Thomas seems to have an innate ability to encapsulate ominous, visceral emotions inside these little glass domes. For me, this particular piece brings to the surface all sorts of raw feelings about relationships, as well as memories of my childhood and my parents' divorce. The godlike perspective also allows a sense of the isolation and containment of bad thoughts. It's working on so many levels, for something so ostensibly simple.
Thomas' work to date has been grouped into three series – Distillation, Reclamations and Bearings – each of which explores a different emotional landscape. "The Distillation series is really about boiling life down to the moments that define who we are," he revealed. "Consequently, many of the works deal with the interactions between parents and children in or around the home. The house is really the center of the universe for a child – it's the stage for the majority of memories, and it's the symbol of security, joy, terror, etc. Most of the homes in that series are imperiled, but maybe no more so than the families they house. In that way, the houses take on personalities of their own."
These narrative sculptures enclose ambiguous yet suggestive scenarios in a timeless, faceless bubble that encourages the viewer to imprint the pivotal moments of their own life onto the tiny figures below them.
Thomas writes, "My work mines the debris of memory through the creation of intricate worlds sculpted in 1:43 scale and smaller. Often sealed under glass, the works depict the remnants of things past — whether major, transformational experiences, or the quieter moments that resonate loudly throughout a life. In much the way the mind recalls events through the fog of time, the works distort reality through a warped and dreamlike lens."
"The glass itself contains and compresses the world within it, seeming to suspend time itself — with all its accompanying anguish, fear, and bliss," he added. "By sealing the works in this fashion, I hope to distill the debris of human experience down to single, fragile moments. Like black boxes bobbing in the flotsam, these works wait for discovery, each an indelible record of human memory."
As usual with great artists, the urge to create new worlds began in childhood. "My mother was really into taking me to museums, and I spent many, many childhood hours with my face pressed up to glass display cases, peering into dioramas and other simulated worlds," he said. "When I was four years old, I made a small scene with a block of wood coated in white and blue Play-Doh. On this I perched a small plastic penguin. So I guess this all started pretty early.
Later, I studied painting and printmaking, but ended up feeling limited by those media. After time, I realized I should just be making what made me the happiest, and I started the miniature work. I often say that if the nine-year-old me traveled forward to meet the current me, he'd probably give me a huge high five – and maybe demand to stay."
Keep an eye on Erratic Phenomena for an interview with Thomas later this year, as well as news about his upcoming show with LeBasse Projects.
If you find this sort of work interesting, be sure to check out the photographs of Jonah Samson, Frank Kunert, Minimiam and Helen Nodding. I would like to thank Reevo at the excellent art and design blog Ektopia for initially introducing me to the work of these unusual artists, as well as to that of Thomas Doyle.