VAM 36 | Artist Profile: Tom Dietrich

Name: Tom Dietrich
Title of work: “Tipping Point”
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Meet the artists in VAM 36!

Visual Arts Mississauga 36th Annual Juried Show of Fine Arts, at the Art Gallery of Mississauga from January 16 – February 22, received 209 entries from across Ontario. Jurors selected 52 artists to be in the show.

Until the end of the exhibition, the AGM blog will feature VAM 36 artists. Learn about the thinking behind the works in the exhibit, and see the works in person at the AGM!

1.      Tell us about your work in VAM 36. Give us an idea of the conceptual framework you used in creating this piece. What inspired it? Why did you choose to use that particular medium? Why that particular perspective, set of colours, subject matter, etc.

For me, depictions of ideals in beauty reflect boundaries of human control and identity. And, in landscape art, these idealized places often expose a nostalgic desire for connection to place and time and an imagined past. In “Tipping Point,” I explore this duality through the creation of an interrupted landscape.  In it the juncture between nostalgic expressions in landscape painting, and subdivided divisions between opposing forces is exposed. Here, the unfettered, spontaneous energy of nature has its expression in colour and line; drawing on ideals of atmosphere and energy represented by impressionistic and expressionistic painting.  The hand of humanity is exposed in our need to divide and control and is expressed sculpturally through the division of the panels, and in the linearity and uniformity of the enclosures created.  Together, these two forces meet on the edges of the panel and it is here at the “tipping point” between control and flow that our identity is formed.

I have often been interested in the struggle for control exhibited by humanity, and the lack of peace it seems to bring us.  And, as I walked the city streets in Guelph, Ontario one day, it occurred to me that a sidewalk was not only a means easy passage between points, but also functioned as a means of dividing territory.  In short defining the edge of public and private property. The idea for “Tipping Point” though sprang forth as I observed the red warning flashes painted, all over the city identifying where nature had pushed back and heaved the sidewalk, thus highlighting the pressure point between the forces of nature and human kind.  For me this was a point of conflict worthy of examination.

2.      How would you describe your creative process? How has your style changed since you started, and what do you think is the reason behind the change?

It is perhaps cliché to say, but my creative process is very organic.  There are times when the work is driven by an idea or metaphor and the work becomes discovering the means to express it and the materials to use. But, there are equally those times when working with materials has spawned the idea.  My friends would agree that my brain is seldom at rest, and there are often numerous questions that I am pondering. And, often times a chance encounter with a material, plugs into one of these questions, not so much as an answer, but as a metaphor to express that idea. 

For example, recently I have been doing a lot of work with paintings on lumber. This was as a result of such an encounter. Walking into a lumber store I saw a stack of lumber and the random boards that stuck out.  It was interesting to me that my own automatic response was to notice what did not conform to a sense of order which a stack of even boards represented.  This naturally plugged into my on going questions about identity and the need to control.  Consequently I have worked up a number of sculptural paintings depicting natural scenes while incorporating building materials.  One piece called “Lost Horizon 1,” was worked in such a way that the painting itself was painted on a number of boards with pieces missing and boards sticking out much like the afore mentioned stack of lumber that I had seen in the lumber store.  Thus the materials fitting into an open question created an opportunity for a new discovery.

3.      If time and money were no object, what artistic project would you like to undertake? What about this project fascinates you, and how do you think it will engage the viewer?

I was once asked to design a tower like monument for a city that was looking to express the heritage of growth and innovation in their region.  They wanted to reflect not only past and present but also to consider the future.  And they wanted it to be about 50 feet high.

Past and present were fairly straight forward, but how does one reflect future and have it always remain that way, even as the tower ages.  I also wanted to design something that engaged the public and allowed them to move through it so that it would not be static but alive.  I wanted to engage the publics sense of discovery.  It was to be a monument, but needed to be something between the foundations of the past and discoveries of the future.

For my design I incorporated stone from the local fields and bricks from industries in the foundation to represent the past.  Steel and glass panels stood in place beside and against the tower structure reflecting the current and emerging industries and city.  Between these panels there was ample room for people to move allowing them to experience the structure, in a sense, from within.  From the top of the tower, a crystalline glass peak, emitting light from LED lighting, symbolized an unfettered future.  In the end the total structure lived somewhere between fascinating ruins and futuristic building site.  As a child, I remembered how exciting it was to scramble over ruined walls of castles a millennia old; and sometimes slipping past the hoarding of construction sites to explore new buildings.  I always imagined myself like a sort of archaeologist, on the verge of discovery. I wanted to capture that child like fascination with things incomplete and their emerging potential in this tower.

Alas, the structure was not built, as the city turned its attention to other budgetary requirements.  But, I have often reflected on this tower and it would be a dream to see it completed.

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