Capturing Something Intangible

If you need a break from winter’s dominating shades of grey, a collection of paintings at the Yukon Arts Centre will remind you how colourful the Northern landscape is during the rest of the year. The centre is hosting two solo shows featuring the work of icksYellowknife artist Jennifer Walden and Yukon artist Jane Isakson.

Jennifer Walden’s exhibit features wildlife and landscape paintings from her time spent on retreat in the wilderness between the Selwyn and Mackenzie mountain ranges in the Northwest Territories. She was inspired to create the exhibition called The Land at The End of the Sticks while hiking across the patterned geography, carrying her paint box.

Along the way she met up with some wild animals while exploring the beauty of the landscape.

“Caribou fascinate me,” Walden says. “I went hiking and unexpectedly met a caribou. We stared at each other for a while. And then I had the luck to walk with him, briefly. It was one of greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”

One of her paintings features caribou running across the tundra.

“I wanted to paint the sound of their hooves,” Walden explains. “I wanted to capture something intangible.”

The beauty of nature can leave you breathless and without words to describe it, but a painter can capture that beauty, and preserve the moment.

Walden’s paintings also feature the dancing lights and colours of the tundra, showing an endless landscape full of flowers, lichen, and rocks.

Three of the paintings in the exhibit are 10 to 12 feet tall.

“It took me four months to paint the tall ones,” she says.

The huge paintings give an idea of the endless wilderness in the Northwest Territories.

“When my son first saw the paintings he said, ‘I’ve been there; I know this place. You painted one of our adventures.,'” Walden says.

The second show at the Yukon Arts Centre features work by Whitehorse artist Jane Isakson. She presents a collection of paintings called From the Outer Edges. This show brings together landscapes from three National Parks in Canada. The body of work began to take shape after she did two artist-in-residences sponsored by Parks Canada: one was in Gros Morne, Newfoundland and the other at Ivvavik National Park, in the Yukon. She also did a painting excursion to the Gwaii Haans National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in British Columbia.

Sitting down to paint while nestled in the beauty of these national parks was inspirational for Isakson.

“It was magic,” she says. “I was surprised by little things while I was painting – they can be magnificent. Like, for example, a solitary dead tree.”

Isakson not only looked for the beauty in the landscape, she also viewed it through an anthropological lens. Her painting called “Sentinels,” for example, has a depth beyond the visual landscape in Gros Morne, Newfoundland.

“I read a book about the Aboriginals (the Maritime Archaic Indians) who used to live in this place and who are now long gone,” she says. “In ‘Sentinels’ I painted falling lights in the sky in memory of them.”

Her work also shows abstract elements of the Northern ecosystem and landscape.

“I am inspired by Emily Carr and John Koerner,” Isakson says.

Indeed, this comes through in her work.

The exhibitions of paintings by Jane Isakson and Jennifer Walden are in the gallery at the Yukon Arts Centre until Feb. 22. The gallery is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

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