Tom Forrestall: Paintings, Drawings, Writings

Thursday, 10 May 2007 to Sunday, 9 November 2008

Seeing the world through Tom Forrestall’s eyes is like seeing a world at once familiar but usually unobserved or dismissed. He has an uncanny ability to draw us into his compositions and lead us to see the extraordinary beauty that is part and parcel of the minutia of everyday objects and life.

This retrospective exhibition and the book that accompanies it chronicle Forrestall’s art works in oil, watercolour and egg tempera over the course of several decades. Enlivened by sketches and journal writings, they explore and record in word and image his surroundings, the nature of his creativity and the source of his visions.

Renowned Canadian realist painter, Thomas DeVany Forrestall, C.M., O.N.S., B.F.A. LL.D., R.C.A. (b1936) grew up in Middleton and Dartmouth and attended art classes at the Nova Scotia College in Halifax at an early age. In 1954, Forrestall was awarded a scholarship to the Fine Arts department at Mount Allison University (where he studied with Alex Colville) from which he graduated in 1958. He received one of the first Canada Council grants for independent study which enabled him to travel throughout Europe. Tom Forrestall was assistant curator at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton (1959), but shortly thereafter, began to devote himself full time to painting.

Forrestall’s art has been classified as Magic Realism – an imprecise term often used to describe the work of a coterie of east-coast Canadian painters who emerged after the Second World War (Alex Colville, Christopher Pratt, Mary Pratt). Although their geographic roots, styles and vocabularies were similar, these artists applied themselves differently, each adapting naturalism in a personal way.

Although Forrestall’s artistic reputation rests on his numerous and significant egg tempera paintings, he is unusually adept and prolific in several other media. He has an uncommon facility with watercolours, a demanding and unforgiving medium that, unlike tempera, allows for spontaneity and painting directly from nature. Additionally, his sketchbooks full of writing and drawings, trace the compulsive nature of Forrestall’s inquisitive and restless mind as he sets down virtually any idea of image that comes to him, exposing the foundations of his creative ideas. The tensions between life and art, reality and imagination, the particular and the universal, give his work its dynamism and power. These divergent forces activate and enliven the communication between artist and viewer and invite us to go beyond the limitations of visual reality, taking us from the literal to a place where the world is strange, transcendent and fascinating.

As an artist, Tom Forrestall is one of the leading figures associated with the visual arts of the Maritime region, but his work has been exhibited and represented in every major public collection in the region and beyond and in solo exhibitions in prominent galleries worldwide. Organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Guest Curator Tom Smart, Director of the McMichael Collection of Canadian Art.