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An exhibit five years in the making

Robert McLaughlin Gallery senior curator Linda Jansma speaks during the official launch of the gallery’s newest exhibition, Betwixt and Between: An Untold Tom Thomson Story, which runs until April 15. (Photo by Dave Flaherty)

The newest exhibit at Oshawa’s Robert McLaughlin Gallery is one that is five years in the making.

The story begins when two artists found an old copy of James Joyce’s A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man in a second-hand bookstore in Toronto.

While flipping through the book, they discovered a hand-drawn map, which bears a remarkable resemblance to Algonquin Park, along with a symbol with the initials ‘T.T.’ on it.

They decided to track down the meaning of the symbol, and after several trips to Algonquin Park, they discovered a tin box containing a journal with the initials G.N.

Within the journal was the story of the friendship between ‘G.N.’ and Tom Thomson.

It was these events that inspired Joel Richardson, Germinio Pio Politi, and Nyle Johnston to create Betwixt & Between: An Untold Tom Thomson Story.

The focus of the project lies in the imagined friendship between Thomson and George Nadjiwon, or ‘G.N’., a young man from the Cape Croker reserve, located on the south Bruce Peninsula.

The entries from Nadjiwon’s journal have been mixed with known elements of Thomson’s otherwise mysterious life to create a project that claims to be “85 per cent authentic”.

Richardson, Pio Politi, and Johnston spent considerable time speaking with indigenous residents near the area of the Cape Croker reserve while developing the exhibit, including speaking with local indigenous residents.

In addition to 20 original works by Thomson, the exhibit includes numerous maps and treaties from the timeframe of the iconic artist’s life, including the original Williams Treaties which are specific to Durham Region.

Betwixt & Between also incorporates new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual experience through an interactive app which enhances elements of the exhibit.

The exhibit is on at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery through April 15.

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