Notes & Fiction

Douglas Thomson

There was a person wandering about a gallery as though he was walking through a fairground in the off season.
‘The turpitude of these paintings’ I thought he thought about swallowing the dictionary? Mmm. The truth has I had heard someone slagging off the paintings saying that they were really evil, even though he was only joking. More truth said in jest? I was not convinced by Thomson’s work then but I was curious to find out.
When I first greeted him he had a radiant smile and good manners but standoffish, like he didn’t take fools gladly, perhaps, a shyness that disables him – he was suspicious of me, nevertheless, I prevailed. He was the type of person who made light of everything even his successes – putting himself down with a corny witticism. It was difficult to know when was being ironic’ Art is synonymous with everything – it’s easy to call yourself an artist’, he says, ‘it kind of cheapens things. But an artist I have to call him – there’s no other word for it.
In his early years, he developed a kind of gentle cynicism, touring the continent slepping his exhibitions in planes and taxis buying stretchers where ever the need arose; it was hard but exciting.
‘These people, who complain about alcoholism and drugs and how they have to recover from them by languishing clinics, make me sick – I suppose they only for do it for the press; I suppose I would do it myself if had a press secretary. People have got real problems – tears in the beer, eh? It’s pathetic’, he explains with a wry smile.
I sense a bit of bitterness, but no sour grapes, a sense of irony, perhaps?

I thought ironically with a smile: ‘Enough of this X Factor stuff’.

We can, in Thomson’s prints, detect a direct correlation between his painting and sculpture – a love of manipulating the materials that he is presented with. A true ‘truth to materials’ man. His ideas may seem somewhat limited to some with his heads and landscapes but they present particular problems to solve, nevertheless, they are more than mere illustration; he says, ‘they’re just things to hang ideas on’. Perhaps I can write down in words what he finds difficult to express verbally: they are not symbols or fetishes that are to be imbued with higher ideals, simply they are exercises in colour and texture that are to be appreciated for themselves; they are images not symbolic icons that one can hook religious or ideological feelings on – they are images of humanity and nature. ‘The thing is,’ he says, ‘you cannot stifle other people’s imagination’.
Furthermore, I’ll use my own words here, he is dealing with a maturity in his prints that is not apparent in his earlier works, perhaps he feels freer to make mistakes or make different versions to achieve his aims; maybe an earlier version could be more successful with, for example, a simpler rendition of colour. A step further in his confidence? – maybe…
However, I must say something technical about his latest departure into prints. By looking into his computer one can see the various stages a print develops from the original files, some drawn and painted with a particular type of software, some scanned; layering them and manipulating them with varied masks and blends.
As I’ve said before, the difficulty with Thomson’s work is that people seem to look for what is not there – see for what it is: a tour de force in image making.

Daniel Mungan