DENYSE THOMASOS at Laidlaw Hall (Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts, Mississauga) to November 4. 905-306-6097. Rating: NNNN
new york city abstract painter and one-time Canadian Denyse Thomasos chose Mississauga as the site for her 100-foot wall-drawing installation, Scratch, because that's where her family settled when they emigrated from Trinidad in the 1960s. It was an important choice, because she was counting on them to come out and help create the piece.They did, and the resulting work -- an abstract, monochromatic mural that skates across the gallery wall like a new city going up -- packs a powerful wallop.
Thomasos calls her scratchings her "primal response" to living with the loss of home. Cage-like grids, cubes, bars, curving lines and paint drips -- applied onto the wall with acrylic, latex, pencil, chalk, charcoal, ink and rollers -- migrate across white space, in one place as solid as architecture, in another as fluid as the patterns of African textiles.
For the collaboratively produced Memory Map Of Trinidad And Tobago, Thomasos literally drew from stories told her by family members, translating their memories of Trinidad into visuals.
One uncle contributed a remembered street map of 1950s Port of Spain; another the floor plan of the artist's old home, complete with wash barrel. We're given a wonderfully quirky view of the family's history. Drawings of the two-level house on the hill, the hibiscus fence and the Morris chair appear in odd places, the way memories come to us in bits and pieces.
And simple fragments of text -- "picked mangoes from window" -- fill in the gaps. Family trees scrawled below each house list the names of each child -- and in which country he or she ended up living.
Scratch is due to be painted over in November, when the exhibition closes. Not to worry, Thomasos explains. What's important is the process, the experience of making the painting. It's about not being attached to what comes out.