Massage therapist makes her artistic debut

Alysha Clarke celebrated the launch of her first-ever exhibition on Thursday night at The Arts Station.

The Jaffray artist stood amid the many viewers who worked their way around the gallery, wowed by her unique style. Alcohol ink, she said, is a new medium she has fallen in love with; first of all because of the uniqueness and secondly the challenge.

The style creates an almost chaotic intricacy. As if it was on the surface of water, the ink spreads to create a liquid background. Through many layers of paint, and sometimes a coating of shiny resin, the paintings are brought to life.

For many years the artist has held onto her work, some of it collecting dust in her workshop. Finally, she decided that enough was enough – she was going to have a show.

“I’m so excited, I’m really so excited,” she said on Thursday. “It’s been an emotional day.”

Clarke explained that the theme of the show, Reflection of Spring, is a direct correlation to what she sees everyday on her property.

“We live out on an acreage, we have an old truck in our yard, I tend to gravitate towards that sort of thing. I really like it,” she said.

For the past 20 years, Clarke has been painting and started using alcohol two years ago.

“It is interesting to work with, it bleeds and moves and reacts, and it’s hard to control,” said Clarke.

“The whole thing is trying to learn how to control it. Once a drop of alcohol ink touches other ink, it just moves and blends and bleeds.

“The trick is to try and control it and still make something out of it.”

Using alcohol ink has proved to be a challenge for self-taught Clarke, who says she often has a hard time letting go when she paints. In the past, Clarke’s work, strictly acrylic, contained a painstaking amount of detail and required much fuss.

“I was more forced, with alcohol ink, to let go,” she said.

Alcohol ink can be obtained in many different ways – from simply buying bottles, to removing ink out of old printer cartridges or sharpie pens.

Clarke moved to Fernie at the age of 10 and says it’s hard to get used to finally having her artwork on public display.

“I think I only sold my first painting in the last year, so it’s happened really fast,” said Clarke. “I just always painted for myself. I just did it because I loved it.

“My husband came in one day to my art studio and said, ‘so, are we just collecting paintings and piling them against the wall? Is that the plan?’”

Clarke was motivated to put on the show after receiving an art grant through the Columbia Basin Trust.

“They allow you to dream up a project, work towards it and maybe give you the funds to do it in a way that you might never have (been able to),” she said.

“They’ve made it possible, I wouldn’t have even attempted it.”

Outside of her life as a painter, Clarke works full time as a massage therapist. Her clinic, located on Baynes Lake, is half massage parlour and half art studio.

“My next project that I have on my mind – I don’t know if it’s going to happen yet – but I want to meld my two worlds of massage therapy and art,” said Clarke.

Clarke hopes to replace all her posters of the human body in her studio, with her own rendition of the human form.

“The idea is to recreate these in a very artistic, cool way,” she said.

Clarke’s collection of work will be on display at The Arts Station until February 25.


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