Daniel Van Klei
Ceci n’est pas une BANKSY
48” x 72”
Acrylic on Canvas
Tom Thomson was a visual artist who worked closely with members of the “Group of Seven” in Toronto. He is known to have been encouraged by them and inspired their work. Although, he was never officially part of the group as it formed after his death. Thomson spent time travelling through the Canadian landscape; painting, fishing and often canoeing in Algonquin Park during the summer months. In July of 1917, Tom Thomson died in Canoe Lake. The official cause of his death was ‘accidental drowning’. However, there are many questions surrounding his sudden, unexpected death and many people have speculated as to the actual cause. When I reflect on his time at Algonquin provincial park, I like to believe that there were many moments when Tom tied a flashy silver spoon onto his fishing line, pushed off the shore of Canoe Lake and paddled out alone in his canoe. I imagine him enjoying the crisp morning air and casting his line into the clear calm waters to contemplate the Canadian Landscape and find inspiration for painting. Tom influenced Canada’s most famous painters, the “Group of Seven” and countless artists after. I wonder what he would think of Toronto, of Canada and the pulse of the art scene if he were alive today?
During the 1920’s until the end of his artistic career, Belgian surrealist artist, René Magritte contemplates the representation of images and the perception of these images. He paints “The Treachery of Images” in 1928-29. It’s a representation of a pipe with words below stating “this is not a pipe”. The painting becomes a significant moment in art history, where viewers continue to debate the truth of the image and the truth of words. How would Magritte respond to today’s representations of visual media and text?
In May of 2010 an anonymous artist (or collective) known as BANKSY, who is well known for public street images addressing social and political issues, leaves artistic marks in the city of Toronto. Less than a dozen paintings are sprayed onto the walls of the city depicting things such as rats falling in parachutes and people looking for jobs with signs advertising their thoughts. His paintings in Toronto were largely ignored, some were destroyed by renovations, some are painted over by other street artists and one is covered with a clear sheet of acrylic glass to offer some protection. One of the paintings depicts a police officer holding the leash of a muzzled pink balloon dog. The floating dog looks exactly like one of Jeff Koons well known animal balloon sculptures and is likely, in part, a playful reference to the American artist. Banksy’s police officer dog painting was recognized as valuable and was carefully removed from the old provincial police headquarters by a developer. It was later restored and installed in a new context, an interior walking path of a Toronto building, to be shared with the public. It has a current estimated value of just under one million dollars. I wonder what Banksy thinks of how his images in the public domain are perceived, treated and valued in Toronto?
As a visual artist, I value curiosity and the desire to explore art history. I tend to create connections in most things that I experience around me, both visually and conceptually, which I believe strengthens elements of my creative process. Exploring art history has lead me to believe that all artists are connected in some way. I have appreciated the work of Thomson, Magritte and Banksy for many years.
One day I began this painting and it continued to evolve.
Tom Thomson + René Magritte + Banksy + Van Klei = “Ceci n’est pas une BANKSY”