Small clay sculptures of woodland creatures cavort in a sterile platform landscape, cloaked in mythology. Runes, patterns and carvings are inscribed on the creatures’ coats, evoking a different sort of organic artistry.

Art is never created in a vacuum, and for two local Whitehorse artists, their very differences lend richness to their work.

Ken Thompson and his partner, Sandra Storey, are both artists, but that’s where their similarities end. Their show, Two Tribes, plays upon the visual impact their partnership has had upon their art.

Thompson is an abstract artist and his paintings are confined to a white canvas space. Storey is a clay sculptor and her pieces evoke a fairy tale of animals who speak and impart ancient wisdom. Together, Thompson and Storey affect each other’s art in small but obvious ways.

“When two people create in proximity, they inform each other’s art through necessity. One person might be reacting to the other’s art, or simply absorbing it,” says Thompson of their shared studio space in Tagish.

Storey is careful to emphasize that absorbing another’s artistic style isn’t copying.

“When we share our styles, for example, my animals’ coats started developing angles and structures from Ken’s work; it’s not an attempt to copy, but more the result of shared influence.”

At first blush, abstract painting and sculpture seem to have nothing to do with each other, other than simply being forms of visual art. That’s where Thompson is quick to demonstrate that the spontaneity of his abstract paintings, despite being constrained by white canvas, really shows the clean lines of nature.

“The paintings are sudden, spontaneous and I am inspired by the straight line of the willow tree, the track of snowshoes, a hare’s footprints in the snow and even camouflage.”

Thompson shares a story about how the colours of his painting came to be: “We were at our studio, in Tagish, and I realized I left my paints at home; the only ones I had were in storage, in Tagish, and colours like mustard, black, red.” Thompson took those unusual colours and created works he saw in nature.

Storey’s magical woodland animals wear the cloak of mythology, and she called them “shamans” after an interest in First Nation mythology. There is a squirrel, a bear, a hare, an ermine and many other Northern creatures that prowl the landscape.

“I tried to take the animals and really show their characters,” says Storey. “For example, the squirrel is inquisitive, boisterous, persistent, afraid and bossy.”

The combined work of abstract and sculpture shares an organic, natural theme. Thompson’s painting could be drifting fall leaves or a camouflage patch. Storey’s creatures wear coats emblazoned with straight lines and curlicues.

Their shared passion adds depth and also creates another layer of meaning in the art – a spirituality present not just in the shaman animals but in the abstract painting.

Two Tribes can be seen at the Copper Moon Gallery until Sept. 30.