Back in the studio the painter takes
over again, transforming these simple images into works that can vary in
size from 2 inches by 2 inches to canvases that stretch for several feet.
Here, too, the explorer takes over in a new way, with paint that goes on
in innumerable layers, colors that stretch beyond what anyone would call
"natural" and experiments that can lead to incredible discoveries--sometimes
only to be sanded away down to raw canvas and the process begun anew.
But this is only the beginning of
the journey for the viewer. These canvases beckon the viewer also to travel
and explore. Stand twenty or so feet away from his painting "Season
of Mud," for example. Appearing before you is a truly beautiful vision
of the land, sometimes grand, sometimes simple, but always with a touch
of the traveler's introspection and quiet passion. We long to stay for
lengthy contemplation, to lose ourselves in the majesty of nature. But
we should not stop just yet. Move in closer, say ten feet; then still closer,
pausing now and then, until you're only a foot away. A transformation then
reveals itself. Now we are in the realm of a nearly abstract painting,
an act of expressionism, in which the surface is radiant with color, texture
and form. We have encountered the aliveness of painting.
Now travel back again those several
feet and return to the landscape. It will look different. (Tom's paintings,
to their credit, almost never look the same twice.) Now you are back along
a roadside, at the edge of a river, atop the hill. After trudging for hours--eyes
moving but never settled, or gazing at your feet while your mind is elsewhere--for
some inexplicable reason you finally stop. Looking up, you see, really
see, a stand of trees, the hues of sunlight, the texture of bark, the grain
of the snow. That's a lucky moment. Lucky, too, that we have Thomas Paquette's
paintings to remind us to pause now and then on our journeys, and see.
Jon Zurn is an independent curator
and visual arts critic.