At first glance, Joanne Thomson’s and Sheryl Fisher’s colourful bright paintings suggest a carefree mood, but their works are carefully crafted to offer a message, and open the door to conversation.
“Our work is quite dissimilar,” Thomson said of the exhibit at the Gage Gallery, an artists’ collective she joined in May.
“We’re speaking about things families don’t speak about, mental illness, addiction, death. These images are meant to start conversations.”
Their joint show, Many Faces of Silence, runs July 14 to Aug. 1 at the Gage Gallery with an opening reception July 17.
“I thought [the bottled series] was finished, but when Fisher saw the work she wanted it in the show,” Thomson said.
The abstract works about oppression and abuse were easier to portray without using words, she explained, and had been around nearly two decades, transforming from “bottled women” to “bottled series” as men were integrated.
“It’s been an interesting journey for me to pull them out again and work on them. It’s been fascinating … my portion of the exhibition will really be a retrospective,” she said.
“The series was about me getting out of my bottle, making a transition,” she said. Part of her transition was from full-time nurse to full time artist and has shifted even more as she’s placed a firm old in the art world and even making a living at it. This show will be a major departure from what she’s best known for now – Westcoast landscapes.
“I fell off using the bottle series to express that and funnily enough what I did was a year and a half ago started the ‘mason jar’ series,” she said. “I didn’t realize until later it was bottles again. It’s more literal … they’re quite realistic so its been a real shift.”
Thomson specializes in watercolour on canvas and holds a Masters degree in Adult Education. She is active in the community as an artist advocate, mentor and facilitator. Her bottle series inspired Fisher, who was looking for a shift of her own from jazz toward something more socially active. She developed the mime series that will show during the Many Faces of Silence.
“These are really bright, colourful, exciting pieces and I got excited … I’d been thinking about dong a mime series and I thought ‘now’s the time,’” Fisher said. “We both like to paint with purpose … we want to waken the viewer’s conscience,”
Thomson and Fisher worked together to make the pieces “jive together” and wound up with a show designed to start conversations, and literally give back to the community.
“You want it to be cohesive and it’s gelled into something quite wonderful,” Fisher said. “It’s kind of a feel-good project for both of us.”
They added a July 25 special event at Gage called Breaking the Silence featuring guests from the Umbrella Society and She Recovers as well as an artist tai and performance by Olive Jean Love. Also partial proceeds will go to the Umbrella Society.
“It’s giving that nudge … at the same time, we like to support people who are helping other people and resources,” Fisher said.
The show runs July 14 through Aug. 1 with an opening on July 17 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay Ave.
“It just works so well together, the mimes not speaking … both are demonstrating lots of things with the body movement and shape and colour,” Thomson said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what reaction we get from it.”
Learn more online at gagegallery.ca.