Emma Barr at work

Emma Barr Welcomes a Bright Spring

Spring is a season of renewal, a time to relish in the lengthening sunlight, pack away winter clothes, and shed cocoons of darkness.

For local Whitehorse artist Emma Barr, spring is full of celebration and change.

Her newest show, For the Love of Light, reflects the joy of spring and a return to earthy subject matter.

“I’m so excited about the longer days, and more light,” says Barr jubilantly. “It’s really an explosion of spring, of spirit and energy,” she says of her show.

Barr is well known for her vivid colours: “People say I’m the colour artist,” says Barr of her bright reputation.

“That’s me.”

This show represents a maturing of her colour experimentation, a control not previously demonstrated in her works.

Barr confesses she is trying to stretch her creative boundaries with depth, perception and elevation, something that is proving difficult but enormously rewarding.

“I love the challenge of creating a foreground, middle ground and background. It’s adding valleys, heights and new dimensions to my work,” she says.

She admits some are bizarre experiments; pieces that she’s not quite comfortable with, but push her boundaries.Emma Barr at work

Some pieces are older, two years or more, repainted over to reflect new directions.

She mentions her current muse is from The Group of Seven, particularly A.Y. Jackson.

Her favourite piece from the show is First Snow, a vibrant but notably restrained experiment in colour of a watershed along the Dempster Highway in late August. She skilfully uses oranges, purples and misty blues to represent proximity, distance and snow fog.

For the Love of Light was created out of a collaboration with Baked Café after it renovated and had Barr design organic wall sconces.

She took the pussy willow and branch sconces and they inspired a series of paintings, something that she had to focus on throughout the long winter of teaching and commissioned paintings.

“Painting for myself is something I always want to do, but struggle to find time for,” Barr admits.

The 15 hours or so she enforces as “painting time” is crucial to build her skills as a painter, and create art that is representative of her talents.

Barr is a commercial artist, but emphasizes that an artist is always true to their craft first, and commercial success second. The time and energy dedicated to this show and reworking her style is indicative of this mentality. The show is mixed-media, with the natural willow sconces and landscape paintings.

Barr flips open a small sketchbook and a series of line-drawn Sharpie mountain landscapes unfold. Even in the uncoloured plain sketches, something calls out to the viewer. The clean lines and expressive strokes show a certain mastery of the subject.

She has an undeniable eye for the detail and sublime vastness of the Yukon landscape. This is where she starts, and For the Love of Lightshows us where she finishes.

For the Love of Light runs until May 31 at Baked Café.

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