In 1942, Lionel Thomas (1915-2005) and Patricia Thomas (1918-2011), art school trained idealists with an intellectual commitment to the Modern Movement in twentieth century culture, successfully hitchhiked from Toronto to Vancouver. As activists in a chosen field of expertise, the couple was courageously predisposed to an ideal of art as an experimental practice within contemporary society. Both the aim of their Toronto-Vancouver journey and selected evidence of its outcome are examined in a new exhibition at the Belkin Satellite. Defying Depiction: The Distant Practice of Lionel and Patricia Thomas foregrounds certain broadly engaged and deeply resolved works and projects with particular reference to their creative contributions since 1945.
Between 1949 and 1970, Patricia Thomas became famous, in a North American context, for her groundbreaking work as an architectural colour consultant. In that capacity (sometimes in co-operation with her husband, Lionel) she worked in collaboration with major modernist architects in Canada. Lionel Thomas has inventively developed his art in relation to architecture throughout his career as a colourist and muralist. His commissions in Vancouver have ranged in scope (and longevity) from the now vanished Stanley Park Zoo to UBC’s venerable and thought-provoking Brock Hall mural (produced in collaboration with Patricia Thomas).
This exhibition, the third in a series being researched and curated by CAUSA (Collective for Advanced and Unified Studies in the Visual Arts), positions the artists unequivocally. By way of an art historical standpoint now positioned by CAUSA: “Patricia and Lionel Thomas are conspicuous for having engaged a singularity of vision to a critical path of discontinuous articulation. These artists pose a positive enigma to the contemporary viewer: by presenting us with the problem of visual communication, they simultaneously point out the immanence of its solution.”
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