The work of Yellowknife artist Nick MacIntosh, 46, is focused on the dark side.
He uses elements of the North — rocks, lakes, the Northern lights — and adds horror tropes and narrative techniques to re-imagine historical events and current events.
One example is his paintings based on the Giant Mine explosion that feature a balloon floating up a mine — a reference to the merchandise the mine used to hand out in the 1980s, but also a nod to Stephen King’s ‘It’, inflated greed, and the burst of the bubble economy that the mine provided until greed took over.
One of his most recent works is a series inspired by Atsumi Yoshikubo, the Japanese tourist who came to Yellowknife and went missing in Oct. 2014. Her body was later found in a wooded area at the edge of the city and her death was ruled by the RCMP as a suicide.
While some people might take offence at his work, MacIntosh is quick to point out that he does not condone suicide not is making fun of bad situations.
“I am not really commenting on the tragedy of her suicide that would be in poor taste. But rather I created a fictional narrative based on those events to produce a small series of works,” MacIntosh told Yellowknifer adding that he lived in Japan for six years and his wife is Japanese.
“I know a little about Japanese culture. According to some Japanese religions they believe that when a person dies suddenly or violently or by suicide their spirit can become anchored to the location in which they died, in this case Yellowknife. So I created a narrative for my northern horror paintings about her spirit or ghost haunting the location or surrounding location in which she died. In Japan usually when something like this happens they get a Shinto priest to bless the site so that the persons spirit can move on to the spirit realm.”
The use of the Hello Kitty image was not meant to be comical, explained MacIntosh.
“The narrative that I created for the paintings is meant to be a benevolent spirit guide bring the Japanese Tourist’s spirit or ghost out of her limbo and towards the afterlife,” said MacIntosh.
On Friday, May 13, MacIntosh hosted an art show, Ever Dark, at the Top Knight that was the culmination of three years of work. The response was wholly positive and he sold several artworks.
“I don’t expect everyone to understand my choices but as an artist you should follow what inspires you uncompromisingly or else you are cheating yourself creatively,” he said.
“The genre of horror has always traditionally been a platform to showcase or discuss taboos. And that’s why watching horror movies can be cathartic.”