Chasing Tom Thomson’s ghost

 An interview with Bruce Horak

Some of you may recall Bruce Horak from his brilliantly comic show This is CANCER!

This multi-talented visual and performance artist opens his new show Assassinating Thomson, on Wednesday October 9 at the Firehall. Bruce is legally blind (a childhood illness left him with 9% of his vision) and Assassinating Thomson interweaves his story with the controversial tale of famous Canadian painter Tom Thomson’s unsolved murder. We chatted to Bruce Horak about what inspired his latest show, chasing the ghost of Tom Thomson and meeting the man himself.


What first attracted you to the idea of doing a show about Tom Thomson?

I was commissioned several years ago to write a “complete history of Canadian art” and learned the story of Tom Thomson.  I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding his death and felt that it would make a great show.  The various theories about who may or may not have done the deed are fantastic.

What is your favourite Thomson painting?

My favourite Thomson painting is called Northern River.  I love the colour and the feeling he captures.

This show is well traveled, where else have you toured it?

The show began rehearsing here in Vancouver and then previewed in Calgary in June.

The summer tour began in Ottawa (where it won Outstanding Concept) and then went to Toronto, (Outstanding Performance, Production, and Direction) Winnipeg (Audience Favourite) Edmonton and Victoria (Best new play).

What kind of reactions have you had from audiences to the show?

I have had more than a few audience members who are so fascinated by the story that they rush out to buy books about Thomson, his work, his life, and his death.  That’s the biggest compliment I could get. That, and they buy my paintings after the show (which is a big bonus as an artist).

I hear Mr. Thomson himself attended your show. Is that true?!

There is a gentlemen who Blogs as Thomson.  He came to my opening show in Ottawa, introduced himself as Tom Thomson and refused to tell me his real name.  It was quite an honour to meet him:  he told me that I got the story exactly right!Bruce Horak's The Way I See It Exhibition in Kelowna

How long have you been painting for? What inspired you to take it up?

I began painting seriously a few years ago.  As a Visually impaired person, many of my friends have asked me how I see… Painting is an attempt to share my vision and capture the way I see.

Can you tell me a little about the portraits that will be on display in the Firehall lobby gallery during your show?

The portraits in the lobby are all a part of my ongoing series: The Way I See It. Each one begins with a base tone, which is influenced by the auras I see.  The distortions in them are a result of the floaters that I have proliferating my visual field.

Each one is meant to be viewed through my glasses at close range in order to replicate my severe tunnel-vision.  It’s quite a challenge to capture how I see, and I’m enjoying the attempt!

 Assassinating Thomson is produced by Monster Theatre and runs October 8-19 at the Firehall Arts Centre. Tickets are available online here or by calling 604-689-0926. You can read more about Bruce here.Bruce Horak_Assassinating Thomson 7



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