Life in colour

There are paintings inside these paintings. Lawrie Crawford's first solo art show, Shaping Space, is currently hanging at Arts Underground. The paintings are bold and abstract, with uninhibited use of colour.

There are paintings inside these paintings.

Lawrie Crawford’s first solo art show, Shaping Space, is currently hanging at Arts Underground.

The paintings are bold and abstract, with uninhibited use of colour.

A booklet of story cards sits on a pedestal at the entrance to the show. Inside, photographs show the evolution of Crawford’s art, the layers of paint partially or fully covered by the finished piece.

“A lot of artists, you would never get to see the process that you go through to get to them. But I thought it was really fun to know what it looked like at the beginning, and what it looked like in the middle, and how it ended.”

Also included in the booklet are short, meditative poems that marry Crawford’s passions for literary and visual arts.

Crawford spent most of her life as a writer and playwright before tackling visual arts.

Words just didn’t have the colour that she needed in her life, said Crawford.

“I’ve always wanted to be surrounded with abstract art and so I thought I should start making it.”

She was surprised at how much seasonal changes affected the colours used in her art, she said.

“All of a sudden, you were painting in beige and brown and then putting black in a lot, you thought, ‘Oh, winter’s here.’”

The colours of the natural world and the colours of her palette were so interlinked that Crawford travelled to Hawaii “to keep the oranges and the turquoises in my body,” she said.

“The turquoise of Hawaii is very similar to the turquoise of the ice and the water here … It’s a really important colour in my personal palette.”

Crawford is currently working towards a master in fine arts out of a small college in Washington state. She travels there for eight days each semester to learn with a group of about 35 interdisciplinary artists.

“Everything from opera signers in Houston to actors from Boston, to dancers from San Francisco and voice theatre people from Vancouver,” she said. “There’s this whole eclectic bunch of people.”

The program is self-directed and uses mentorship to allow artists to push the boundaries of their work.

Crawford is grateful for support she has received at home here in the Yukon as well, she said.

“It’s not as if I work on this stuff by myself all the time.”

She is a member of the Southern Lakes Artist Collective, a group of artists from Tagish, Carcross, Crag Lake and Whitehorse who support each others’ development.

She has used the Ted Harrison Artist Retreat to create much of her work, and is thankful for that space as well, Crawford said.

And Sandra Grace Storey, currently also exhibiting in Arts Underground, has served as a coach, keeping Crawford on track and reviewing works in process.

“There’s a lot of good people who pay special care and attention to keeping the artistic and the creative energy happening,” said Crawford. “And I think in a wide, sparse population it does take special effort to keep that going, rather than in a more compressed, dense place where you’re always sort of bumping into people. We drive for an hour or half an hour at 30 below to keep the connection and the linkages going, and I think that that’s really special.”

This is Crawford’s “summer to create art,” she said.

She already has a show lined up at gallery 22 at Triple J’s Music Cafe for September.

“I’m really excited to fill that space because they have taller ceilings, and it’s a really good space.”

The new show will likely have some structural and installation elements to it, but Crawford isn’t giving away all of her ideas just yet.

“It might have some pipes in it,” she said.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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