Winter in Whistler means three new art exhibits 

Art Junction celebrates their new addition

By Shelley Arnusch

Who: Niina Chebry

What: Artist Reception

Where: art junction@function

When: Saturday Jan. 31, 3-6 p.m.

Growing up on a farm just outside of Edmonton, it’s understandable that painter Niina Chebry would draw inspiration from horses, cows and chickens.

But it wasn’t that easy. She had to travel the world to find it. Her bovine-themed works are not the sleepy-eyed Bessies lolling in Alberta pastures, but heady mythological beasts inspired by the sacred cows of Hinduism and ancient temple imagery in Indonesia. Her horses aren’t the high-stepping, mane-tossing narcissists from pre-teen fiction, but abstract suggestions.

"It’s funny, because when I was living on the farm I never painted cows," Chebry muses. "We raised Angus cows, but I never thought of painting them.

Instead the inspiration originated during a motorcycle trip into remote areas of Central and South America. She became infatuated with the iridescence and rich tones of the chickens in Amazonian villages, and the surreal images of "lost cows," wandering in the middle of nowhere or standing on the edge of a cliff.

"When I came back to Canada I kind of left that for a bit, but then a year later, I’m in India, and I had no choice. The cows were everywhere and they were so gorgeous, so I had to paint the cows," she says.

It’s horse imagery, however, that will dominate Chebry’s Whistler exhibit, opening this Saturday at the funky art junction@function gallery. Represented to a lesser extent will be her "east meets west" works, exploring ancient erotic Minotaur mythology, and literal sacred cows.

The ex-high school art teacher currently resides in Vancouver after extended stays in France, South/Central America, India, Indonesia and most recently, Japan. Vancouver’s damp climate, she says, has allowed her to continue exploring a palate of moss-inspired hues, something she first discovered in a more exotic locale.

"Two things really triggered my painting, moss and rust," says Chebry. "It kind of sparked when I was in Indonesia. Any kind of tropical climate like that, the moss is really amazing. You get anything from turquoise to bright mustard colours."

The Indo-inspired palate is only one side of Chebry. Her equine paintings represent her most recent work and show a more luminous, dreamy style.

Chebry chuckles at the suggestion she could be considered "chameleon-like."

"I work on themes simultaneously; it keeps my work fresh," she says. "When I start a new theme, my palate often completely changes. What will be interesting at this gallery is that you’ll also have a chance to view some of the work that was inspired from Indonesia, from the temples of Java – that palate is completely different from the horses."

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