Painting Life’s Eternal Truths

JT Thompson's Labyrinth Series at Springboard Arts Chicago

Ohio-based artist’s oil paintings are packed with symbolism

Life is a series of choices. There are the everyday ones, the kind a server poses at a restaurant. “White or wheat? Soup or salad?” Then there are the life-altering ones, the kind posed by a loved one, an employer, or maybe in more frightful times, a physician. It is this eternal truth that artist JT Thompson hopes to convey in his “Labyrinth” series, the oil paintings for sale in our Wicker Park art gallery and in our online art gallery

“While we hope that with planning and prudence the consequences of our decisions will be fairly predictable, sometimes you find your assumptions turned upside down,” Thompson said. “Our paths are often not as straight forward as foreseen.”

Once you know Thompson’s inspiration, it’s hard to unsee it in his work. Every rectangle becomes a door to a new opportunity. Every angle becomes a staircase to a destination unknown. Soon you’re lost in the labyrinth of the humanJT Thompson at Springboard Arts experience.

“These paintings serve as a meditation on the unpredictability of life’s journey, and the subjectivity that informs our interpretation of experience,” he said.

Thompson describes his work as geometric surrealism, which might seem like an oxymoron until you see it. The paintings very much embody the dreamlike appeal of surrealistic art. 

“The surrealistic aspects I incorporate in my compositions are subtle, shifting spaces that operate on a kind of dream-logic, and playing with the basic elements of design: line, shape, color, value,” he said.

At the same time, the Labyrinth series also conveys a blueprint-like quality with its doors, staircases and hallways

“I use these similar architectural motifs to allow the viewer to create their own narrative to what they are viewing,” he said. “I use multiple viewpoints of these spaces and corridors, simplified and abstracted, to produce a geometric composition. The geometric forms help me to create the composition to move the viewer through the foreground, middle ground, and background spaces.”

As you study Thompson’s work, it’s easy to get lost in the composition. This distortion of reality makes these large-scale pieces especially engaging.

“I aim to create an inconsistent and unreliable representation of three-dimensional space and time,” he said. “In this universe, forms rise and recede simultaneously. A tension is created in trying to reconcile the spatial contradictions”. 

Our customers often comment on the colors in Thompson’s Labyrinth series, nowJT Thompson at Springboard Arts Chicago on display in our “Illuminate” exhibit. Some are moody in nature, others feature pastels neutrals, and others have a more lighthearted palette with complementary hues. Thompson says the hue-building process just comes to him, and in some cases he believes the composition itself dictates the palette.

No matter what the predominant color palette is, you can always find shadows and blackness in the painting. At this point you probably won’t be surprised to learn that these too are symbolic.

“Certain shadows are symbolic for strength, determination, and resilience,” he said. “I came to this idea by looking at images of large monolithic objects from high in the sky. These monolithic objects seemed small, but the two-dimensional shadow the objects cast were large.”

Because of the geometry in the pieces, there are many straight lines in the Labyrinth series. While he uses his free hand to create them, he also uses lattice strips to aid in the illusion of the line.

“The lines represent the movement through life, cross roads, and options to take. The stylized figures represent a theory, a place in time, (past, present, and future),” he said. “The structural purpose for the figures placed in the composition are an accent to move the eye through the composition.”

Thompson says the question often remains if a painting is truly completed. Still, the stopping point he chooses for a work is one of the many rewards of being an artist.

“Every new composition is a proud moment,” he said. “I am creating a painting that has not been seen before. It is a difficult task to create a painting from just thoughts, philosophies, and experiences and have the masses appreciate the composition.”

As a native of Ohio who studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design, Thompson is widely featured in the Columbus area. He’s also been featured in a variety of public collections, including twice in the Hilton art collection, once in the Columbus Convention Center collection, and the Northern Kentucky University collection. The proudest moments, however, come from the way his audience responds to his work.

“The good and the bad feedback I get from viewers, collectors, and followers [is rewarding],” he said. “It is rewarding to hear the viewers thoughts on what they see in my paintings.”

We think you’ll be one of those masses who appreciates the work in the Labyrinth series. You can view all the work of JT Thompson in our online gallery. Like all of our art, its true impact is best experienced in person, so make an appointment for an in-gallery visit now. 


Black & white oil painting on canvas by artist Ed Hinkley

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 Painting by Ed Hinkley: Zaira (After Calvino)


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