Thomas Brasch (B.A., B.Ed., MBA) has devoted thirty years to education before embarking on his second career as an award-winning photographer and visual artist. Completely self-taught in the discipline, he is able to showcase his perceptions of beauty, turning the real into surreal. He has had several solo shows in Toronto and has been in several group shows internationally. His style of abstraction is multi-layered, providing an underlying statement to the aesthetics.
Thomas is the Artist in Residence 2022 at the Clark Centre for the Arts at the Guild Park and Gardens in Scarborough Canada.
Thomas, welcome to Moonflower Art!
How long have you been a photographer?
A very interesting question. If I had to be honest, I’d have to say almost life-long. I’ve had a few breaks in-between. I became a little more serious about my practice about 30 years ago but then career and child-rearing took over. It was within the last 10 years of retirement from my career as a secondary school teacher that I became a serious fine art photographer. I was able to transition smoothly into what has become a second career. I think you’re born a shutter bug and you always have an eye for aesthetics!
Have you worked in any other mediums?
I haven’t. I literally took a stab at painting, and it was abysmal. My first experience was so embarrassing. I have such an appreciation now for painters, as well as sculptors and potters. However, as my practice develops and due to the nature of my images, I am toying with the idea of creating 3D images and this would naturally imply some sort of sculpting.
I’m most intrigued with glass blowing but doubt I would do that. I’m most taken with the work of the late Iranian artist, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmain. She has created some amazing mandala like sculptures using mosaics and mirrors.
We can commemorate a horrible event, but we don’t always need to show graphic triggering photos. Half of us have become immune to horror scenes while the other half cannot bear to look at them. By creating these unique healing mandalas, I’m able to bring up a difficult topic in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
What is your favorite subject matter and why?
My favourite subject matter would be the idea I have behind my series Out of the Darkness – namely commemorative art. I stumbled upon this idea just by chance. We had just missed being victims of the Barcelona van attack by 4 days as we had left on August 13, days before. (On August 17, 2017, 13 people were killed and 130 were injured during a van attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona). Then I thought of all the places I had traveled to and how at each location, there was some act of terrorism or some act of senseless violence. I wanted to commemorate those events but also provide a transition to healing. It was at this point that I started producing my images on a black background. The black was representational of the despair and grief that occurs after such a horrible event. The orb, the mandala, was to be the light piercing that darkness. I knew I could adapt my digital manipulation techniques to develop this new genre.
We can commemorate a horrible event, but we don’t always need to show graphic triggering photos. Half of us have become immune to horror scenes while the other half cannot bear to look at them. By creating these unique healing mandalas, I’m able to bring up a difficult topic in a sensitive and appropriate manner. I was inspired while in Oslo at the 22 juli memorial (for the 77 lives stolen). As I walked through the museum, reading the timeline of events, and looking at the artwork on exhibit, I discovered an additional purpose for my images. In Oslo, I discovered that we need these memorials and museums to educate and create acute awareness in our communities about the dangers of conspiracy theories.
The act of creating these mandalas is extremely cathartic. I find that by working on creating these complex geometries, I can not only find personal serenity (from my own mood and anxiety disorders) but I also reap new historical information which contributes to my self-awareness. I become a more educated and enlightened individual.
What is it about the mandala structure and geometry that captures your imagination?
There is the idea that the circle is almost a perfect shape – it is a line without beginning or end. (In my new series Enlightenment, I am exploring the use of different shapes – squares which can frame or triangles which in themselves have many different symbolic interpretations).
Once a portfolio reviewer explained to me the idea behind some Buddhist mandalas which I promptly adopted into my narrative. They are mind or memory palaces in which we use spatial memory to memorize information, coded by significant symbols and images placed in the mandala. That completely fits in with the series Out of the Darkness. I’m invoking introspection and memory at the same time. The complex geometry creates a portal of discovery. At the top layer, there is an appreciation of the aesthetics. One layer down, the viewer can isolate the photographic elements. Beneath all of this, there is the historical event which needs to be commemorated. Beyond this we have the importance of memory – to never forget the victims and the responsibility of preventing future occurrences through education.
Furthermore, and on a personal note, the act of creating these mandalas is extremely cathartic for myself. I find that by working on creating these complex geometries, I can not only find personal serenity (from my own mood and anxiety disorders), but I also reap new historical information which contributes to my self-awareness. I become a more educated and enlightened individual.
The images remind me of the concept of the “golden spiral” and the effect that has on the human brain. We can’t look away, can we?
They are mesmerizing and hypnotic. In their abstractions, we all see something different. My interpretation is based on my personal experiences and may be quite different than your perception and interpretation of the image. A spot of colour may symbolize a certain emotion while a specific line may impart an idea of fluidity and movement to you.
The best part of this art practice is the opportunity to interact and talk with different viewers. In sharing interpretations, I learn more about the viewer’s understanding of the world, and how that may coincide or differ with mine. I also discover new ideas or relevant facts that I was totally unaware of before. But regardless, I enjoy sharing the aesthetic elements with the audience.
Any upcoming shows that we can look forward to?
In 2023 I have another large solo show at the Dal Schindell Gallery at Regent College in Vancouver. It is a private divinity college on the campus of UBC. This will be a very exciting exhibit when it comes to conversations with the divinity students – we will discuss the ideas behind Out of the Darkness and Enlightenment. My new images from my recent trips to Scandinavia and to Israel (October 2022) will be featured in this exhibit.
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