Vision Circle: The Art of Roy Thomas: A Retrospective Exhibition
VISION CIRCLE: THE ART OF ROY THOMAS
Widely considered one of the most influential Aboriginal artists in Canada, Roy Thomas (1949-2004)was heavily influenced by his grandmother who taught him about the Ahnisnabae culture through her captivating stories. Thomas quickly took up drawing at his grandparents’ encouragement in order to bring these stories to life. He began by scrawling invisibly on his grandmother’s back as she spoke but soon took up inks and acrylics and produced visual legends of dazzling colour. Inspired also by the ancient pictographs in the Northwestern region of Ontario, Thomas’s work depicts his interpretation of the Life Spirits (Air, Land, Water and Fire.)
Thomas began his career as a prolific member of the Woodland School of Art in the late 1960s under such luminaries as Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray and Norval Morrisseau. Soon after he joined the group it was clear that his intuitive sense of colour indicated a confident talent was ready to emerge. Thomas regarded his inclusion in the Woodland School with great pride - his great large scale 1984 painting We’re All in the Same Boat, currently part of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery’s retrospective of Thomas’s work, depicts his idols Morrisseau, Odjig, Carl Ray, Joshim Kakegamic, Blake Debassige (in addition to himself) together in one canoe - young and old, masters and apprentices, all contributing to one grand, life-affirming work of art.
Despite some distressing early years spent in a residency school, Thomas drew inspiration and strength from his mentors and, most importantly, his grandmother whose spirit Thomas insisted was with him while he painted. He honored her throughout his life by signing his works with a small crow, the Ahnisnabae name she had given him.
Thomas’s life and work are paid great tribute in Vision Circle: The Art of Roy Thomas - A Retrospective, currently on display at the Thunder Bay Art gallery until September 9, 2012.