the stages into red-violet. Pale blue frosted with yellow. Glowing yellow morphing into green. Around the gallery arranged on shelves, on walls, these forms are arrayed.
Strange underwater creatures, microscopic life, alien animals. Some are striped, some shine with glossy resin, others coated in richest eye-catching color. Some even glow in the dark … These forms work a bit like a 3D Rorschach test. They are not what you think they are – but at the same time they are exactly what you imagine. What you see may say as much about you – about how your own mind interacts with these remarkable colored forms — than it necessarily does about what they are.
One thing is clear though – these strange and thought-provoking objects could only have come from the mind and hands of Jeremy Thomas. Yet even that may be confusing to anyone who has followed Thomas’ work over the years – tracking the many elaborations and changes of Thomas’ inflated steel works. Because these pieces are made from canvas.
Thomas has never been the sort to rest on his laurels. His steel works have continued to evolve over the years – his endless curiosity about the world around him always influencing, in large and small ways, the forms, colors, materials, and questions that Thomas asks as he creates. When he started to question the ecological impact of his forged steel pieces, he developed a whole new process to cold-inflate his steel – and out of that change began a whole new set of questions, and a whole new range of forms.
Thomas had already begun to suspect that his real medium was not steel, but air when he explored the idea in two very distinctive series of works, his Air Paintings and Wind Drawings. However, it is with this new series of canvas inflated works, that this realization seems to have settled and taken root. At the beginning of the pandemic, with the world feeling full of darkness, Thomas began to experiment with canvas – liking, again, that it had a lighter ecological footprint – and adapting forms from lantern patterns to quite literally try to create some light in a dark time.
Enjoying the material, Thomas went on to explore further with heavyweight hemp fabric and then organic cotton canvas. He developed a unique process to coat the canvas in an ecologically responsible resin, then inflate his fabric forms while wet, allowing him to gently manipulate them before they are cured to a hard and shining state. Color can be applied both within the resin itself, or afterward on the hard surface.
So much remains in these canvas objects (including the wall-mounting pieces which he has taken to calling “Wall Pillows”) of Thomas’ signature process. Both use and capture that mysterious and chaotic essence of air – it’s ability to create volume, it’s something-from-seeming-nothing to enliven and grow Thomas’ strange and complicated forms. Thomas has even said that sewing the canvas reminds him very much of TIG welding, “TIG welding is dab after dab—you have to be right there, present. When you’re sewing, it’s the same. Every stitch—you have to be present for each one. Right. There.” And the finished pieces (steel or canvas) are records of a process, of the action of air moving, bumping, twisting material, opening forms – much the way air expands and unfurls the alveoli of the lungs.
However, canvas pieces do strike off in new dimensions. Even though they are hard-cured, the canvas pieces feel different, softer, more accessible. As Thomas recognizes – each material brings its own freight of associations – and while steel has its hard and unapproachable aspects, canvas and fabric bring with them a very long and quite intimate association with humans and the human body. Add to that that canvas is pliable enough that its whorls, dimples, and puckers can be more pronounced, more wrinkly, and yet softer, and these objects feel particularly aligned to the organic and animal.
This shift is reflected as well in his color palate. While in the past his colors have often come from industry or advertising, these colors come from more intimate or natural sources: sky, sunset, plants, animals, some even taking on the glowing phosphorescence found in deep sea creatures or insects.
Equal parts joyful and thoughtful, “Canvas” brings us a whole new world to explore, with pieces that challenge our preconceived ideas of what canvas can do and be.