Passion Over Reason: Tom Thomson & Joyce Wieland pays tribute to two groundbreaking Ontario-born artists. The title of the exhibition is a deliberate reversal of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s oft-quoted personal motto, “Reason over passion”. Consider this exhibition to be a passionate love letter to Tom Thomson and Canada – two subjects at the core of this sesquicentennial year – and a conversation between masterworks by Thomson and by Canada’s feminist art pioneer Joyce Wieland.
Passion Over Reason will take a critical approach to Canada’s fascination with Tom Thomson, his status as a cult figure of masculine mystique, and the mystery and mythology of his life story that has cast a virile, woodsy painter as the embodiment of quiet, Canadian resilience.
For this special occasion, the McMichael will be bringing out virtually all of its holdings of Thomson’s paintings, drawings, photographs, and personal objects. A dynamic installation will present these works – some familiar, some unexpected – interwoven with works by Wieland, whose playful use of sex and humour addresses issues of ecology, patriotism and the pitfalls of nationalism.
Wieland’s deep fascination and love for Thomson and for Canada is revealed through the bookwork published alongside her 1971 True Patriot Love exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada (its first solo exhibition for a living Canadian woman artist). In it, Wieland effectively subsumed a government-issued compendium of arctic flora by infiltrating it with needlework, annotations, and photos taken by Tom Thomson. This bookwork planted the seeds for her 1976 feature-length film The Far Shore, which is interpreted as an allegory about love, Tom Thomson, and the tensions between English and French Canada. Alongside masterwork quilts, drawings, paintings and photographs from public and private collections, the exhibition will feature this film, as well as her experimental film Reason Over Passion.
With a focus on a play with nationality, gender and sexuality, Passion Over Reason will present a new perspective on two iconic, trailblazing Canadian artists. This exploration will also include a consideration of contemporary artists responding to the lore of Tom Thomson, with a special focus on a series of commissioned artworks by Zachari Logan, involving an art installation in the Thomson Shack on the McMichael grounds. Visitors may engage with the artist at work in Thomson’s Shack from June 24 through July 8, 2017.
Curator: Sarah Stanners