Local artist’s Leisurely Walk not always a clear path

Artist behind The Hip’s In Between Evolution album art exhibiting recent work at The Artel

Cameron Tomsett’s familiar blend of photography and paint takes precidence at The Artel.
Cameron Tomsett’s familiar blend of photography and paint takes precidence at The Artel.
Jeff Kloosterman

In the middle of Cameron Tomsett’s “Light Up” sits a nondescript everyman.

His demeanour is burdened and his face is vapid and vague. Sitting at the bottom of a lamppost that dominates the frame, he is caught in emotional limbo, stuck between an illuminating dawn and a path of confusion.

For this everyman, the rest of the journey is shadowy and obscure; even his own figure isn’t definitively clear or blurred. He is stagnant in the face of perpetual movement. Such is the sentiment of
Tomsett’s exhibit of new work, Lost on a Leisurely Walk. With images that are both lucid and slightly abstract, Tomsett takes the perspective of the idle, weary everyman—examining the mental, physical and psychological journeys that epitomize the human experience.

“I wanted to emphasize travel and distance,” said Tomsett. “It’s about bridging the distance, bringing the two opposites together.”

While he has mostly worked relatively obscurely, Tomsett, 26, attracted national attention in 2004, when he was handpicked by The Tragically Hip’s Rob Baker to design the artwork for the band’s In Between Evolution album. Baker noticed Tomsett’s work hanging in the Sleepless Goat.

His familiar method—a deft blend of photography and paint— takes precedence in his new exhibit,
allowing for a creative expansion on stagnant life and substantial aesthetic bstraction in both mediums.
“I really wanted to do a series of artwork where the photography is separated from the painting.
“I wanted that juxtaposition between the tangible reality of the photographs and the slightly expressionistic nature of the paintings.
“It shows how they [photography and paint] are opposite mediums, but they can meet in the middle.”
“From there, it’s a springboard into the themes of distance and isolation.”

After viewing Tomsett’s work, the pessimistic connotations of distance and isolation seem faint at best.
Instead, you are left with the distinct impression that distance, however insular and confining, is an obstacle to be embraced—an integral measure of maturity. Painting in a language of clouded personal sentiment, Tomsett keenly integrates this self-effacing subjectivity with broad reflections on travel, romance and maturity. In pieces such as “Nebulous,” the artist melds his introverted voyage with physical travel. A mosaic of satellite photographs painted over with delicate lights and darks, it documents a solitary journey between Kingston, Napanee and Toronto.

The randomly situated mosaic pieces are linked by a bridge that weaves and stretches in its reflection
on a turbulent excursion. “Utility,” which examines the alignment (and devolution) of relationships, is much less specific in its connotations. It contains the apparent narrative of a failed romance, yet the piece also uses pipes and water ducts to represent a chaotic pathway.

The painting invites its viewer to stand in the footsteps of its painter, yet it demands personal interpretation—there’s no obvious, intentional direction from the artist.

“Once you’ve made a piece with an obvious idea, the idea stops there. It’s less cerebral, closed off, and it doesn’t grow with you,” Tomsett said while we browsed the exhibit.

“I used to have this idea that my pieces had to be exacting, universally understandable. Now, I want it open-ended.” To Tomsett, this newfound appreciation for conceptual ambiguity can be attributed to
the role that music plays in his creative process.

“I approach each painting the way a musician would approach a song. I try to encapsulate the moment that I’m painting in.
“The events, the music you’ve just listened to, the films you’ve just seen, the physical space—it all
combines in the artwork.
“It’s expressing yourself for yourself, and then hoping people will come on board.”

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