Sunday, May 19, 2024
May 19, 2024

Local poets give voice to Ian Thomas artwork

BY Kirsten Bolton

For ArtSpring 

More than 100 art enthusiasts and well-wishers came out for the opening reception and welcome address by long-time Salt Spring artist Ian Thomas for his month-long exhibition at ArtSpring, entitled Ian Thomas: Past and Present. Approaching his 90th birthday, Thomas says this will be his last public statement on his life and work as an artist. 

Curated by Margaret Day and Stefanie Denz, the “Past” is a retrospective of key moments drawn from a lifetime of art-making on a grand scale through the mediums of painting, sculptural collage and installations that capture a deep exploration of the human condition. 

The “Present” is a new series, Poets and Their Poetry, in which Thomas pays tribute to 36 writers close to his heart, including six published poets from Salt Spring, with intimate watercolour works that combine textual fragments with portraiture.

To bring these works to life, a special Evening of Poetry event is being hosted Wednesday, May 15 at ArtSpring from 7 to 9 p.m., emceed by award-winning poet Murray Reiss. Six local poets will read selections from eight of Thomas’ favourite writers and reflect on how that poet may have lived, the text itself, and how it connects to the one of 36 framed portraits in the gallery.

From presenting the works of world-famous poets Osip Mandelstam, Pablo Neruda, Dylan Thomas, Anne Carson, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Federico Garcia Lorca to Salt Spring’s own Phyllis Webb and Brian Brett, the evening promises to be a rich literary and art fusion experience.

Thomas traces the genesis of this project back to his early adolescence in the British seaside town of Brighton where he’d take the bus to the promenade and wander down narrow lanes lined with tiny shops. As he remembers, on shelves outside the second-hand bookstores sat damaged books priced just right for his pocket money. 

“What struck me more than anything were the battered volumes of poetry and the golden letters of the poets’ names,” Thomas said, “That was the beginning of my love for poetry.” 

Once retired from a long art and teaching career, Thomas began reading Salt Spring poets. “As I read them, I began to love what they had to say and how they said it — the direct, straightforward emotional truth of their lives,” he explains. “As I read more, I realized they all touched on truths that enriched my own life. They play such a large part in my heart.”  

Six well-known Salt Spring poets — Diana Hayes, Sandi Johnson, Shirley Graham, Brian Day, Mona Fertig and Murray Reiss — will read the selections. 

The exhibition runs through May 26 daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thomas will host Sunday walkabouts on May 12 and May 19 at 2 p.m. A portion of the sales from this work will go to the Island Fund for Ukraine, an initiative spearheaded by Victoria Olchowecki, which to date has raised over $100,000.

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