The walls are ablaze with colour, movement, passion and spirit, all to carry the message of this month’s featured artist at the Copper Moon Gallery; an invitation to take a walk.
Daphne Mennell’s new show Come for a Walk encourages a longing in people to step out and experience Yukon’s tranquil footpaths.
“Whenever I go into my studio I usually utter up a prayer of help,” she said.
Her bold, broad strokes coupled with subtle, delicate influences create an absorbing display that reflects her feelings on our need for quiet peacefulness and how wilderness should be respected.
“I have seen huge transformation in the landscape in the last 20 years,” she said. “It’s quite devastating.”
“Perhaps people don’t find a difference between one trail and another; between an ATV trail and a quiet footpath,” she mused
She believes that we are being “invaded” by noise and that many find quiet to be discomforting. Her conviction is that silence is a necessary thing in our lives.
She considered the dissimilarity between being on a noisy machine and walking quietly down a path – how on the vehicle one misses all the nuances of the experience that are provided by the senses; the smells, the song of the robin or the feel of the breeze on one’s cheek.
“The footpath, going by foot, really offers the total experience for us as humans to interface with nature in a way that’s really important,” she said.
She thinks that we humans focus on our own pleasure, on our own world and are not respectful enough of the things that we’re sharing it with.
The effect that the clamour humans create has on the animals and birds that inhabit the wilderness is of concern to her.
“The footpath, going by foot really offers the total experience for us as humans to interface with nature in a way that’s really important,” she said
“When we walk – we often work out problems that are underneath the surface. We get circulation and air into every part of our bodies.”
She spoke of being quiet, letting the elements touch us – feeling that we are a part of them, a sense of belonging to this world – and often a sense of a divine presence and influence upon our often ragged and care-worn souls.
Many go for a walk to find these things.
She believes that this is a very needed and precious part of our lives and thus there is a need to protect the simple small footpaths, not only for us but also for the wildlife whose reality is disturbed by those things mechanical.
“With these paintings, what I’m hoping is that they become an invitation for people to step outside and really try to experience the knowledge that comes through the soles of your feet, in your skin and in your ears,” she said.
Her voyage with colour – studying and challenging herself to learn more; how to layer colour, how to place one colour next to another – has been expanded in this exhibition.
It includes some examples of fauvism style paintings; that is, paintings that use colours in a unique way.
“Why I like exaggerating the colour is because of the fact that I’m trying to give a feeling of more than one sense,” she said. “When you’re actually going on a walk you have all your senses that are enriching your experience in making it come alive.”
Mennell says she’s still growing and learning. She believes this collection shows how she challenged herself and displays her personal growth.
“I think if you don’t feel like you’re growing, pretty soon it becomes dead,” she said.
Of late, Mennell has been recognized for her metal sculptures in Carcross and Whitehorse. However she has been painting much longer.
People that know her paintings for their “twisty poplars” will find a new and unique look to this exhibition.
“I definitely don’t want to be boxed in, either with medium or style,” she said.
Painting the forests around Haines, Alaska with their different leaves and undergrowth from what is found in the interior demanded more from her.
At the same time she found that painting the lush greens of the Alaska coastline along with a vibrant spring in the midst of a Yukon winter to be therapeutic.
One of the exceptional attributes of Mennell’s paintings is the feeling of motion she creates.
“I like to bring movement into my paintings,” she said. “It helps to direct your eye which is important.”
One piece, titled School Of Green And Blue Fish On The Seduction Trail, Haines Alaska is a painting with a view from the footpath into the forest. Shafts of light are streaming through the dense vegetation of the rain forest.
As she looked and imagined the forest in ebb and flow she began to realize a school of green and blue fish as though it were the sea.
“Once I saw the school of green and blue fish then it was quite easy for me to paint the foliage and to bring movement and dance into that picture.”
The title is intended to give the viewer an inkling as to how the painting was created.
The exhibition includes numerous canvases ranging from 16×16 to about 36×50 in a wide range of hues.
The opening reception is May 4, 2012 from 5-9 PM at Copper Moon Gallery in the McCrae Subdivision and includes music by Brenda Lee. The show runs through May.
This article was published May 4, 2012 in the Whitehorse Star.