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I, Gomo

A Q&A with Dominica-raised, Toronto-based artist Gomo George, whose work is currently on view in Fragments of Epic Memory.

Gomo George_Women’s Carnival Group

Gomo George. Women’s Carnival Group, 1996. Opaque watercolor on paper, Sheet: 55.8 × 75.6 cm. Courtesy of the artist.© Gomo George

Search Gomo George and many beautiful things are revealed − vivid paintings in numerous styles celebrating Carnival traditions, dynamic sculptures, storytelling sessions and recent exhibitions. The artist himself is rarely front and centre, but when he is featured alongside his art, it’s almost always with a tam on his head. This seems particularly apt, considering how the artist, since immigrating to Toronto from Dominica in the mid-1970s, has continued to wear many figurative hats, as artist, writer, advocate, curator, storyteller, kite maker and gallery director. 

This fall the AGO is pleased to welcome George, the artist and educator. He’s a multidisciplinary artist working in painting and sculpture, whose artmaking centres African and Caribbean traditions. Since the early 1980s, he has been a strong advocate for Black artists working in Canada, curating exhibitions and founding the city's first Black artist run gallery, ColoLux Studios. Inspired by a photograph taken by K.A. Richards in 1958, his striking watercolour Women’s Carnival Band (2002) is currently on view on Level 5 as part of Fragments of Epic Memory.  We caught up with George to hear more about his work and teaching philosophy.

AGOinsider: What do you miss most about Dominica?

George:  I miss family and childhood friends.  I miss the sea and rivers of which we have 365, enough to bathe in one every day of the year. The greenery of the island.

AGOinsider:  ColoLux Studios, the gallery you founded in 1984, was a groundbreaking achievement. Can you tell us why it was important?

George: Founding Cololux was important because I was the only one showing in the mainstream galleries.  My colleagues were not getting similar opportunities.  We needed a place where we could establish a presence visually, as well as a place to discuss our work.  A place we could share knowledge about the Canadian and diasporic art scene. It was a place to foster much needed professional development.

AGOinsider: Was there a particular artist or artwork that was profoundly influential for you when you began artmaking?

George: My childhood friend Eddy John was a friend and mentor; he was influential and he encouraged me to take my talent seriously.  Ras David from Jamaica was another early influence.  As well as all of Carnival preparation activities.

AGOinsider: Teaching art is a combination of instinct and technique. What was the best lesson you ever received? 

George: The best lesson I got was that a mistake can become the focal point or binding aspect in creating an artwork.

Beginning October 13 and happening again in November, Gomo will lead Online Painting Explorations – Epic Memory, an instructional painting class for adults, focusing on landscape and memory. For more details about this four-week course, or to register, visit the website.

Stay tuned to AGOinsider for more conversations and exhibition highlights from Fragments of Epic Memory, on now until February 21, 2022.

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