Yukon chiefs' personalities 'shine through' in colourful paintings

Two Yukon chiefs have been painted by a travelling artist. Aquil Virani has been choosing Canadians to paint from coast to coast for a series which features inspiring women.

Artist from Montreal is painting a Canada-wide series of inspiring women

Chief Doris Bill of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation reacts to her larger-than-life portrait, revealed by artist Aquil Virani. The painting is part of a series of 'inspiring women' says the artist. (Provided)

Two Yukon chiefs have been painted by a travelling artist as part of a Canada-wide series of portraits. 

Aquil Virani is a painter from Montreal. He recently travelled to Yukon and spent three weeks as artist-in-residence at the Arts Underground Gallery. 

Virani has been choosing Canadians to paint from coast to coast for a series which features inspiring women. 

While in Whitehorse he painted Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill as well as Ta'an Kwäch'än Council Chief Kristina Kane.

A portrait of Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Chief Kristina Kane in bold colours is displayed at the Arts Underground Gallery in Whitehorse. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"I learned as I was walking around being a tourist, that both of the First Nations in the Whitehorse area had female chiefs," said Virani.

"So, as someone who is an artist and feminist and is creating a series of portraits of inspiring women I thought this would be a perfect collaboration," he said. 

Celebrating her

Virani's portraits are part of a series called #CelebrateHer which invites nominations. It will culminate with a gallery show in Montreal in March 2018, however both his Yukon portraits will remain in Whitehorse as a gift to the First Nations.

The paintings are done in acrylic and spray-paint in some very bold colours. The chiefs are painted in almost neon yellows, greens and blues.

"The colours I chose for the portraits were to be in line with the logos of the First Nations the chiefs represent," Virani said.

"In both Ta'an Kwäch'än Council and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation 's logos there is a prevalence of yellow as well as blues and reds and greens.

"The second consideration was tone and personality," said Virani.

"I don't usually like to use realistic skin tones because that can be a bit tricky with the politics of representation to get the exactly right skin tone. I tend to go vibrant with colours. In my interviews with people I got the expression the two personalities of the chiefs would shine through with the colours," he said.

Both paintings are large, measuring more than a metre across. 

Chief Bill has already received her painting and the second one of Chief Kane will be delivered after the gallery show wraps up on Friday. 

While in Yukon, Virani also did some public art such as asking for audience messages on sticky notes and incorporating those into a painting.

Some other of his portraits were recently collected in a series called Canada's Self Portrait at the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax.