Artist of the shadows

As the days shorten in Whitehorse, one artist has decided the city needs a little brightening up.

As the days shorten in Whitehorse, one artist has decided the city needs a little brightening up.

For the last few weeks, Colin Alexander has been working to complete 30 outdoor murals on whatever surface he can get his hands – and permission to work – on. Dumpsters, recycling bins, oil tanks and building walls are his canvases.

His reasons are as multilayered as his art, from self-interest to public service. After being on the gallery circuit several times, Alexander wasn’t impressed with the results. People weren’t seeing his art. His need for fulfillment and recognition came to a head.

“I’m kind of burnt out on (gallery) shows,” he said.

So he started painting objects outdoors, for free.

“The reason I started doing this is that more often than not I’m not getting paid, and money is the limiting factor that makes nothing happen. For someone like me, I’m productive, I can’t do that. I’m going to do what I can to stay productive.”

So he took his work outside, without the limiting aspects every artist has to deal with: the expectation to get paid and the amount of time and resources needed to produce a piece of art.

“The street-art stencil techniques allow me to take art you see in the gallery and apply it to the dumpster in 15 minutes with maybe a few dollars worth of paint.”

Alexander spends his days going from business to business asking if he can paint on their property. He paints at night, when it’s less busy.

So far he has completed almost half of his project. He says he’s learned valuable lessons along the way, such as the meaning of public service and the need for collaboration to further one’s interests.

Although he would love to paint the town, he has a particular affinity for those that live on the fringe of society.

“Let me tell you, the people at the Sally Ann are in a living hell, daily. If I get paid a small amount for one job then I can go and branch out and do four to five free, smaller works, and then we can focus the most plighted, most ugly, most violent and most down areas in town and do the hard thing: try to uplift and do art work in that scenario, outside the Sally Ann or outside the 98 at 10 o’clock at night.”

Contact Alistair Maitland at