It’s seldom that the Yukon Gallery clears its walls to feature one artist. Solo shows haven’t been the focus of the commercial gallery and frame shop. But gallery owner Brenda Stehelin has made space for Stace Pshyk’s work to take centre stage.
Pshyk’s show, Freedom, marks his first solo show in the territory, though his work has been seen at the Yukon Gallery as well as the Yukon Artists @ Work Gallery and Arts Underground for four years.
Pshyk’s style is reminiscent of Benjamin Chee Chee, an artist of Ojibwa descent. You would recognize Chee Chee’s well-known birds, often depicted in relation to each other, with that relationship being the subject of the piece, Learning, or Friends, for example.
Chee Chee took the tradition of the Woodlands School of First Nations art to a more graphic place, influenced by the minimalism of modern art. Mitt Stehelin, who works at the Yukon Gallery, sees Pshyk as involved in the same project.
“He’s made the jump between native art and modern art more effectively than most,” says Stehelin, observing that Pshyk’s embrace of his Métis ancestry makes this style of painting particularly fitting.
Images of aspens and falling aspen leaves mingle with figures in parkas, caribou and birds. Pshyk creates his drawings of fine inked lines with tracery or filled areas of paint or coloured pencil on paper.
At their most successful, these suggestions evoke animals and feeling more effectively for the empty white space. His lynx has no eyes or nose. This makes the pointy ears that much more recognizable.
Paw prints in circles also figure in his works, in one piece becoming almost fractal. Different scales of paw prints are embedded into shapes repeated at different scales.
Words are incorporated into the designs written in Cree using the syllabary used by several First Nations languages including Inuktitut and Ojibway. I assume that they are the titles. At the show, the title in English was written on a sticker attached to the frame.
The Yukon Gallery used multiple layers of coloured mat boards, some cut in curves on their computerized mat cutter, and metallic toned frames to present this work.
Printed handouts on the Cree Syllabarium and The Hunter’s World accompanies the show, as well as a tri-fold artist statement. The Hunter’s World discusses a Cree spirituality of hunting and the “wind people” who relate the divine and material worlds.
The creation and presentation of this show has been an intensely personal process of Pshyk: “I finally allowed my artwork to speak to me. The images whispered to me of my history, my journey and my beliefs. I discovered that I have become a new person, and the transformation was all here for me to see.”
Pshyk moved to Whitehorse in 1999 from Dawson Creek. He worked as a bridge welder for BC Rail there. He’s done welding and Zamboni driving since coming to the Yukon, doing a little bit of everything to support his artwork.
Pshyk started showing his work at the tender age of 19 years, encouraged by his art teacher from high school. Calum Cameron ran Gallery North in Moberly Lake. He mentored Pshyk.
In 1992, Pshyk’s first big showing of artwork led to his taking part in the BC Festival of the Arts, a province-wide juried exhibition of British Columbian Artists.
When mounting a solo show one hopes for sales, of course, but the event itself is an important promotional tool in an artist’s career.
Pshyk is thrilled that the show has led to getting back in touch with Cameron. He and his wife created an event on Facebook, and Cameron found him. Only thing is, Cameron’s in Mexico now, running an art school and gallery called the Galleria Del Sol near Peurto Vallarta.
This spring, the Pshyk pair will leave in mid-May to tour art festivals, tracking across BC and Alberta, and hopefully taking part in some in Ontario. They plan to wrap up their cross-country tour at the Montréal International Art Expo in October and then travel down to Mexico for November’s cooler weather.
In the meantime, Cameron will start manufacturing Pshyk’s reproductions. Pshyk also wants to start moving into larger canvas pieces and “there’s no one better to teach me that than Cal.”
So the pair will leave their Squatter’s Row housesit this spring for a long junket, and they’re hoping to get to Europe after Mexico.
“We’ll be severely homesick by the time we’re done,” muses Amanda Pshyk. The pair began an A-frame cabin this summer at Canyon Creek. It’s still only an exoskeleton and will likely be squirrel inhabited by the time they come back, but it will give them a feeling of home to come back to.
A small display of Amanda’s jewellery accompanied the Yukon Gallery show. She finds she cannot live without Swarovski crystal, gemstones, Flame-work and Czech fire-polish glass or silver and enamelled wire. She free-form sculpts them into her adornments.
As Christmas approaches, other artists’ work will move into the cleared space for the Pshyk show. Nevertheless, you should still be able to see many pieces from the show right up until the winter holidays and maybe beyond.
The Yukon Gallery shares its space with its sister company, Summit Awards, on 2nd Avenue across from the library. It’s open 10 to 6, Monday to Friday, and 10 to 5 on Saturdays.
You can see more of Stace’s and Amanda’s work at www.shy-arts.com. Some of Calum Cameron’s work is shown at www.artbreak.com/calumc.