When painters look at rocks, they see colours like purple, yellow, pink, and red. Colours that seem like not-rock-colours to the rest of us.
And when we check out their paintings on the wall, we still might only see “rocks” — we may not notice that the rocks are painted with purple, yellow, pink, and red in there.
Artists are on a different trip than us, connecting with rocks and leaves and dirt and sky in a different way.
There’s a new exhibition that shows us how Whitehorse artists John Boivin, Rosemary Piper and Sally Sheppard see the natural world around us.
From a close-up look at petals of lichen recreated with fabric, to an study of beaver-gnawed stumps painted with acrylics, to a macro view of a mountainscape created with gem-tone drops of watercolour, the three artists offer artwork forged by connections with the Yukon landscape.
Aptly, the show is called Connections, and it is on right now at the Yukon Artists @ Work Gallery.
“By painting the world, it’s understanding the world,” Boivin says. “I came across a quote in a science fiction book by Randy Rucker three years ago. It said ‘Art is the way of knowing what you don’t.’
“It just struck me, because for me, it’s the way sand dunes curve, water will flow, leaves will grow in succession as the seasons progress, a river will wind, and light will play on the ground. So for me, art is the way of experiencing it.”
Boivin’s collection in the show is a set of acrylic paintings on canvas and board that he began in April.
He sank into the beauty around the Millennium Trail and paint there on location day-after-day. He’s set his sight on landscapes as close-up as the ground itself, as well as a foot above ground (beaver stumps), all the way up to the top of the tallest trees — an exercise in seeing.
“I spent most of the summer finding tiny little spots of beauty and painting them,” Boivin says. “Sometimes I painted places that I had passed by 100 times before.”
Connections features approximately 40 pieces of art, and reveals the three artists’ ability to capture emotional depth. Lichen and mountainsides and stumps are not emotional things, normally. But the way these artists recreate them — the colour choices, the textures, the details — it’s like the magnitude of nature is the real subject here.
Rosemary Piper is conscious of the power of nature as she chooses painting locations. And she finds that she brings a different perspective to what she sees around her. This became clear while hiking along a riverbed near Kluane Lake this summer. In front of her was a 15-foot culvert, and behind here was a towering mountain.
“I became aware of the sound of rocks moving through the culvert and I realized that the mountain is becoming these rocks, and eventually they’ll become sand,” Piper says. “Having hiked with many people, they don’t see what I see. We (artists) take that in. It’s almost like a rapport with it.”
Piper has 20 pieces in the show, ranging from some 7 by 9 inch watercolour landscapes, to 3 by 2 foot acrylic landscapes on canvas — and one encaustic landscape too.
Sally Sheppard is showing five fibre artworks, including three-dimensional images of lichen and several art pieces that look like paintings, but were actually created with thread sewed onto fabric. This may be one of the last chances to snap up a piece of art by Sheppard, as she has just moved out of the territory.
Prices range from $100 to $900. The show is on exhibit at the Yukon Artists @ Work Gallery until Oct. 2. The gallery is located at 120 Industrial Rd. in Whitehorse, and is open every day from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.