Piling on the paint

Jennifer Walden doesn't skimp on paint. She heaps acrylic on canvas with a thick pallet knife, same as you'd use to lay drywall, until it bulges from the canvas.

Jennifer Walden doesn’t skimp on paint.

She heaps acrylic on canvas with a thick pallet knife, same as you’d use to lay drywall, until it bulges from the canvas.

The Yellowknife artists’ renderings of northern landscape and animals have already proven wildly popular in Whitehorse, with 11 of her 13 paintings quickly selling out at the Copper Moon Gallery in the past month.

Tonight, a new show of her work, called Wild Spirits, opens at the gallery, with a reception that runs from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.

The opening will be Walden’s first visit to Whitehorse. She’s excited to be here.

“I’m getting all this support from a place I’ve never been,” she said.

Walden, 34, grew up in Muskoka, Ontario, and moved to Yellowknife seven years ago. She ran sled dogs for a stint, then began painting professionally.

Her painting of a caribou herd is currently featured on Northwestel’s phonebook in the Northwest Territories, and her work has been on display in a number of exhibits in Yellowknife and in Inuvik, but this is her first out-of-territory exhibit.

Her paintings feature expressionistic bursts of bright colours that capture the tundra changing colour or northern lights flickering green in the night sky.

But what’s unusual about her work its texture.

At times she challenges herself to see how much her work can jut from the canvas, treating the work almost as if it’s sculpture, she said.

Besides heaping on paint, she further boosts the volume of her paintings with gels and molding pastes.

And unusual crinkles are created by laying plastic wrapping or grocery bags on wet paint. “When I pull it off I get all kinds of patterns,” she said.

What results is a rendering of a lumbering polar bear with a coat so thick it looks like it must be on loan from a woolly mammoth.

Or, in another painting, a dark-blue raven stands against a glowing orange sky that bustles with kinetic energy from abstract jags of gel.

Walden has never encountered a polar bear firsthand, but she thinks she could only paint one while living in the North.

“I’d have a lot of trouble painting a polar bear in Ontario,” she said. “It’s about the subconscious.”

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

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