Swirling suggestions of colour, jagged planes and vibrant backdrops warp around human forms and everyday sights in the latest art exhibit at Gallery 22.

Titled Night Rain, the exhibit is the first solo collection from local artist Aurora Cherian-Kuni.

A lavish opening night celebrated the official opening, complete with food, wine and beer, live music, photographers, plenty of friends, family and well-wishers, not to mention many prospective buyers.

For Cherian-Kuni, the event was a surprising and gratifying show of support.

“It was really nice to see the amount of support and people that came to the opening,” she says. “Especially because it was my first gallery, I had no idea what to expect.”

What she did expect however, was the amount of effort it would take to fill the blank walls with her surreal acrylics.

“The process of getting it all ready was stressful, but worth all the work. It’s different working with a deadline,” she says with a rueful smile.

Though Cherian-Kuni had a few pieces in a previous exhibit at Gallery 22 called Vantage Point, this is the first time she has seen so many of her paintings together in one place.

She describes the unexpected effect as a great learning experience.

“It’s really exciting,” she says. “And it kind of helps me understand myself… I only ever focus on one painting at a time as I’m doing them; to see them all together, they show me something about myself and my process.”

The exhibit consists of work from a few years ago right up to pieces she finished in the week before the opening. A progression in style is certainly apparent, though the pieces are by no means ordered chronologically.

For the young artist, it is a useful tool.

“I can kind of see my style developing when they’re all together… and [the results of] my experimenting, because I’m still experimenting so much. More recently, I’ve been testing colours and the use of water with acrylic paint to almost get a watercolour effect.”

“Wish for a Fish” (detail) Photo by Ken Bolton

The paintings vary in age and style, but one factor has remained mostly the same: the artistic process behind them.

“I paint on the floor with my cat on my lap. Sometimes I lean the canvas on him,” she laughs. “And I like to take my canvas outside when it’s sunny.”

Cherian-Kuni takes inspiration from the world around her, citing the best example as a simple late-night walk with a friend where they happened to catch some beautiful Northern Lights.

While she laughingly admits the cliché, given her first name, her love of the North is evident in her paintings.

“I’ll see something and it inspires me to paint it. You know when you see something, but remember it differently from the way it actually was? That’s the version I paint. I just exaggerate the things I remember,” she says.

“I guess I still have a clear northern influence. I take trees and stuff and warp them. [Night Rain] is a new way of seeing things that you see every day, a new take on everyday Whitehorse sights.”

The title of the exhibit also reflects something of Cherian-Kuni’s inspiration. She named it in tribute to her younger sister, whose name means “night rain”.

As her artist biography explains, it also reflects her connection to nature.

“Like the art it represents, rain is a fusing of light and dark, open to multiple perspectives and interpretations… I take inspiration from human relations with nature, and add a surreal twist, using vibrant colours, dreamlike images and psychedelic suggestions.

“My art allows me to warp my own views, to capture beautiful moments that keep a peaceful mind.”

Cherian-Kuni hopes to communicate that feeling of peace to those who view her art.

“I hope that when people come to my gallery, they feel peaceful,” she says. “It’s like a little break from everything… I hope they feel more wise.”

Encouraged by the success of her first solo show, Cherian-Kuni plans to stay in Whitehorse and focus on her artistic career.

She hopes to begin incorporating other mediums as well, such as fabric work, which she learned when she attended fabric arts school in Ontario last fall.

Night Rain will be showing at Gallery 22, above Triple J’s Music Cafe, until mid-July.

Willow Gamberg is a former What’s Up Yukon intern who writes about music and other arts-related topics.