March 12 – 28, 2009
Diane Farris Gallery, Vancouver
Northern Raven presents new paintings by artist Judith Currelly that draw attention to the intelligent and often humorous character of the raven, a strong presence in the far North.
As she writes, “The raven is a funny trickster and impossible to ignore.” Currelly captures the essence of this intriguing iconic bird in eight large semi-abstract canvasses. The works speak to the raven’s communication skills and valued place as an indicator of nearby caribou.
Through almost four decades of painting, Currelly’s spectacular images have demonstrated her reverence and passion for the land and people of the North. The raven, bear and caribou have always formed part of her work. In Living Systems (2005), she explored the interrelated conditions, patterns and structures that occur between land, sky, water and life forms. In Journeys (2007), she introduced the human figure and handwritten script to her landscape paintings, thereby gaining a new sense of narrative.
From the beginning of time, Raven has fired the imaginations of people around the world. He has affected our art, language, religion and science in countless ways. Many people now learn more about ravens through myth, fable and culture than through contact with nature.
To First Nations people of the Pacific North West, Raven was not only the Creator and Bringer of Light but also a clown, mischief-maker, trickster and shape-changer. To the Haida people, he was “Royal Chief” and “Great Inventor”, while the Bella Bella people knew Raven as “One Whose Voice Is to Be Obeyed”.
Early Europeans valued the raven as navigator, messenger and inspiration in battle and later, as a metaphor for emotions and ideas. He was also seen as a harbinger of doom and was thought to be the transporter of souls to the land of the dead.
Anyone who has lived in the North has a raven story to tell, usually one filled with admiration for their clever and humourous antics; ravens activating the light–sensitive street light in Whitehorse for a little heat on cold winter days; ravens working in pairs to tease and distract chained sled-dogs so they can steal their food; ravens “tobogganing” down steep snow slopes apparently just for fun.
I am grateful to Raven for inspiring these paintings.
Judith Currelley, 2009