Sally Thurlow: Resonances (SEEING IT THROUGH…)


…What We Sow, 2021, Acrylic and mixed media on wood. Image provided by artist.

Sally Thurlow

September 28 – October 15, 2022
Reception in Gallery: October 1, 2022 from 1-4pm

The Red Head Gallery is pleased to present Resonances (SEEING IT THROUGH…) Sally Thurlow’s last exhibition as a member of the gallery.

Artists are inevitably drawn to repeat themselves, revisiting deeply embedded themes as if for the first time. In 1998 I painted an eerie field of hay bales, all in sepia tones. Recently I found myself painting this scene again, calling it Disappearing Farmlands II. This time, in familiar complementary colours, the bales have a surreal feeling in their transparency, and are rolling away, reflecting the uncanny nature around the world. So much disappearance in these works – farmlands disappearing in my paintings, bees disappearing in sculpture, butterflies. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring celebrates a fifty-year anniversary edition that had ushered in the era of the Anthropocene before it took on a dire name. How to stay with the trouble?

My varied approaches to painting, come about from how best to express the mood, and ideas behind it. My sculptures also have this playful use of assorted, expressive materials. I wish there to be a beauty that hovers over the brute horror of the daily serving of disaster news. Consider; the painting …What We Sow required an intense density of harvesting materials to mix with its phenomenal background. The suspension in Detached Foundations and Floating in Limbo embody mourning trees. Serving Up Dilemmas draws on materials from the shores of Lake Ontario beach near my home. What are zebra mussels doing in the Great Lakes? Just the tip of the toxic iceberg.

This summer I shared a happy artists’ retreat in Quebec called DRAW – Dumoine River Art for Wilderness. I was one of 18 artists who gathered to make art and share their stories. My tree rubbings for Three Sisters came about from the enchanting experience of being up close and personal with these magnificent ancient trees. We drank water from a fresh, clean local spring, still unavailable to some Indigenous communities, dwelling downstream from industrial effluences. Why are there still contaminated waters?

This exhibition was painted on wood panels from crates I had made for my first large travelling exhibition of sculptures called Canoe Dreamings in 2006. Once the sculptures were dispersed, the empty crates were re-purposed into the surfaces for painting, the different wood grains giving a stability to the landscape motifs. Staying with the Trouble, a book by Donna J. Haraway has resonances for me. Seeing it through, and seeing it through art. Is Art still a saving power?

Disappearing Farmlands II, 2022. Image provided by artist.

Sally Thurlow lives east of Toronto by the shores of Lake Ontario and a nature reserve. This location continues to be a significant influence in her practice based in sculpture, installation, photography and painting. She continues to explore cultural and environmental themes impacting our global communities, and contributing to the advancing climate change.

Since 1998 Thurlow has exhibited in public galleries in Whitby, Oshawa, Peterborough, Mississauga, Chatham, Sault Ste. Marie, Owen Sound, and Minden, Ontario. She has given numerous artist talks and workshops at educational institutions and public galleries, and shown internationally in artist run centres in Chicago, New York, Mexico, and Toronto. She is currently a member of the Red Head Gallery and The Iris Group, both artists’ collectives.

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