Dear Teresa, this is what Charles Thomas himself wrote about his work. It's absolutely amazing!
My current body of work, i.e., of scenes of pueblos and favelas from Latin America matched with paintings of water, started in mid 2001 as a way of reflecting the world around me and how I responded to it in some kind of a concrete fashion. Before commencing this body of work, I spent the previous 10 years primarily as an abstract artist, dealing with issues of my own interior life rather than with any real representation of the world around me. This work, however, was never completely abstract. I have always needed something to grab on to, something which would relate my own physical presence to the canvas and not have it be only about the painting. There always needed to be some kind of a narrative thread in my work, and in my case it came in the form of the bound figure. This figure, in my mind, became a metaphoric icon illustrating a rootlessness and search for place in the universe.After doing this type of work for five years I had come to a point where I was no longer sure of what else I had to express with this subject matter, and it became increasingly important to me to start creating images which reflected, in some way, the outside world. My problem at the time was that I didn't want my narrative concerns to push my work into the realm of something which could become simple illustration. I wanted to keep the element of mystery in the work, to have the viewer know what they are looking at, but still wonder about what they are seeing. I spent a year developing the current body of work. It was during this period that I started doing paintings with the theme of water. During this time I also began my first shanty town painting, which was completely made up in my head without any real world references. I didn't make the connection between these two ideas, however, until I went to Ambergris Caye, Belize, one year after Hurricane Mitch. I decided to take photos of the area, the damage which had been caused by the storm, and I began making the association between the fragile structures I was documenting and the ease in which these homes were so easily destroyed by the force of nature.When I got back to New York I started working out some ideas for paintings which would represent some of the things I was thinking about. Basically, I had become intrigued with the idea of a temporary existence which seemed to be represented by these dwellings, and the fact that this was the way in which most of the world lived. Any tremor of nature, a storm, an earthquake, a mudslide, could wash all of these unstable structures away. I began traveling to different locations, Brazil, Peru, Mexico and Central American to document the look and feel of each place. I composed these paintings from memory and, at times, with photographic references with an emphasize on the abstract density of the places I had visited while at the same time working on paintings of the water mass surrounding each place, most of which were on the coast. The implied threat is the reclamation of man made structures by nature. It is important to me that these places have the look of how we remember things, a memory, and not a concrete representation of the real world. All of these paintings have been done without a physical representation of human and animal forms. I wanted to show only where living beings dwell, without representing them. This is something a viewer can easily do, fill in the blanks. I think the representation of human or animal life would have shifted the emphasizes, changed the narrative in a direction I did not want to go.At the moment, I am still working on this subject matter, but with an emphasis on the individual qualities of painting. I am still interested in visual density, but with more of a play between intense color ranges and patterns. The visual motifs behind the work will stay representational, but what is happening on the canvas in relation to the image may become more abstract. This might seem to be two extremes, the combination of the real with the abstract, but I believe it provides a solid foundation in communicating visual information while giving rise to the opportunity of conveying something in a new way. I think that as the work progresses it will take longer to immediately decipher the image, this will become a slower process, while giving host to the development of new ideas.