Heidi Thompson: The Light Within You

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heidi thompson the light within you vernon public art gallery

heidi thompson The Light Within You

Vernon Public Art Gallery January 7 - March 6, 2019

Vernon Public Art Gallery 3228 - 31st Avenue, Vernon BC, V1T 2H3 www.vernonpublicartgallery.com 250.545.3173

Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Vernon Public Art Gallery 3228 - 31st Avenue, Vernon, British Columbia, V1T 2H3, Canada January 7 - March 6, 2019 Production: Vernon Public Art Gallery Editor: Lubos Culen Layout and graphic design: Vernon Public Art Gallery Copy editor: Alexandra Hlynka Cover image: Heidi Thompson: Large Red Field (detail), 2010, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 90 x 66 in Photography: Heidi Thompson Printing: Get Colour Copies, Vernon, British Columbia, Canada ISBN 978-1-927407-47-9 Copyright Š 2019, Vernon Public Art Gallery All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, except as may be expressly permitted by the 1976 Copyright Act or in writing from the Vernon Public Art Gallery. Requests for permission to use these images should be addressed in writing to the Vernon Public Art Gallery, 3228 31st Avenue, Vernon BC, V1T 2H3, Canada. Telephone: 250.545.3173 Facsimile: 250.545.9096 Website: www.vernonpublicartgallery.com The Vernon Public Art Gallery is a registered not-for-profit society. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee/RDNO, the Province of BC’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, British Columbia Arts Council, the Government of Canada, corporate donors, sponsors, general donations and memberships. Charitable Organization # 108113358RR.

This exhibition is sponsored in part by:

table of CONTENTS


Executive Director’s Foreword · Dauna Kennedy


Introduction · Lubos Culen


Lure, Labyrinth, Lair: The Immersive Art of Heidi Thompson · James D. Campbell


Exhibition Statement · Heidi Thompson


Images of Works in the Exhibition With Heidi Thompson’s Notes


Biography · Heidi Thompson


Executive Director’s Foreword

On behalf of the Vernon Public Art Gallery, I am pleased to introduce the recent work of Heidi Thompson a well-known Vernon artist who has exhibited nationally and abroad. Titled The Light Within You, this exhibitions highlights Thompson’s signature style influenced by Colour Field Painting and Abstract Expressionism developed in the mid 1900’s. Her large-scale works strive to illuminate her inner world through the layering of colour. Providing an historical and critical context to Thompson’s exhibition and art practice, I’d like to thank James D. Campbell for his written contribution to this project. A writer and independent curator based out of Montreal, Quebec, Campbell is a prolific contributor to the critical discourse in contemporary art. We acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia, the Regional District of the North Okanagan, and the BC Arts Council, which enables us to produce exhibitions such as this for our community. Thank you also to our ongoing members, donors and sponsors whose support is instrumental in the operations of the Vernon Public Art Gallery. Dauna Kennedy Executive Director Vernon Public Art Gallery


introduction - Heidi Thompson: The light within you

Heidi Thompson’s exhibition titled The Light Within You is an expression of her focus on spiritual values and experiences which she offers to the viewers to consider. The paintings in the exhibition are the juxtapositions of a quiet but vibrant existence over the fast-paced contemporary society and the information overload. Thompson aims to create a contemplative space that allows the viewers to engage with the work visually and experience the shimmering energy of each of the individual works. Despite the fact that the paintings are non-representational, it is obvious that they represent Thompson’s inner world and experiences. As she explains, she is painting her reality, where the paintings are the bridge between her and the viewers.1 The exhibition The Light Within You is in a way an homage to Mark Rothko who was instrumental in developing the aesthetics of Colour Field Painting And Abstract Expressionism during the 1940s and 1950s. Similarly as Color Field Painting artists, Thompson’s works are abstract and nonrepresentational where the colour itself becomes the subject matter as opposed to representing a pictorial form. Thompson created a contemplative space for the viewers that would allow them time and space for quiet contemplation of the paintings. She references the Rothko Chapel in Huston, Texas, as the model for her exhibition at the Vernon Public Art Gallery. Reverend Susan J. Barnes, the author of The Rothko Chapel: An Act of Faith states: “The Rothko Chapel... became the world’s first broadly ecumenical center, a holy place open to all religions and belonging to none. It became a center for international cultural, religious, and philosophical exchanges, for colloquia and performances. And it became a place of private prayer for individuals of all faiths.”2 In comparison to Rothko’s predominantly black-hued paintings, Thomson’s textured paintings are colourful even when some of the works are textured monochrome paintings. It is no surprise that Thompson refers to her works as energy fields which she creates hoping that they will have positive influence on the viewers’ mind.3 While her studio practice is married to the Colour Field painting movement, a non-representational abstract approach in painting practice, she instills meaning and concepts mostly through the titles of the works which reference spirituality, beauty and light. The works are produced with a sensibility which favours undertones of esoteric teachings, philosophies, including Theosophy which its founder, Helena Blavatsky, described as “the synthesis of science, religion and philosophy”, proclaiming that it was reviving an “Ancient Wisdom” which underlay all the world’s religions.4


Despite the fact that Thompson was trained in representational art, over the years of her studio practice she started to transition towards abstraction. Her earlier artworks often featured figurative renderings with a focus on emotions, but ultimately her focus shifted to abstraction. Thompson points out that the Vernon based artist Bryan Ryley introduced her to abstraction and strategies which set up controlled conditions for chance and accident to occur. While she still pursues abstraction, Thompson abandoned the controlled use of paint brushes in her mark making; instead, she uses paintbrushes to drip paint on the canvas similarly as the painter Jackson Pollock, a prominent artist working during the Abstract Expressionism era. This is where Thompson’s Colour Field and Abstract Expressionism inspired works intersect. Over a period of years, Thompson developed a signature style using overlays of painted layers and their subsequent erosions, revealing the history of her painting process. While Thompson’s works are a result of process oriented art making, it is obvious that her conceptual strategy is based on some planning, and partly on automatic painting guided more by intuition than mental faculty. Despite the abstract nature of Thompson’s paintings, the works’ titles reflect her focus on spirituality, an inner world, and beauty. The titles often reference natural phenomena with some key words: light, warmth, infinity, silence, mystery… and in other instances the titles reference some human attributes: wisdom, morality, empathy… As Thompson points out, she want to provide an environment to elevate the experience for the viewers by creating the titles as an entry point for the viewers’ interaction with the works. Her spiritual inclination for universal love and peace makes her artwork elevating for the viewers to apprehend while observing the fields of colour without representational elements which would trigger a need to construct a narrative. Instead, Thompson offers the viewers an arena for meditative engagement with the works as autonomous realities. Lubos Culen Curator Vernon Public Art Gallery Endnotes 1 2 3 4

Heidi Thompson in conversation with Lubos Culen, September 19, 2018 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rothko_Chapel, accessed November 27, 2018 Heidi Thompson in conversation with Lubos Culen, September 19, 2018 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helena_Blavatsky, accessed November 27, 2018


Lure, Labyrinth, Lair: The Immersive Art of Heidi Thompson by James D. Campbell “My skin had become a palimpsest of fleeting sensations, and each layer bore the imprint of who I was.” Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions, 20021

“And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight, And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly, The surface glittered out of heart of light, And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.” T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton2

I. The abstract paintings of Heidi Thompson are luminous palimpsests and manifestly organic wholes, cut from whole cloth on the threshing floor of painting’s anfractuous present tense. They show great thoughtfulness in their execution and are therapeutic, even arresting, in their effects. They are painstakingly structured and sedimented, layer upon layer. They are all of one part but each layer bears the ineluctable imprint of who she is. It is no exaggeration to suggest that her process-based art is one of pure light. It is an art of manifestation and consecration, distilment and emanation. Light is trapped within her eloquent fields like a fugitive bioluminescence that only slowly seeps out through sundry fissures in their surfaces, enveloping the viewer in a warm, effulgent glow. Those surfaces embody bright lures - luminous top water lures, poppers and stickbaits. Indeed, the lure is the surface itself when that surface is understood as being synonymous with light. There are no figural markers here to mediate the surface microstructures. Rather, there is an expansive energy field that has aura and coaxes us to enter it and linger there. This painter tempts us with what the reward of understanding might bring; entices us with the measured light that wells up from deep within, a secret source or spring. When Thompson opens the floodgates, we are hers, steeped in the heart of light.


On the threshold of this luminosity, poised on that tremulous lintel, we can savour the full flowering of Thompson’s munificent endeavour. There is no desire on our part to turn away, but rather a desire to bask there for a time, and a longer optic embrace is seldom eschewed. There is in this work a family resemblance to the work of American abstract painters such as Mark Rothko, Mark Tobey, and Milton Resnick. But it is only a bare surface similitude, after all. Her thick coat surfaces are actually repletely porous and never opaque. Unlike Rothko’s bifurcated fields, Tobey’s calligraphic feints and Resnick’s verdant deep forest growth endeavours, the palimpsests she builds are layered labyrinths with vertical depth. They are palpable snares for the embodied eye. Along with Tobey, Thompson herself speaks approvingly of the work of contemporary painters Joseph Marioni and Natvar Bhavsar. These are painters she always looks at, probably because their paintings’ surfaces resonate with particles of light, chroma and flux. It makes sense because Thompson’s own deeply immersive art is all about colour, light and energy. Consider the New York abstractionist Joseph Marioni, whose whole career has been spent in pursuit of a new understanding of chroma built upon the interaction of light and pigment. His paintings inspire close and prolonged examination. They are irremediably wed to the condition of looking. As is the case with Thompson’s fraught fields, the viewer is a dialogical partner in the alchemical distillation of light. There is nothing mute or muted in his magnaminous fields. Their monochromism is only an initial perception as their chromatic quadrants seemingly pivot as the eyes move, according to the gradients of light both inside and outside the painting plane. For his part, Bhavsar seems intent on communicating through chroma and the physical properties of paint sundry emotions and states of mind. I might also cite Yves Gaucher as a fellow traveller. His Grey on Grey paintings of the 1960s were acclaimed as works of great contemplative power. In the Canadian school, he is a close blood relative to Thompson in that both artists seek out ‘communion’ rather than mere ‘communication’. All the above-cited painters are important to Thompson and explore similar issues. However, her kinship with Tobey resides at a deeper level still: I mean not only in their respective mutual aspiration to convey underlying universal themes with clarity and probity. Thompson is not into sharing a sense of existential angst, milking personal drama for acclaim, but instead suffuses her work with a reparative, redemptive spirit. There is real humility here, and no sallow verdigris of hubris. More importantly, she and Tobey are compatriots in one overarching respect: I mean the importance of the adopted spiritual practices that have shaped and infused their respective bodies of work.


Tobey converted to the Baha’i faith in 1918. It is a syncretic religion similar to Buddhism and one founded upon a belief in the unity of the whole of creation.3 Thompson has devoted thirty-five years of her life to consistent Vipassana meditation practice. These are congruent belief systems. Vipassana is a specific form of introspective “seeing” that focuses on reality sensed through physical sensations. Sensations underlie all experience in the life world – including aesthetic experience. Her energy fields have evolved in mirrored step alongside this practice. She has always been interested in Eastern philosophy, yoga and meditation. Her whole life has been that of a searcher. In 1983, she attended a Vipassana meditation course that would change the course of her life. Vipassana is a technique allegedly discovered by the Buddha himself.4 Vipassana literally means “to see reality as it is” and requires the student to isolate and calmly examine sensations inside the body. The process gradually breaks down and eradicates unconscious habits and harmful conditioning. Vipassana helped Thompson realize that she had been reacting to unconscious sensations all her life. The realisation is especially important for a painter whose work is all about generating energy fields that solicit calm and afford the viewer a measured, contemplative experience. Thompson is intent on executing paintings that can induce such an energizing experience in the engaged viewer. She says: “Over the years I have developed a style I call “energy field painting”. I found certain combinations of colour, light flecks and lines moving in an illusion of space trigger physical vibrations. Maybe this “feeling” is what Kandinsky, who studied the physiological and spiritual attributes of colour referred to as inner resonance. Some viewers while standing in front of my monochromes have felt a flow of subtle sensations. I’ve heard them comment: “I don’t know what I’m looking at, but the painting makes me feel peaceful.”5 Her fields are rife with quiet cadences and cascades of chromatic light that issue from subterranean spaces. We suspect that an inordinate amount of fine-tuning is necessary to achieve this ‘tuningfork’-like surface construction with its wave emanations of slow luminosity. Thompson is the practitioner of what could call without exaggeration a therapeutic abstract art that induces contemplation and brings on epiphany. As we shall see, the rituals involved in her practice are several and radiant.


II. Once Thompson has caught our attention, drawing us in like moths to her lanterns of light, we are catapulted into her labyrinths. These are places minutely constructed and full of intricate passageways and apparent blind alleys - but no false starts - in the paint. And they all lead inwards. The microstructures of her paintings are many and they are immanent. A labyrinth is a primordial symbol relating to wholeness. It unites spiral and circle in a long and winding road we must follow to the end in order to achieve self-knowledge. What is its psychospiritual significance? In Jungian psychology, it is an archetypal symbol of the psyche and the individuation process. It is that harrowing journey towards holism and the reconciliation of opposites, the effort to reach the centre and confront the Shadow. There is no more important journey in life. One must then find one’s way back out, having crossed the abyss. But there are real dangers that await us in the labyrinth - impediments and psychological afflictions that arise from within us. Thompson reminds us that the act of painting and our experience of it can both be a labyrinthine process. But they offer a singular reward. Indeed, when I spend time with her paintings, I think of Ariadne, the figure from Greek mythology who gave Theseus the scarlet thread that allowed him to escape the winding underworld of the labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur. Ariadne is the avatar that presides over Thompson’s work, for her thread is one of radiant connectivity; the thread that leads both painter and viewer out of darkness, brings them home. It is particularly resonant where her recent work is concerned, the work exhibited now, understood as an energised cartography of all the many labyrinthine pathways of her practice in terms of living language. Her paint application and her chromatic vocabulary both represent an Ariadnean thread through darkness towards truth and reconciliation. Her felt presence, the imprint of who she is in painting is that thread, the hand and the shawl offered by the poet’s mother in Leonard Cohen’s Night Comes on: I went down to the place where I knew she lay waiting Under the marble and the snow I said, Mother I’m frightened, the thunder and the lightning I’ll never come through this alone She said, I’ll be with you, my shawl wrapped around you My hand on your head when you go And the night came on, it was very calm In an interesting essay, Walter Gaudnek says he calls the labyrinths he paints ‘sanctuaries’ in order to draw attention to the religiously archetypal content of his work.6 He makes the case that a complex labyrinthian structure may enable polymorphism in painting, which, in his case is intended


to lead to a metaphysical or sacred comprehension of the world. Similarly, Thompson leads us across the chiasmic chasm to a place where we can attain such a comprehension. Gaudnek cites various examples of labyrinths he has executed and argues that the development of continuously unfinished paintings may render static pictorial statements obsolete. He discusses the concept of a centre being a Seventh Direction of Space, which, in the case of a labyrinth, is none other than the viewer himself. Further, he states that his labyrinths proclaim an acknowledgment of the extraordinary, the mysterious and the supernatural, and it in this latter sense that they bear a close relation to and affiliation with the liminal labyrinths and chameleon states of Thompson’s paintings. The noted anthropologist Victor Turner emphasized the importance of storytelling and focussed his exploration of liminality primarily on rites of passage that specifically concern initiation.7 Of course, Thompson’s abstracts are non-narrative. Nor are they representations of literal mazes. Hers are resoundingly abstract pictorial sanctuaries and lit from within. But they are completed within the ambit of the observer’s experience. As we stand in front of one of her recent compositions, it is as though a vertical labyrinth is opening up somewhere just beneath the surface plane, and the luminosity that seeps out of rifts in the field are like guiding lights for entry. The etymology of the word ‘liminal’ can be traced to the Latin word limens, meaning “threshold.” The morphologies inside liminal space are multiple and complex. In cultural anthropology, liminality is that state of ambiguity and disruption endemic to the middle stage of rituals. Subjects have lost their pre-ritual status but have not yet achieved the new status available to them when the ritual reaches its completion. During this liminal stage, participants stand on the threshold between their previous way of structuring identity, time, necessity, circumstance or community, and a radically new way, which the ritual establishes and prescribes. Now, what does this have to do with our experience of the paintings of Heidi Thompson? Hers is an invitation to see. There is nothing coercive whatsoever on her part as we become willingly complicit in the making of meaning as we process her work. Her paintings hold out the prospect of a genuinely ecstatic transitionality, and are predicated on the very becomingness of the liminal state that pertains to the threshold or initial stage of a process of acceptance and understanding. Think of experiencing a Thompson painting, if you are sufficiently open to it, as undergoing a rite of passage wherein you have reached but not yet crossed the threshold of the labyrinth, the socalled breach wall in seeing, an early induction into the liminal period of transition, of embracing a middle way between time past – the moment that you encounter the painting – and time future – the moment of assimilation. The latter moment is not only a psychological state of vastation and upheaval but also, and perhaps more importantly, a phenomenological ethic. Turner first formulated his theory of liminality in 1967, and it continued to be a central theme of his lifework until his death in 1983. He focuses entirely on the middle stage of rites of passage—the


transitional or liminal stage. He cogently argues that “the subject of passage ritual is, in the liminal period, structurally, if not physically, ‘invisible’.”8 That is, the status of liminal individuals remains socially and structurally ambiguous. So too, in placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability and openness vis a vis the seductive expanse of a Thompson painting, we assume an ambiguous status, and are catapulted headlong into the void. He develops this idea further in a concise definition of liminality that will inform all his future writings: “Liminality may perhaps be regarded as the Nay to all positive structural assertions, but as in some sense the source of them all, and, more than that, as a realm of pure possibility whence novel configurations of ideas and relations may arise.”9 In an essay on the work of abstract painter Adolph Gottlieb, Michael J. Landauer and Bruce Barnes discuss the labyrinth in his painting The Prisoners (1947): “Each viewer must ask, ‘Who is it or what is it that is at the centre of my labyrinth? What dark secret is imprisoned within me? What has been banished or repressed’?”10 They dilate insightfully on the marriage of the chthonic world and the celestial world, the dark and the light and the effort to transcend one mundane level of existence to reach a higher level. Similarly, in Thompson’s work, there is a desire to achieve holism and, in that respect, the viewer must reconcile the light and the dark in order to achieve wholeness. The painting is then labyrinth and lure, house of Minotaur and enabling spur. They further cite Gottlieb’s later monumental “Burst” paintings, as an example of when the painter enters the final stage of the Great Work, seeking to express the ultimate goal of the alchemical opus – the union of polar opposites. As they argue for both the later “Bursts” and The Prisoners, we are compelled to become fellow alchemists alongside him. In experiencing Thompson’s work, we are encouraged to enter into just such a quest for a Mysterium Coniunctionis - a state reconciling body and soul - and to experience at last the underlying unity of all things.11 III. Thompson builds an embodied lair, an auratic nest, deep inside her paintings. Underlying her labyrinthine constructions of unfettered chroma - with the Shadow as their Minotaur - is a sanctuary space where she has built a home. In her current work, she explores two styles - mono-colour and multi-colour. Both are represented in the present exhibition in mortice-and-tenon joinery fashion. The dovetailing speaks highly of the remarkable consistency of her message from the monoterm to the rainbow coalition. Her monochromatic paintings become fields of one predominant colour comprised of countless overlapping lines, splatters, dots and specks of light that all accrete and constitute their final surfaces. These paintings somehow caress to smoothness, evoke calm, uplift with energy. Her multi-colour pieces are layers of chromatic spectra that evoke a well-sedimented patina and express energy, flux and impermanence.


She says: “I have been painting colour fields for twenty-five years and have experienced how colour generates energy, vitality and stimulates mental and physical health. Harmonious colours help to lift one out of depression. Light filled colours spark joy and optimism. Even researchers confirm that certain colours can calm the nervous system, activate brain centres, and influences behaviour. The latest findings show that we actually glow with colour and light! Colour is a language that cannot be understood by the brain. Colour is like love - you only know its power when you feel it. When we emotionally respond to colour we are transported into a mystical, maybe even spiritual world within.”12 It is a rare phenomenon to experience abstractions that speak directly to the heart. No tremors of representation, but a wholly abstract idiom that is immediately and immanently understood. Not as a panacea for existential conditions outside of painting, but a tribute to an intrinsically healing art that values clarity and the condition of the viewer above all else. Her paintings are far from mute or self-contained objects, and are not predicated upon emptying out all references to the external world. Instead, they seem to irradiate the void with something that is palpably Mind, and well, they simply are. Indeed, the remarkable thing about her abstractions is the lasting claim they stake upon us. They are magnetic constructs or beacons or chromatic objects with great gravitational force. They pull us into their orbits, and we are complicit in their constitution through the rituals of contemplation and slow assimilation. In this sense, they are like mandalas, mantras and mudras. They coax out of us the sounds of silence, body and soul. Through their sensuous presences, they lead us not into taxonomy but into an appreciation of the colour field as a living entity, somehow inhaling and exhaling the textures of light alongside us. The restless dynamism of this work is in the reception, not in utopian signifiers of colour and form. The myriad luminescences that unfold in the surfaces of these paintings are akin to solar flares that bring light and warmth. They settle within us like tiered textures of light that effortlessly buoy us up. The philosopher Michel Henry defines life - within a phenomenological perspective - as that which possesses “the faculty and the power to feel and to experience oneself in every point of its being”.13 Similarly, Heidi Thompson in her abstractions incarnates life as force and affect through chroma and chromatic density alone, and does so in order to lead us out of darkness and into a joyous celebration of existence. Hers are polymorphous paintings of radical immanence, which herald the way towards pure thought. As such, they are finally best understood as pulsating and effulgent affirmations of life.


The abstract painter Jaison Cianelli has said: “When you see a clear river you’re less afraid to go out into its deep waters. It’s peaceful. You stay in it longer, and you even let your feet touch its bottom. Like a crystal clear river, a clear mind is the key to being at peace and living in the present moment. A mind filled with the murkiness of worry and haste is a confused and overloaded mind that will increase stress, lower productivity and lead the way to unhappiness and ill health. I have found that by painting intuitively, not only do I clear my mind, but I receive spiritual healing seated deep within my heart.”14 Heidi Thompson’s paintings emanate light while still giving an illusion of depth for the metaphorical labyrinths that are laid out within them. Here is a painter of rare intuition who knows what she is about. Her work speaks directly to the hearts and minds of her viewers. Her spiritual practice enables, inflects and sustains paintings that are about trust and clarity above all. If I call her painting ‘healing’ here, it is because I have been changed by her art. Indeed, I salute her integrity, her discipline, her resilient spirit of affirmation, and the meditative intensity of her work. Thompson’s belief that beauty can heal the world is borne out in her paintings. There can be no higher compliment. There is no higher achievement. James D. Campbell, Montreal, November 27, 2018

James D. Campbell is a writer and independent curator. He has written scores of books and catalogues on art and artists. His essays and reviews appear frequently in publications like BorderCrossings, Frieze, Whitehot, Ciel Variable, among others. He lives and works in Montreal.


Endnotes 1 Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions, (New York: Henry Holt, 2002). 2 T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets (New York, Harcourt, 1943). 3 See Wikipedia. The Bahá’í Faith is a religion that teaches the fundamental value of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. Established by Bahá’u’lláh in 1863, it initially grew in Iran and parts of the Middle East, where it has been subjected to continuing persecution since its inception. Currently it has between five and seven million adherents worldwide. 4 Vipassana, which means “to see things as they really are”, is one of India’s most venerable techniques of meditation. Discovered by Gotama Buddha, it was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills including mental impurities. It has been passed down from teacher to student through an unbroken lineage spanning 2600 years. 5 Walter Gaudnek, “Polymorphism in Painting through the use of a Labyrinth” Leonardo The MIT Press Volume 3, Number 2, April 1970 pp. 149-15. 6 Heidi Thompson, “Statement” n.p, n. d. 7 See Victor Turner, “Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites of Passage”, in The Forest of Symbols (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967). 8 Ibid, p. 95. 9 Ibid, p. 97. 10 Michael J. Landauer and Bruce Barnes, “Labyrinth of the Shadow: History and Alchemy in Adolph Gottlieb’s The Prisoners,” ARA Connections Issue 3 (2011): p. 32 11 Ibid. p. 38 12 Heidi Thompson, “Statement” n.p., n.d 13 Michel Henry, The Essence of Manifestation, trans Girard Etzkorn (The Hague: Nijhoff,1963). 14 See Jaison Cianelli, Painting a Spiritual Journey Inward - Art as Meditation http://www.newageinfo.com/painting-spiritual-meditation.htm, accessed November 2019


exhibition statement: the light within you

Mark Rothko wrote: “When I was a younger man, art was a lonely thing. No galleries, no collectors, no critics, no money. Yet, it was a golden age, for we all had nothing to lose and a vision to gain. Today it is not quite the same. It is a time of tons of verbiage, activity, consumption. Which condition is better for the world at large I shall not venture to discuss. But I do know that many of those who are driven to this life are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where we can root and grow. We must all hope we find them.” Inspired by Rothko’s vision, I wanted to create a “pocket of silence” - a quiet, uncluttered space surrounded by paintings. A place that would encourage the viewer to connect inwardly, and, as Rothko said, “root and grow”. From my experience, when I connect with my deeper being I feel energized, loving, and peaceful. I feel as if I am a shining light. My hope is that the viewer entering this special space will also experience these feelings and become a light... a light that expels all doubt, depression and darkness. The Light Within You presents paintings of colour and light. For some viewers they may resemble natural phenomenon - a yellow sunrise, night sky, rust patina or glowing fire. For me, even though I created the paintings, they have no meaning nor do they represent a scene, subject or thing. They are mysterious images that accidently appeared after layering and removing paint. I often wonder why these “accidents” seem so familiar. Perhaps they mirror something about myself? Mirror that mysterious part of my being called soul or spirit? But I’m just guessing. What I do know is that colour and light inspire me, make me happy, and give me hope. When you enter this quiet space where there is no “verbiage, activity or consumption” you can let go of worrisome thoughts or that intellectual struggle to understand what you see. Simply enjoy the colour and light for what it is. Maybe you too, will feel energized, calmer, or more hopeful? Let yourself become immersed in a blue infinity, rest in a field of green or feel comforted by a shower of yellow warmth. But more than anything, my greatest wish is that you connect with that beautiful, light-filled being that you are. Heidi Thompson


The Light within you, The Light within me Intangible, incorporeal, spiritual Draws us into unfathomable blue nothingness, Toward the amaranthine, Incomprehensible, immemorial brightness. Here we are, always were, will always be The Light within you The Light within me.

“You ask, how can we know the Infinite? I answer, not by reason. It is the office of reason to distinguish and define. The infinite, therefore, cannot be ranked among its objects. You can only apprehend the infinite by a faculty superior to reason, by entering into a state in which you are your finite self no longer – in which the divine essence is communicated to you. This is ecstasy. It is the liberation of your mind from its finite consciousness. Like can only apprehend like; when you thus cease to be finite, you become one with the infinite. In the reduction of your soul to its simplest self, its divine essence, you realize this union – this identity.” - Plotinus

Light Blue Infinity, 2010, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 90 x 66 in

All, yet nothing; simple, yet incomprehensible; tangible, yet elusive; still, yet moving – this is my art.

Large Red Field, 2010, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 90 x 66 in

My aim is to create paintings that communicate experientially. By experiential I mean, when you look at the image, your subconscious reacts with a flow of sensations. These sensations may cumulate into an emotion like joy, inspiration, or aesthetic pleasure. Or the image may trigger a negative response - you perceive the image as dissonant or offensive. Now a flow of irritating sensations cumulates into a feeling of disturbance, aggravation, annoyance. Whatever emotion arises, you will detect a shift in your state of mind. If you are aware of this shift, this change, this mind influencing matter phenomenon, then the purpose of my painting has been achieved. What good is art if not cathartic? What purpose would art serve humanity if it failed to awaken wisdom? After all, isn’t awakening wisdom our profound purpose?

Resting in a Field of Green, 2018, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 90 x 66 in

Weaving thousands of delicate lines and erratic splatters of paint I build up a field of colour over the surface of my canvas. The only compositional element is the painting’s black vignette. Within this dark perimeter symbolizing nothingness, the woven field of colour breathes and pulsates like life itself. I gaze at the painting and wonder what it is? I notice that the lines and colors stimulate my retina and reverberate with my increasingly focused attention. At first, my mind ignores this subtle movement and I continue heady analysis asking questions, “What is this?” “What does it remind me of?” “What does it mean?” My intellect struggles with the question. Futility sets in. In my painting, I see only incalculable chaos and intangible colour. My rational mind tries to connect the dots and decipher the patterns; look for meaningful relationships. But nothing makes sense. There are too many lines and dots moving in all directions, no perceivable order, readable symbols, familiar objects or identifiable figures. Exhausted, I surrender and surmise that the painting has no meaning - at least nothing my intellect comprehends. I am left mystified - much like if I were to contemplate the cosmic universe or count grains of sand on the beach. Shall I shrug and walk away? Not so easy. I’m stuck, magnetically drawn into the image and obsessed with the search. Why? Is this a Faustian urge that compels us to understand Life’s unfathomable mystery? If my rational approach doesn’t provide answers, then maybe I need to stop thinking and engage another faculty – intuition. I let my intuition take over. I feel the painting’s lines, movement, light and colour. I feel emotions, energy, and an aesthetic response. My mind and body begin to resonate, reverberate. At first, this subtle response feels anticlimactic, inconsequential, meaningless. After all my effort. But is this experience insignificant? Other than experiencing energy, what else is there? Isn’t energy the invisible force underlying, creating, impregnating, spinning within all matter? Isn’t energy life? I now realize the answer to my question. There is no greater purpose that art could serve than to facilitate an experience of Life itself. White Pastoral Field, 2018, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 90 x 66 in

My paintings, as you see, are formless fields comprising countless dots, lines, flecks, shapes, specks and sparks. Altogether they create visual illusions of depth, movement and light. While you gaze, wonder and ponder the meaning of these colour fields you may detect a stirring, a sympathetic resonance, a vibration, an oscillating flow of bio chemicals under your skin or in your veins. Do you feel it? The delicate energy permeating every atom in your body? Do you feel sensations tingling, prickling, pulsing, throbbing, stinging? The moment you become conscious of these vibrating sensations, breathe, resist reacting, responding or clinging. Realize this ceaseless movement, however uncomfortable or pleasant is You. You may ask, “What’s all the fuss? Why make the effort to observe?” Why? Because it is in those precious moments when you are aware and not reacting, you are free.

Blue Sanctity, 2018, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 90 x 66 in

Life begins somewhere in an unknown darkness. As Life’s energy spins into matter it becomes visible, a seed, a perceivable state. Yet, without pause Life vibrates, multiplies and expands into a flowering manifestation – a tangible, earthly, harmonious form - a rose, sunset, sparkling stream or human being. No sooner does Life blossom into some Thing it divides, disintegrates and dissipates into trillions of subatomic particles. Without rest, Life’s solidity decays, decomposes, becomes dust disappearing behind a veil – a veil that separates us from knowing, seeing, understanding. Behind this veil is a place some call nothingness, timelessness, death. Each of us exists in this eternal continuum. Each of us is one of Life’s unique manifestations. We exist in our corporeal form for a millisecond within eternity. During this millisecond of conscious living we experience sensations, feel love, unity, continuity, fear, hope and purpose. As we age, we experience ourselves dividing, disintegrating and dying. How we cling to our ephemeral phenomenon. How we fear fate. Yet Life just smiles and continues to evade our desperate grasping. Perhaps the only thing that gives us peace is wisdom. Knowing that Life is change. Knowing we cannot stop the flow. Knowing that one day we will disappear behind that mysterious veil and return to where we begin.

Earth Energy, 2010, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 90 x 66 in

“What I dream of is an art of balance, purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing calming influence on the mind rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” - Henri Matisse

Spring Dance in Orange, 2018, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 90 x 66 in

“To be creative is not merely to produce poems, or statues, or children; it is to be in that state in which truth can come into being. Truth comes into being when there is a complete cessation of thought; and thought ceases only when the self is absent, when the mind has ceased to create, that is, when it is no longer caught in its own pursuits. When the mind is utterly still without being forced or trained into quiescence, when it is silent because the self is inactive, then there is creation.� - Krishnamurti

Orange Grey Patina, 2018, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 60 x 40 in

It matters not if you paint abstract or realistic, sculpt with clay or cloth. These are simply mediums, vehicles artists use to transport the viewer. What matters is the destination the vehicle takes us to.

Lightness of Being, 2018, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 60 x 36 in

I am grateful to be blessed with the mental faculties of consciousness and attention. Becoming more conscious is a daily pursuit and my greatest purpose. If ever I doubt my purpose or sink into a slump, I sit for one hour and observe sensations. Suddenly, a light brightens and my darkness, my ignorance seems to dissolve. In this moment, I feel overwhelmed with peacefulness. Travelling the journey toward greater consciousness, through painting, a balanced lifestyle and meditation is a path that, I believe, leads to realizing Truth.

Soul Radiance, 2018, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 60 x 40 in

One cannot touch art, it touches you. One cannot speak of art, it speaks to you. One cannot create art, it creates you.

Shower of Warmth, 2016, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 84 x 56 in

“The soul holds herself erect and strong, she gazes at the pure light; she wavers not, nor turns her glance to earth, but closes her ears and directs her eyes and all other senses within. She forgets the troubles and sorrows of earth, its joys and honors, its glory and its shame; and submits to the guidance of pure reason and strong love. For reason points out the road that must be followed, and love drives the soul forward, making the rough places smooth by its charm and constancy. And as we approach heaven and leave earth behind, the goal becomes clear and luminous - that is a foretaste of God’s very self. On the road we learn His nature better; but when we reach the end, we see Him.” - Maximus of Tyre Diss., XI.9-10

One Fine Morning, 2016, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 84 x 56 in

My aim is to capture beauty – not by painting a landscape as I know it with trees, mountains, clouds or sunsets... rather by painting the essence of nature using her elements of colour, light, patterns, movement and space.

Yellow Inspiration, 2016, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 84 x 56 in

For me painting is an energizing and, at times, enlightening experience. My style of painting developed from meditating. I practice an ancient technique called Vipassana. Translated from Pali it means, “to see things as they really are”. When I first heard this, I reacted with incredulity. It sounded strange, after all isn’t everything we see reality? But now I realize that there are different levels of perceivable reality; some apparent and obvious, others practically invisible. For example, I rarely considered the reality in my body – the manifesting and movement of atoms. Or the sensations caused by these movements. Nor did I realize how this molecular reality, as long as I was unconscious of it, was controlling my life. Vipassana requires me to sit quietly and observe (with as much equanimity as I can muster) my sensations. Sensations, as we all know, range from pleasant to painful. Out of sheer habit, we usually react to sensations. When we’re cold, we simply put on our coat or complain. But do we ever pause and observe sensations of cold? The way to see reality as it is and by doing so, develop insight requires two steps. First, one trains the mind and develops a sharp attention – an attention capable of focusing and feeling even a sensation at the molecular level. Secondly, one must develop a strong determination – a will not to react to sensations. Not an easy task, but rewarding. How does meditation influence my painting? Well, through developing an ability to feel sensations, I have experienced, at times, my entire physical body dissolve into one unified, vibrating field. I looked for a way to express this. What I came up with were large monochromes comprised of light, lines, flecks and moving particles. Somehow these paintings best express my experience of being a unified, vibrating field of energy.

Magenta Sunrise, 2016, acrylic and silica glass on canvas, 84 x 56 in


curriculum vitae

Heidi Thompson (Wunderli) was born in 1956 in Vernon, B.C. Canada. In 1974, after graduating high school, she moved to Switzerland to work as an Au Pair. In her spare time she painted and discovered her love for art. In 1975 she was accepted into the Kunstgewerbeschule (University of Art and Design) in Zürich. After completing a four-year program, she earned a Diploma for Professional Photography. Pursuing her passion, Heidi moved to Germany and apprenticed with artist Oskar Koller. Koller recommended that she continue her education at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Nürnberg. She was accepted and studied painting for one year under the guidance of Professor Ernst Weil. Seeking a more traditional training, Heidi moved to Budapest and studied at the Hungarian University of Fine Art. In 1981, after completing year one of their Master’s program, she returned to Vernon and worked as a photographer, painter, and book publisher. In 1995, Heidi published Sveva Caetani’s Recapitulation which won the Van City Book of Excellence Award. She also wrote Calm Focus Joy, a guide for helping children develop attention. In 2001, she attended the University of Victoria and earned a B.C. Teacher’s Certificate. For a few years she taught high school art and German, but eventually chose to focus on painting. Heidi is married to Edward Thompson and they have one daughter. Currently, she lives in Coldstream, paints full-time and exhibits her work in Europe, Canada and the USA. 1956 -

Born in Canada

EDUCATION 1974-1979 University of Art & Design Zürich, Switzerland, earned Swiss Dipl. Photography 1975-1979 Vorkurs at the Kunstgewerbeschule Zürich (now the University of Art & Design Zürich) followed by a three-year concentration in photography earning a Fahigkeitszeugnis (Swiss Diploma for Professional Photographer). 1980-1981 1981-1982 2001-2002 2002-2003

Academy of FineArt Nürnberg, Germany Hungarian State Academy for Fine Art, Budapest, Hungary B.C. Open University, Canada, earned B.F.A University of Victoria, Canada, earned B.C. Teaching Certificate


education, awards and projects 1978 Selected photographer to document the Zürich Chamber Orchestra for a solo photography exhibition. Traveled with the orchestra photographing soloists including Yehudi Menuhin, Paul Tortelier, Peter-Lucas Graf and Louis Duquenoy. The exhibition of 100 images were published into a book - the anniversary edition of the Zürich Chamber Orchestra. 1979

Assigned photographer to document painter Robert Ryman before and during the opening of I.N.K. (International Neue Kunst Gallery) Zürich.


Apprenticed with the late German painter, Oskar Koller in Nürnberg, Germany.


Studied painting at the Akademie fur Bildenden Kunste Nürnberg with Professor Ernst Weil. Outside of school, became private student of Klaus Schmidt, former student of Austrian painter, Oskar Kokoschka. Attended a 10-day Buddhist meditation retreat in Austria.


Completed first year of the five-year master’s art program, Kepzomuvezeti Foiskola (Hungarian Academy for Fine Art) in Budapest under the instruction of Professor Kokas Ignacs.


Returned to Vernon, B.C. and established an art and photography studio. Exhibited paintings and photographs in numerous cities in British Columbia and became member of the Viridian Gallery in New York.

1984 1986

Received the British Columbia Cultural Grant for preparation, travel and exhibition of a photography project entitled “Portraits of Artists”.


Wrote and published Recapitulation - A Journey by Sveva Caetani


Created and taught a meditation course for children in Vernon and Vancouver schools called Advanced Attention Development. AAD was featured in a documentary film for CBC’s Spilled Milk.


Earned a B.F.A., Open University of British Columbia.


Completed the Post-Secondary School Internship Program, University of Victoria. Received a British Columbia Teaching Certificate (BCCT).

Took private instructions from illuminist painter, Leszek Forczek.



Wrote and published Calm Focus Joy - The Power of Breath Awareness


Speaker at TEDx Kelowna.

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 2018 Arco Gallery, New York (Represented), NY, USA 2016

Kelowna Airport / Kelowna Public Art Gallery “OK Sunshine”, Kelowna, BC


Vernon / Headbones Art Gallery /”Okanagan Artists”


Ottawa / The Cube Gallery “Blue - A Group Show”


Lake Country / Public Art Gallery “They Tell You Where to Go”


Vancouver International Art Fair


Palm Beach Gardens / Onessimo Art Gallery (represented)


San Diego / Alexander Salazar Gallery 2014 Vernon / Headbones Gallery 2014 Widen Switzerland / Galerie Halde (group)


Vernon / Headbones Gallery (group)


Montreal / Galerie D’Avignon (solo)


La Jolla, CA / Alexander Salazar Contemporary Exhibits (solo)


Armstrong Public Art Gallery / “Mind Space Energy”(solo) 2011 San Antonio, TX / Gallery Nord Exhibit “11/11/11”(group)

2011 2010

San Diego / Alexander Salazar Art Gallery (solo)


Atlanta / Bill Lowe Gallery (group)


Toronto / Lausberg Contemporary (group)


Vernon / Gallery Vertigo (solo)

Atlanta / Bill Lowe Gallery “Bloom: The New Abstraction”


SELECTED EXHIBITIONS CONTINUED 2009 Toronto / Varley Art Gallery (group) 2009

New York / Lana Santorelli Gallery (group)


Montreal / Galerie Samuel Lallouz (group)


New York / Lana Santorelli Gallery (group) 2008 Grand Forks / Grand Forks Art Gallery (solo)


Toronto / The Drawers - Headbones Art Gallery (represented)


Vernon / Vernon Public Art Gallery (group)


Vancouver / Howe Street Art Gallery (represented)


Vernon / Headbones Art Gallery (solo)


Vancouver / Simon Patrich Art Gallery (represented)


New York / Viridian Art Gallery (represented)


Kelowna / Kelowna City Hall (solo)

1991 1989

Vancouver / Festival of the Arts (juried/group)


Vancouver / Community Arts Centre/BC Women Artists (solo)


Vernon / Topham Brown Public Art Gallery (solo)


Vernon / Topham Brown Public Art Gallery (solo)


Grand Forks / Grand Forks Public Art Gallery (solo)


Kelowna / Kelowna Public Art Gallery (solo)


Vancouver / BC Festival of the Arts (juried/group)


Hungarian / State University (group) 1980 NĂźrnberg / Kom Youth Centre (solo)

Vancouver / Robson Square Media Centre (group)



Nürnberg Gallerie der Stadt (group)


Zürich / Witikon Community Centre “100 Photographs Zürich Chamber Orchestra”

COLLECTIONS 2012 Senvest Canadian Collection 2007

Samuel Lallouz Private Collection, Galerie Samuel Lallouz, Montreal


Mraz Collection, Toronto


Private collection of Robert Keller, USA


Corporate collection, Benefit Plan Administrators Inc. Mississauga

AWARDS & GRANTS 1996 VanCity Book of Excellence Award for the publication of Recapitulation 1984

B.C Cultural Project Grant through the Kelowna Art Gallery

PUBLICATION & ARTICLES 2016 OK Sunshine Airport Exhibition / Okanagan Life, Guillian Richards / June 2016 2012

Wrote CALM FOCUS JOY: The Power of Breath Awareness


Photographs & interview Okanagan Life


Published Recapitulation - A Journey, by Sveva Caetani


Featured Artist, Okanagan Life, written by Charlotte Berglund


Illustrated and published an art journal for children Little Bear Book


Drawings, Galerie, Vancouver based magazine


Illustrations for 4 books entitled, Reflections, written by Brock Tulley


Photographs, Professional Camera, May-June issue, Germany


100 Photographs published into a book, Zurich Chamber Orchestra’s 25 Year Anniversary


vernon public art gallery vernon, british columbia canada www.vernonpublicartgallery.com vernon public art gallery

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