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Threat of nuclear annihilation fuels outspoken artist

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Tom Ackermann has a lot to say.

He says it with his colourful and evocative paintings.

Tom Ackermann
Tom Ackermann

He expresses it through a painting technique he developed using oil-based paint and plastic.

And, despite considerable opposition, he is determined to talk about the nuclear tragedies that have been driving his work for the past five years.

“When Fukushima happened in 2011, I had a radical shift about the times we’re living in,” says the 64-year-old Ackermann.

“I went into my own personal meltdown. I just don’t believe people are paying enough attention to this catastrophe.”

He’s also frustrated, he says, because the public art gallery in his own community doesn’t respond to him.

“I used to have a very good relationship with Gallery Lambton (now the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery) but unfortunately, that has changed,” he said.

Fifteen years ago, Ackermann was recognized locally when he twice won first place at Gallery Lambton’s Look Show.

There was a time he had solo shows regularly in Sarnia, but not since 2005. He also has six works in the county’s permanent collection.

“I’ve been a full-time artist for 35 years and I have the support of many private collectors in this area. I don’t know why I no longer hear from the public gallery. It’s disappointing.”

Ackermann was born in Germany and moved to Canada with his family when he was 11. He went to art school and co-founded an artists’ collective in Toronto. Later he relocated to Spain to paint and exhibit internationally.

In 1997, he moved to Lambton County to be close to family. He paints every day in his studio on Forest’s main street.

In January, Ackermann will finally return to Sarnia with a show at the R.W. Lawton Gallery in the Imperial Theatre downtown.

The artist is noted for large, colourful canvases. Four 6×6-foot paintings and several smaller pieces will be on exhibit. Artopia Gallery at 188 Christina St. will also feature Ackermann’s work through the month of January.

He calls his upcoming show “Age of Fission.”

“People think we live in the information age, but we have lived in the age of fission since the splitting of the atom in 1938,” he said.

The best art has always identified its time and what mattered most in people’s lives, he said.

The show also features a series he calls his Pacific Paintings.

“Collectors tell me they are beautiful and very seductive work, but they are extremely disturbing to me.”

Others in the show are examples of Ackermann’s new painting technique he calls freeradicals.

These are single paintings that he has done with other artists using a painting process Ackermann devised with oils and plastic, and removing the plastic to reveal a smooth surface.

“Soldiers of Fortune,” for example, seen here, was painted by Ackermann and Canadian artist Stephen Shellen.

“I painted the fellow with the helmet based on my love of art history and a very famous Rembrandt,” he said.

“Stephen painted this graffiti-type figure. All the freeradical paintings look like they were painted by the same artist but it’s a diverse group of artists co-operating with me to learn this technique.”


WHAT: The Age of Fission exhibit by Tom Ackermann

WHERE: R.W. Lawton Gallery at Imperial Theatre. 168 Christina St.

WHEN: Opens First Friday, Jan. 6. Artist present 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. Show runs to Jan. 30.













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