Barry Strasbourg-Thompson can trace the lines of his artistic heritage back a long way. Seated in his new studio and gallery space in the Chemainus Community Market, he cites a lineage that goes back three generations and more.
“My grandmother had her arts certificate at fifteen, her teaching certificate at sixteen,” he said. “But in those days, women artists were not accepted into the Royal Academy,” he added. Which meant she ‘flunked’ her submission for entry due to ‘one tiny flaw’.
Things have improved on that front since, but making a go of it is still an everyday challenge for artists of every gender, in any genre. But, Strasbourg-Thompson has been self-employed as an artist full time, since taking the leap after completing his long-postponed arts degree some 20 years ago.
His October-November Namaste show at Rainforest Arts – RainForestArts.ca – will display the creative output of an abstract painter and workshop instructor, whose passion is the translation of inner vision into line, colour and structure.
Strasbourg-Thompson describes himself as a process painter – he doesn’t have a definite idea what’s going to emerge when he sets out to do a work, but he sets out from a point of inspiration. “I’ll start with a basic form, and experiment with that form,” he said, surrounded by his Namaste canvases.
“The Namaste series started out as a meditative image based on a Celtic Cross. The form of the Celtic Cross became the form for the paintings and it expanded into everything that’s there, it’s in every one of the paintings, different expressions of it.”
Overlaying is part of his study, an approach to art he learned from painter Lucy Lappard. The Celtic Cross is an iconic image, overlaid by Strasbourg-Thompson’s 21st Century responses to it as a meaningful, historic symbol.
“I take images from art history, pre-history – there’s a piece here that’s got a triangle in it from 25,000 years ago – so I’m overlaying some contemporary painting ideas, and new materials onto ancient images.”
Pleasure is in the eyes of the beholders, as far as Strasbourg-Thompson is concerned, and it’s their pleasure he hopes to activate. “I expect them to experience pleasure,” he said. “That’s what my definition of the goal of art is, it’s pleasure.” That can be stimulated by vibrant colours, shapes, social commentary, all sorts of artistic ‘values’.
Is he succeeding? Strasbourg-Thomson thinks so. “This work is not everybody’s cup of tea,” he said, “but the majority of people who are coming through here are commenting how much they enjoy it.”
So you be the judge. Drop into Rainforest Arts, 9781 Willow Street, for the Namaste show. Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 11 AM to 4 PM.