Rosemary Piper's work is familiar to Yukon audiences. She's a faithful exhibitor at the Yukon Artists @ Work Cooperative Gallery while the North End Gallery shows her reproductions. She has shown in Skagway for many years, and can be counted on at the Cranberry Fair and the Fireweed Market.
New Works 2010 offers viewers her first solo show in over 10 years.
She had her last one "way back" when the Yukon Gallery was still in the Captain Martin House on Wood Street.
Now she's filled the solo show room at YA@W with a collection of small landscapes and ravens, as well as a few larger pieces.
Piper's initial plan was to paint the show in acrylic. It's a newer medium for her, a departure from her more characteristic work in watercolour. Unfortunately, she found that she developed an allergy to the medium.
This plunged her into a kind of "funk." But out of adversity comes inspiration. Digging through some older unfinished pieces, she discovered a set of small sketches on watercolour paper ready to paint. She had made the sketches five years ago on a trip to Alaska, and never did paint them. Starting with those, she found herself loving the smaller format. That inspired the proliferation of small items that fills the show.
"This is the largest group of small works I've ever done."
There is something lyrical about a small painting of the enormous Yukon landscape. There's also something practical. With its lower price point, the small painting occupies an important place in the economy of art sales in the Yukon. It's transportable for tourists and easy to give as a gift.
Piper sees three bodies of work taking form in the show, two in watercolour and one in acrylic.
Her "gentle, realistic" watercolours are here. Often painted on location, they pay homage to the nuances and subtleties of the Yukon landscape. They seek out what might be hiding in the shadow areas.
Then there are the more-stylized "tapestry style" watercolours. Fields of colour fill the sketched outlines in these paintings. These arose from Piper's experience of the "long white winters" of the North.
"The child in me screamed for the enchantment and warmth of colour. Colour seemed able to transform my mood to one of luxurious contentment."
In these "tapestry style" paintings, clouds float over mountains edged in tawny fall bushes, over a grey, clear lake. A road climbs through steep hills, clouds hover in front of mountains, and birch trees' pale trunks highlight foliage of gradated colour from green to auburn.
Piper has spent some time painting in Kluane. She's painted Sheep Mountain and is particularly fond of her little painting of Slims River, a wandering line through a field of eroded stone.
Her ravens occupy simple mountainous landscapes, often lit by the moon.
Piper has matted many of her small watercolours with a double matt to make a little shadow box. She also has made single matts with grooves. Piper does all her own matting, having invested in a "rather expensive" matt cutter when she first started doing her art fulltime.
Her acrylic pieces are done from the artist's own photos in the studio.
Four small square canvases capture the evening light in a Takhini East ridge walk. Light comes through the dark skies, catching stripes of light on the distant hills, setting the foreground fireweed aflame.
"I'm trying to brighten up my work," reflects Piper.
Piper's goals for the summer include using her acrylics outdoors and with the windows open, hoping the increased ventilation will allow her to use them. She's dreaming up canoe trips and overnight hikes with her painting kit.
Piper's show will be cut short by YA@W's upcoming move to a new location. It's hard to put a show up for such a short time, but Piper feels that "in the long run it will be a good move for us."
YA@W has been a good outlet for her work and she has confidence that that can continue.
Piper believes in the strength of this group of artists all working together toward their common goal.
New Works 2010 opened April 9 and will continue until April 21, the last day that YA@W will be open at its McCrae location.