Gallery 22 takes wing with its first solo show. Dan Bushnell’s ravens fly through areas of layered colour or urban environments across the gallery’s white walls above Triple J’s Music shop.

Straight black paint, sometimes with blended-in white highlights, carry the shapes and forms of Bushnell’s ravens.

These ravens inhabit an abstract or urban environment, often in fields of bright colour.

Bushnell’s characteristic thin layers of acrylic paint collect layers of drips. I think he loves the feathery way acrylics bleed out into a wet area.

To this treatment he has added repeated patterns using stencils. They’re on display as part of the show. A crossed hammer and crescent wrench make a kind of logo or crest. A heavy work boot sprouts curlicues on either side, perhaps suggesting a splash through a puddle. A rough-cut raised fist rises out of block capitals that exhort us to “UNITE.”

These graphic images seem to draw from Bushnell’s background as a tattoo artist. It’s as if he’s tattooed the canvases. Also, they’re evocative of May Day, also known as International Worker’s Day, which internationally celebrates what the labour movement has accomplished. For example, the eight-hour work day.

In one roughly four-foot-square purple canvas, a raven seems to be landing, its toes meeting its shadow. Five boot prints, over other lighter ones, occupy a greyish strip down the left-hand side of the canvas. In the background behind the bird, text has been used as texture. Words have been handwritten in thin paint, bled out with water so that very little is legible. I read “steel, let you, mount, to be.”

Handwriting is used in one more canvas, entitled Remembered series No. 1. Handwriting in Spanish weaves through a powerfully drippy magenta and purple ground. It’s as if a stencil has been used as a resist. It’s a complex image, featuring a skeleton in star-and-floral motif, reminiscent of Day of the Dead Mexican imagery.

The other four-foot-square canvas features two ravens among tangled hydro lines and a well-worn hydro pole. The thin paint has been used very softly to suggest a northern dawn or dusk quite evocatively.

Two groups of three ravens fly over two long and thin canvases with a gritty pinky-brown background. Stencilled images add another layer to the background. Their wing beats add a sense of rhythm to these pieces. The darker black of their bodies seems to have been layered over thinner, lighter paint. The thinner brushstrokes we can see peeking out from under the black add to the sense of movement in these pieces.

I find that the use of plain black for the ravens contrasts with the background colour, but the paintings suffer a bit from lack of unity. Some of the ravens on solid colour float on the background. One wonders what they’re standing on.

Exploring how to use colour within black, finding the unity between the two painted areas of raven and not-raven, could carry these paintings further. “UNITE!” as the paintings themselves say.

That being said, the overall show has its own unity.

I think my favourite raven is a very windblown, tousled shape perched on a wire on an orange background. “Unite” seems to be dripping from beneath him, in lighter orange.

Jordi Jones, downstairs, tells me all of the pieces were created in the last month. Bushnell, also the gallery curator, bravely stepped forward to take the first show since no one else was ready yet.

So now the ball is rolling. Watch this space for group shows and shows by artists whose work you don’t see so often in Whitehorse.

Dan Bushnell’s show will continue until mid-May. You enter Gallery 22 through Triple J’s, off the parking lot behind the Hougen Centre, between Third and Fourth.