As a painter, Forrestall is as deeply interested in how we see as in what we see. He knows that as viewers, each of us brings to works of art both our conscious skills and ideas and our own range of subjective experience, of which we are only partly aware. Sometimes in approaching contemporary works of realism, we are tempted to puzzle out specific narratives or to read finite symbolic meanings into objects. Such calculated exercises in interpretation will always lead us astray. Paintings such as Forrestall's elude interpretation. They are not containers for meaning. Their truth resides in their stillness and in their ability to inspire stillness in us.
In an artistic career now entering its eight decade, Nova Scotian painter TOM FORRESTALL (b.1936) has remained remarkably consistent in his practice. His commitment to image-making is near total, and he has worked at it full-time since 1960. Forrestall has also consistently been grouped with a former teacher and two classmates in the loosely designated regional painting style, ‘Atlantic Realism.’ But Forrestall, like his teacher Alex Colville and his friends Christopher and Mary Pratt, found his own route to painting that was relevant to him, crafting a personal approach that is less part of any defined group than it is a response to specific biographical and emotional facets of his life. Where Forrestall does share affinities with the other so-called ‘Atlantic Realists’ is in his commitment to depicting his immediate surroundings, filtered through his imagination and his sensibility.
The book presents the range, depth and poetry of Tom Forrestall’s work and explores the development of his characteristic realist style, the genesis of his shaped paintings and the artist’s spirituality as expressed directly and symbolically in the imagery
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