J.T. Thompson’s Illusion at Triangle Gallery

by Joyell Nevins

For painter J.T. Thompson, his latest exhibition at the Burnell R. Roberts Triangle Gallery, “Illusion of Spatial Extent into the Labyrinth,” is a chance to come back to the place where it all began. The gallery is prime art space inside of Sinclair
Community College.

“If it wasn’t for Sinclair, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Thompson says.

Thompson graduated from Fairmont High School with the class of 1986. After high school, he “floated around” for a couple of years until a defining conversation with Carol Bachmann, a friend’s sister. Bachmann had just graduated from Sinclair, and Thompson was admiring her drawings when she asked to see his. At that point, drawing and painting was a hobby only.

“She said, ‘These are really good’,” Thompson recalls. “She said I had unskilled talent and told me ‘you need to build your portfolio.’”

Bachmann suggested Sinclair as the place to start that building (fun fact: Thompson trained alongside Carl Barnes, Sr. when Barnes was still a student). Thompson went from Sinclair to the Columbus College of Art and Design, graduating from Columbus in 1991.

Then came a job and a family with two sons. Although art certainly played a role in his work as creative director for Digico Imaging, Thompson’s personal artwork took a back seat until 2014.

That’s when Digico downsized and Thompson was let go. He started painting again, working out of his garage. Then another serendipitous encounter happened when Thompson ran into Daniel Colvin, then owner of the CS Gallery in Columbus’s Old Town East.

“He said, ‘Your work is really strong,’” Thompson says. “He told me, ‘You need to be painting.’ That’s when things started rolling.”

With Colvin’s help, Thompson moved from his garage into a studio space in Old Town East and began to show his work. Not only in the CS Gallery, but in other Columbus galleries like Carnegie and RAW.

Thompson started doing commission pieces and submitting works for art auctions. He was published in media such as Columbus Alive and Now It’s Dark Magazine and received grants from the Greater Columbus Art Council to continue his painting.

“[Moving into the studio] was a major break for me,” Thompson says. “I’m constantly getting exposure.”

Thompson’s studio includes
a woodshop, where he can take up to three days building his own wooden frames and prepping the canvas. Thompson sands and gessos his own canvases to get them ready for
a picture.

Thompson’s latest collection is a study on manipulating perspective with shapes, areas and space. Thompson uses basic building blocks and varied light sources to create the spatial depth in a style he calls “geometric surrealism.” His paintings explore the use of multiple views of spaces and corridors.

“It’s not a maze; it’s a labyrinth,” Thompson says.

When creating the labyrinth, Thompson plays with warm and cool colors to draw the eye. He also intuitively lets it make its own path.

“I let it flow; I’m a channel,” he says. “I listen to my canvas.”

Thompson tries to emulate one of his mentors and treat his abstract canvas like a pool table.

“You want to bounce your viewer off the edges like a cue ball,”
Thompson says.

He also wants to make sure his viewers have something to latch onto.

“I’m creating a universe that’s never been seen before,” Thompson says. “I want the viewer engaged.”

Thompson ensures his paintings have spaces to give the eyes a rest in this journey, as well. The journey is important, you see—Thompson views his paintings like life. He sees a chance to “find your way and find your new path.” He’s not concerned when his labyrinths aren’t congruent or balanced.

“I want that imbalance,” he says. “That’s what life is really about.”

As Thompson continues to broaden his artistic horizons, including giant mural projects, he’s also getting back into the “circle of people” who are in the same mentality as himself.

He made a special nod to Oulanje Regan, who Thompson says has played a vital role in his art journey.

“Oulanje is a major support in helping stay focused and to keep working in the studio and not worry about what others are doing in their careers,” Thompson says. “Next to my boys, Zachary and Dylan, Oulanje is my inspiration and my strength to stay on this path.”

Illusion of Spatial Extent into the Labyrinth will run through July 28. The Burnell R. Roberts Triangle Gallery is located in Building 13 on the corner of Fifth and Perry at Sinclair Community College. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, please visit jtoriginals.net or sinclair.edu/student-life/arts-culture/art-galleries/.

Joyell Nevins believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Joyell Nevins
Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com

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