about Thermo-Medolox

Thermo = Relating to kinetic energy/heat
Medolox = Fictitious corporate identity     

The theme title for this series of works was borrowed from the title of one of my large paintings shown in the exhibition of the same name: ‘Thermo-Medolox’. I had originally selected the title ‘Shifts of Power’. However, the latter title I thought might prove to be too general in scope and carry with it too many metaphorical connotations. Instead, I chose Thermo-Medolox (TM), since the title conveniently brought together three main components that summarized the meaning behind this body of work:      

  • Thermo (e.g. Thermal, thermo-nuclear, etc.): relating to kinetic energy and heat production/properties;  
  • Medolox: a symbolic reference to fictitious multi-national corporate identities, and by extension a line of associated industrial, pharmaceutical, military and energy related products and processes 
  • There are also sub-narrative references in these works that pertain to the following subjects: the preservation of human biological life through the bias of technology, the use of wild animals as corporate symbols and the destruction of the natural environment by human industrial activity.  


In the title painting ‘Thermo-Medolox’, one is confronted with two very obvious symbols in opposition on either side of the diptych: a giant pill and a fictitious corporate logo rendered in a stylized ‘T’ shape, symbolizing ‘Thermo-Medolox’. The initial concept I had in mind for the painting was to create a pseudo-billboard-like image advertising as it were the company’s industrial products. However, the work evolved in a different visual direction, and became in a sense more abstract and dense, arranged in a more ambiguous space and tone. The symbol of the pill (capsule)- a recurring icon in my work – in this case, symbolizes a process or agent of anesthetization, therefore of a form of control (i.e. biologically and psychologically). Under the corporate logo, the background layer is treated more abstractly, and is a combination of criss-crossing broad red geometric lines, juxtaposed and almost masking the presence of missile/bomb weapons (e.g. ‘thermo-nuclear’) rendered in a strong diagonal axis. The lines are meant to represent a structure and/or network of sorts, but also reference a stylistic influence and parody of those dynamic Russian constructivist compositions with their strong geometric and diagonal visual devices. I always thought that Russian constructivist propaganda art, though quite original and important, conveyed and promoted a utopian false sense of enthusiasm, and was totally incongruent with the eventual dictatorial communist dystopia that followed. Another key element integrated to the painting, is the sculptural presence of the vinyl bag holding within it a transparent plastic container filled with freeze-pack solution. The latter object/chemical material symbolizes the preservation of human biological life and the technological apparatus sustaining it. This work in many ways is a critique of our techno-corporatized culture as a dystopian reality.      


In ‘True North’, a sculptural device is also used and integrated to the painting. But, in this case, the object is a metallic cutout of a deer (or caribou); the symbol was inspired from the Canadian 25 cent silver coin. I chose to place the deer head in front of an apocalyptic landscape scene rendered in the background, hence creating as it were a tension or contrast between the natural order and the artificially created and transformed environment of man. Wild animals such as deer, rams, lions, etc., are commonly used by corporations in their logos and advertising as symbols of power and mystery, and have no qualms about appropriating symbols borrowed from the occult realm and from ancient mythology. The intention is to empower the corporation by using/misusing esoteric symbology, signs and mythology. The background scene depicts an ambiguous-looking chemical container floating above or in an apocalyptic landscape setting, with orange shapes shifting from conifer trees to flames and the presence of an enigmatic looking chemical sign is added for good measure. In short, a scorched, wasted and contaminated world. True North is also about the savage and violent war waged on nature by a technological cutlure, with the final insult of appropriating/co-opting the noble and ancient symbol/image of the deer as a form of corporate branding. Thereby in a final sacrilegious act, desecrating and diminishing a once sacred symbol that is an embodiment of an eternal natural order. 


In hindsight, I believe that the main theme explored in this series of works, dealt with our technological culture’s infatuation with waging war on nature, and consequently on life in general. One can view It basically – at the very top of the pyramid – as a military-style economy with subordinate industrial sub-economies. Our primary economic activities are preoccupied with designing services and products that manufacture human and industrial waste, contributing to unparalleled levels of environmental stress, destruction and irreparable damage to the biosphere. Engendering as it were, an insane feedback loop of consumer products and waste by-products, invariably negatively affecting our mental and physical well-being (our techno answer of a pill for every ill). As noble as it appears to be on the surface, the eco/environmental/green movements, causes and agendas, have ironically been co-opted by corporate and state bodies and interests. As a metaphor, I’m reminded of the film ‘Invasion of the body snatchers’. Futur generations starting with our own children, will curse us for centuries.     

Pierre Duranleau aka Cafargo – February, 2011