Sinclair’s art on a world tour

By Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Since he began painting in 2018, Thomas Sinclair never thought he would be a professional artist. Now only three years later, Sinclair’s woodland style art is going to be featured in two international summer art fairs.

Sinclair’s art will be featured at the Venice International Art Fair at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello in Venice, Italy from May 11 to June 3. There Sinclair will have one painting displayed for a week at the beginning of June.

Sinclair is also collaborating with the Van Gogh Art Gallery in Spain where his art will be shown at the ART Innsbruck art fair in Austria.

This partnership is because many art fairs in Europe require European gallery representation. Sinclair said they asked for three paintings and he has given them seven.

Sinclair said this is a huge risk for himself and the gallery because they do not know how his art will be received.

Sinclair is hoping to have his art featured at the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair but because of COVID-19 uncertainties, he has not heard back yet.

The City of Toronto holds a lot of history for Sinclair who said having his art displayed there would be a full circle moment.

“It’s really important to almost give back to people in Toronto. I spent a lot of years there on the street and I would love to experience the city in a different way,” Sinclair said. “I know there’s some kid out there with a crayon that’s got big dreams and I’m showing them that they can come true.”

Along with preparing for the art fairs, Sinclair is also preparing to paint a mural for the Summer Moon Festival in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. at the end of June.

While he is painting the mural, he will also be teaching the different moons of the summer and the things that people did during the moons.

Sinclair said in his mural he wanted to pay homage to the importance of family, adding that family has become even more important because of the pandemic.

“In the creation story, in the Ojibway legends, the main character is Nanaboozhoo and he had three brothers, so I’m going to paint Nanaboozhoo in the eastern door and then you’re going to have the other four brothers in the other panels,” Sinclair said. “There’s also the three sisters which are corn, beans and squash. The four brothers will be separated by the three sisters.”

Sinclair will also be given a plaque by the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto for the pictograph he painted on the Royal Ontario Museum last Thanksgiving. The plaque will showcase the meaning of the pictograph and a bit about Sinclair.

Sinclair said he painted it in honour of the ancestors whose remains, and sacred items were taken from their burial mounds and are now in the museum.

“We did it in the spirit of reconciliation,” Sinclair said. “We just figured it’s like the spirits of the original Thanksgiving, we’re giving back to each other and finally in a good way and in a way where it’s not like we can fix the past, but we can shake hands and make amends and move forward in a good way.”

Sinclair painted seven Thunderbirds, each one representing a different clan from the seven clans.

“They’re holding open a big spiral which is the birch bark scroll symbol for the hole in the sky. The doorway to heaven,” Sinclair said. “They’re holding open the entrance to the spirit world so that we can go back home.”

Sinclair was taught the pictograph symbols and their meanings by some elders when he was a child.

Most recently, Sinclair was signed to Hansford and Sons Fine Art gallery in London, England where he has two paintings.

As Sinclair receives more requests and is working with more galleries, he has had to start issuing certificates of authenticity. Sinclair said this solidifies him as an artist, something he never expected.

“There are so many other things that are confronting Fort Frances and all Native people,” Sinclair said. “I feel like chasing my dreams with art and being a cultural human being, that’s a big deal especially for the young kids that don’t really know that it’s even possible.”

Thomas Sinclair’s work will be featured in two European art fairs this summer, the Venice International Art fair in Italy and the ART Innsbruck Art Fair in Austria, in partnership with Spain’s van Gogh Art Gallery. -submitted photo