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Bright new shows ready at Tom Thomson gallery

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When the Tom Thomson Art Gallery reopens this month, visitors will have the opportunity to take in some shows that are similar in that they feature an abundance of brightness and colour, yet are different in the media used and the way they are being presented.

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For emerging Saugeen First Nation artist Emily Kewageshig the show will mark her first solo effort, called Mooshknemgog Bmaadziwin/Full Circle, featuring a wide variety of works that are highly influenced by her Anishinaabe heritage.

Meanwhile, veteran Toronto-based landscape painter Steve Driscoll will be highlighted in the exhibit, “I closed my eyes, but the light was still there,” made up of a series of his paintings that have been photographed, digitalized, printed on sheets of glass and then placed into backlit light boxes.

Kewageshig said Friday as she put the finishing touches on her show that it was exiting to be able to kick off her first solo exhibit. The gallery opens to members on July 22 and to the general public on July 29.

“It feels good to be able to exhibit my work in a location that is close to home,” said Kewageshig, 22. “It allows all my family to come and see it, whereas if it was in the city they wouldn’t be able to.”

Kewageshig said the exhibition symbolizes her beginnings as an artist, as it features her first major works completed in the past couple of years.

“For my first show I really wanted to capture the essence of life itself,” she said. “In my next works I really hope to go beyond this and start telling different stories and showing different perspectives.”

Kewageshig said her work is heavily influenced by both her past and her culture, which she has spent a lot of time studying. The main title piece is a large, colourful circular work that visually tells the Anishinaabe creation story about how life began.

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Kewageshig said the title of her show, Mooshknemgog Bmaadziwin/Full Circle, signifies how everything in life is cyclical, including birth, death, rebirth and regrowth.

“I focus a lot on people and animals, and on my own relationship with my son and family,” Kewageshig said of her body of work. “And I like to use bright colours to express the way I see the natural world.”

Kewageshig paints in a variety of media and enjoys many different types of artwork.

For the show, her paintings are primarily acrylic on canvas and live edge wood, but also include oils and watercolours. In some instances she incorporates culturally significant materials.

“This is a broad overview of the kind of art I like to do,” she said.

Kewageshig began taking art seriously when she was in Grade 12 in high school.

Her path to becoming an artist really began after she broke her right wrist and suffered nerve damage. She was determined to rehabilitate her hand so it was steady again. She started out writing script and doing tattoo-like drawings, but that then stemmed to painting after her parents bought her canvas and paints.

“From there I just kept painting and I couldn’t stop,” Kewageshig said. “It was kind of like an addiction because it made me feel good and it was a way for me to express myself, because I am not normally a very loud person.”

She went on to Sheridan College where she graduated from the visual and creative arts diploma program and is now set to begin her fourth and final year enrolled in the Indigenous Visual Culture program at OCAD University, pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

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Kewageshig’s show is curated by curator of contemporary art Heather McLeese and exhibitions assistant Shannon Bingeman.

Also opening at the gallery is “I closed my eyes, but the light was still there,” featuring the works of Driscoll, who is known for his large scale urethane and mixed pigment paintings.

For the show, Driscoll has created a series of paintings that were photographed, digitalized, printed on sheets of glass and then placed into backlit light boxes. The process in effect magnifies the paintings, which allows the viewer to see swirls and bubbles that aren’t as easily seen in the painting on the traditional medium.

I closed my eyes but the light was still there, a show by Toronto-based artist Steve Driscoll opens shortly at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound. At left is an 18-panel piece, Paintings for Woody Guthrie in Light 1-18, and at right is When the Dawn Light Crept In. The gallery reopens to members on July 22 and to the public on July 29.In addition to the modern process, Driscoll’s intent is also contemporary as he views the series as visual journalism captured through a social media and an advertising lens. The use of light boxes is inspired by billboards and bus stop advertisements.

“I’m honoured and humbled to be opening my first exhibition at the TOM. Tom Thomson was a master at capturing light and I took that as an inspiration for this show,” Driscoll said. “This series started three years ago as I began work on my CIBC Square commission. In order to get the process right it took years of experimenting with lighting and materials to make it perfect.”

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The show is being curated by McLeese.

Also opening at the gallery is The Group of Seven: The View From Here, curated by curator of collections David Huff, and will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Group of Seven in 1920 by showcasing the gallery’s collection. It provides a visual tour across Canada as experienced by the Group of Seven and explores the unique connection between the group and Owen Sound.

After months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gallery is reopening, first on July 22 to members and then on July 29 to the general public. The exhibitions are scheduled to remain at the gallery until October.

Physical distancing measures will be in place at the gallery with groups currently limited to 10, mandatory mask wearing and touchless payment systems.

The gallery is open from Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information visit the gallery website at https://www.owensound.ca/en/tomthomson.aspx

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