Photo by Christian Kuntz Photography



Ken Anderson, born and raised in the Yukon, is of Tlingit and Scandinavian descent. This accomplished carver and painter, who loves ‘starting a piece, solving a space, having a piece look back at you’, has a large body of contemporary carvings, and has participated in repeated solo and group exhibitions at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Indeed, two of Anderson’s works on canvas are highlights in the Yukon Arts Centre Permanent Collection and are on display in the lobby of the Centre.

Mind, Body and Spirit and Each Other, both of 2004, are large scale abstracted paintings demonstrating the classic Tlingit stylistic features of bold black lines and red, green and blue forms. Indeed, Anderson says that he has a ‘preoccupation with line and details’.

Each Other, 2004, acrylic on canvas, 3ft x 7ft

Anderson has taken traditional forms, composition and style but modified them to fit a contemporary framework. Mind, Body and Spirit and Each Other were painted with acrylic on canvas, a traditional manner of pictorial representation in the Western Art Tradition. Anderson, whose favorite artist is the modern abstract sculptor Henry Moore connects with the language of the contemporary art world and creates aboriginal artwork suitable for exhibition in contemporary galleries today.
Still, Anderson is deeply engaged with the traditional values underlying aboriginal art making. The notion of a spiritual realm, ancestry, legends and mythology are all present in Mind, Body and Spirit.

The mind is the component at the bottom left of the painting, the body is portrayed by the red component and the spirit is portrayed by the bluish green component. The spirit is painted in the negative (the area usually painted is left unpainted). In this way, I felt I could represent the spirit as a concept that was open to the viewer’s notion of spirit. The two smaller components to the top and bottom of the spirit are the representations of what it is that makes the spirit soar. - Ken Anderson

Mind, Body and Spirit, 2004, acrylic on canvas, 3ft x 7ft

Indeed, Anderson is an expert at rendering the style of the old masters of northwest coast art. He has worked with the Tlingit master carver Stan Bevan, and has studied design since 1990 through ‘self-study of old pieces’ in the collections in the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver and various other museums in the United States with large collections of northwest coast art. These designs focus on flow, balance and abstracted forms.

I believe that the northwest coast art form is one of the most advanced art forms to ever exist. When you look at the works of the old masters there is nothing that seems wrong. You get the feeling that the possibilities are endless. The design elements offer abstraction and realism at the same time. This art form is like a language that when spoken well transcends the sum of the parts. I believe that it is the duty of every artist to expand their visual vocabulary through what already exists but also through the exploration of their own ideas. For me it is necessary to respect the past, present and future of this art form by continuing to learn, continuing to develop my skills and to push the limits of my imagination.
-Artist Statement, Foundation Exhibition, Curated by Scott Marsden at the Yukon Arts Centre 

Anderson believes in the life of the object and of the idea, and does not limit the evolution of their forms and characters.  His dream project would exist ‘without budget and /or size constraints’. As a professional artist he speaks the language of northwest coast art, and is able to skillfully express ideas and stories of that culture.  ‘All I ever really wanted to do was to create’, says Anderson, who has become quite an accomplished artist and continues to grow, learn and develop the products of his imagination. ‘I could not ask for more.’