Yukon artist offers textured take on the natural world

She calls her art "weird" and "crazy," but others would say "eclectic." Leslie Leong's newest show, Metal-stone-clay, explores natural textures through natural materials.

She calls her art “weird” and “crazy,” but others would say “eclectic.”

Leslie Leong’s newest show, Metal-stone-clay, explores natural textures through natural materials. She finds rainfall in a copper necklace and melting ice in a clay platter. Other pieces are shaped by small eruptions – fungus from the earth, kelp from the sea floor, seeds from pods where they had been held captive.

This show features works of clay, metal and gemstones as well as photography.

Some of the art is functional, as a mug, platter, or vessel, say. Some is wearable, as a necklace or ring. Some is simply art for art’s sake. Although at times it can be hard to tell the difference.

“Sometimes when I’m making something I assume that it’s more for just looking at,” said Leong in the Yukon Artists @ Work gallery space on Tuesday.

“For example, this crazy ring, I thought it was way too crazy, because it’s heavy.”

The ring is made of thick silver, with fungus-like growths from the top.

But it has sold already, and the purchaser has promised to wear it, said Leong.

“How do you ever know?” she asked.

Leong started her professional career as an artist taking photos in the Northwest Territories, where she lived for about 15 years before coming to Yukon five years ago.

Then and now, it is textures from the natural world that most capture her imagination.

“I kind of find something that I find interesting like a mushroom or a seed pod or whatever and I start exploring it,” she said.

She uses her camera lens as a tool to look at and deconstruct the world, to find and capture pieces of it that evoke a certain feeling.

“But I don’t really know what’s going to happen with that, it just kind of becomes embedded, I guess, in my subconscious. When I’m making something later, whether it be months or years or whatever, then it’ll seem to come out, just magically.”

Those natural textures make appearances in her ceramic pots and her jewelry.

Often it takes a while to figure out where they came from.

She made reclaimed copper necklaces with a motif of linked rings of different sizes before she knew that they came from the texture of rain hitting water.

She made a clay platter with smooth bumps and craters before realizing that the rippled surface was born from a melting ice cave on the shores of Atlin Lake.

Hanging in the gallery is a photograph printed on canvas, with yellow and greens and browns in a geometric array.

It turns out it’s a close-up shot of the seed pod of a lotus plant, just as the seeds begin to push their way out, but before the whole thing dries up and loses its colour.

It’s easy to see how the colours and shapes captured Leong’s imagination and pushed her to explore that texture in other ways.

(Her exhibit is not one for sufferers of trypophobia, an aversion to clusters of small holes and representations of them. The lotus seed pod is a common and powerful trigger for trypophobics.)

Clay is a new departure for Leong’s art.

It started with a tea pot workshop at Art’s Underground last year. That’s where those cup-like fungus – or perhaps bulbous kelp – shapes began to protrude from her work.

“When I did that, I thought ‘That’s pretty fun, I think I’m going to have to do some more of that,’” said Leong.

Just like those wonky growths, Leong won’t be held back by the limitations of any particular medium.

“I just want to explore and push it to whatever extreme I feel like doing it. I don’t want the material to try to restrict my creativity.”

Metal-stone-clay will be on display at Yukon Artists @ Work through Nov. 17.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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