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Gordon Monahan

Sonic Shadows: Imagined Soundscapes for Tom Thomson

June 15 - September 14, 2024


Parallel to Tom Thomson’s lifelong dedication to the visual arts was his keen interest in music. In letters written in the 1930s to Thomson’s first biographer, Blodwen Davies, his siblings reflect on this lesser-known aspect of the artist’s life, evocatively describing him as someone who was nurtured in a musical household, could often be overheard whistling or singing as he sketched, and played multiple instruments skillfully, including the cornet, trombone, and mandolin. 

In this exhibition, Gordon Monahan has composed original music inspired by the soundscapes and environments that Thomson would have been exposed to during his lifetime, including selected hymns and popular songs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as loon and wolf calls, and even birch bark that Monahan has transposed into sheet music inspired by the similarity of its markings with those on a piano roll. Recordings of these compositions are transmitted through Victorian era artifacts, transforming them into sound sculptures that emit their own unique sounds through sonification, and that further activate the space through the sympathetic vibration of surrounding objects. The result is an immersive acoustic sound installation that evokes haunting soundscapes in homage to Tom Thomson. 

We would like to express gratitude to Sim Salata, Curator at Grey Roots Museum & Archives for her valuable assistance in coordinating this exhibition, and to Laura Kikauka for her assistance in realizing the exhibition. 


About the artist:

Gordon Monahan's works for piano, loudspeakers, video, kinetic sculpture, and computer-controlled
sound environments span various genres from avant-garde concert music to multi-media installation
and sound art. As a composer and sound artist, he juxtaposes the quantitative and qualitative aspects of
natural acoustical phenomena with elements of media technology, natural environments, architecture,
popular culture, and live performance. In addition to creating a significant number of sound installations
and sound art performances, Monahan also composes concert music for traditional instruments. The
renowned composer John Cage once said, "At the piano, Gordon Monahan produces sounds we
haven't heard before."

Since 1978, Monahan has performed and exhibited at numerous performance spaces, museums,
galleries, and festivals, including Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin), the Venice Bienale, the Secession
(Vienna), Ultima Festival (Oslo), Hebbel Theater (Berlin), The Kitchen (NY), the Walker Art Center
(Minneapolis), Merkin Hall (NY), and Massey Hall (Toronto).

Monahan is the recipient of a 2013 Governor-General's Award in Visual and Media Arts. He won First
Prize at the 1984 CBC National Radio Competition for Young Composers, as well as commissions from
the Vancouver New Music Society; CBC Radio; Dade County Art in Public Places, Miami; The Kitchen,
New York; the DAAD Inventionen Festival, Berlin, the Donaueschinger Musiktage, the Sony Center,
Berlin, the Beethoven Foundation (bonn-hoeren), Bonn, and the London Contemporary Orchestra (UK).
His controversial commission for the Dade County MetroRail transit system was banned during the 1988
New Music America festival in Miami. That same year, Monahan was chosen as CBC Radio's entry to
the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. Monahan has been Artist-in-Residence at the Banff
Centre for the Arts (1990), the Exploratorium in San Francisco (1991), D.A.A.D., Berlin (1992-93), the
Western Front, Vancouver (1999), Podewil, Berlin (2002), Kunsthalle Krems, Austria (2006),
Museumsquartier, Vienna (2008), Warsaw Autumn, Warsaw (2010), bonn-hoeren (Beethoven
Foundation), Bonn (2016) and a fellow with the New York Foundation for the Arts (1991).


Affiliated programming:

Opening Reception - Saturday June 22, 2024 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Artist Talk - Saturday September 7, 2024 at 11:00am 

Contact Us

808 2nd Avenue East,
Owen Sound, ON
N4K 2H4
Phone: 519-376-1440
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840 1st Ave W

Owen Sound, ON N4K 4M4

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Gallery Hours:

Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 5:00pm

Sunday 12:00pm - 4:00pm

Tom Thomson Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges our operational supporters:

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