Thomas Brasch’s popup photography installation is making art accessible in these dark days

Art is often something we turn to when things are difficult, something we seek comfort and solace in. Not only is art something bright during the dark days, but it also can tell us stories that help us to imagine brighter days for ourselves. 

These stories become part of our own, giving us new courage and strength to face these trying times. One such story is Thomas Brasch’s popup photography installation at 267 King St. E., which is making art more accessible while also bringing some hope and light to Hamilton.

 

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Brasch graduated from McMaster University with an honours bachelor of arts in french literature and returned to McMaster to complete a master’s of business degree. He went on to become a high school teacher. During Brasch’s time as a teacher, he developed an interest in photography.

After retiring, he travelled extensively and began to explore and experiment further with photography. Brasch primarily takes photos of nature and architecture and then transforms them into these round images, similar to kaleidoscopes or mandalas.

“One curator said [to me] that mandalas are actually memory palaces and your walk through them [helps] you meditate. So again, it’s this idea of calming . . . it’s not just the image. In fact, it’s never about one image. It’s about a whole series of images that actually tell the story,” explained Brasch.

“One curator said [to me] that mandalas are actually memory palaces and your walk through them [helps] you meditate. So again, it’s this idea of calming . . . it’s not just the image. In fact, it’s never about one image. It’s about a whole series of images that actually tell the story.”

Stories are important to Brasch and a large part of why he creates art is to share these stories. From a distance, each of his photos may be beautifully abstract but if one takes a closer look they may be able to recognize the original image and see the story built into it.

Recently, Brasch reconnected with one of his McMaster classmates, Maya Premlata Rao. She loved Brasch’s art and the current installation was her idea. The building where his installation currently is belongs to Rao. The installation features unsold pieces from two of Brasch’s previous collections, Out of Darkness and Tapestry.

 

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“I think the whole goal with Maya and I was to share this with people in Hamilton. Yes, initially, there was the allure of getting more exposure and maybe somebody would show an interest or something. [Maya] is one of these people who is into good energy and everything. There was a good energy coming off of this,” said Brasch.

This installation is Brasch’s way of giving something to the community during these trying times, but it has also helped him realize the need to make art more accessible, especially to those who would not be able to visit a gallery, even if we were not in lockdown.

This installation is Brasch’s way of giving something to the community during these trying times, but it has also helped him realize the need to make art more accessible, especially to those who would not be able to visit a gallery, even if we were not in lockdown.

When Brasch was first setting up the exhibition, a passerby stopped to admire the art and asked if Brasch had an artist’s postcard to share. He hadn’t planned on having one and as such didn’t have one to offer to this passerby.

“He said, “Well, I’m a little short of cash and I collect these” and that’s when the veil got pulled away from my eyes. I had the big aha moment . . . I thought, “Here I am, I have the opportunity of sharing this art with somebody who actually enjoys it”,” explained Brasch. 

Brasch strongly believes that art is meant to be shared. More than that though, he believes the stories behind art are also meant to be shared, particularly stories of hope. 

 

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“The source image is from a prison, but the prison is the oldest prison in Uruguay. It closed in 1986 [and] it’s become an art gallery. So it’s that whole idea of something bad coming into something good. It’s a place for people, for creation, [for] freedom of expression. All of this is able to be there,” explained Brasch.

These kinds of stories are something he feels is sorely needed during these times, but more generally he hopes that people will come away from his art feeling a bit lighter and having found what they needed.

“I just want somebody to go and be able to take a look and just feel, even if it’s just a little bit, a little bit of a feel-good moment. They may not know the whole story. They may not have checked the website or anything. If it looks like Christmas ornaments to them, that’s fine,” said Brasch.

“I just want somebody to go and be able to take a look and just feel, even if it’s just a little bit, a little bit of a feel-good moment. They may not know the whole story. They may not have checked the website or anything. If it looks like Christmas ornaments to them, that’s fine.”

The current installation will be on display until the end of February.

Image courtesy of C/O Thomas Brasch

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