Using paint to release trauma

Vancouver artist who paints as an outlet to free her emotions will have her first solo show, at Place des Arts in Coquitlam.

koralee used to paint as a child.

But she didn’t take up the medium seriously until four years ago, when an electronic music project she was working on in Los Angeles fell through.

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She was having “creative artistic differences” with the producer, so, to pass the time, she walked into the nearby Blick Art Materials store and told the clerk, “I would like to start painting.”

From the get-go, koralee eschewed traditional tools; rather, the self-taught artist primarily used parts of her body — her face, torso and back — to connect with her canvas, be it wood panel or paper.

Friday, she’ll unveil two years worth of work in her first solo show, titled Capacity, an acrylic exhibit that runs until Nov. 7 at Place des Arts (1120 Brunette Ave., Coquitlam); the opening reception is from 7 to 9 p.m.

Capacity — a term used in trauma recovery, referring to “the amount of stress that the body is able to tolerate before it goes into a flight or fight mode,” she said — is a collection created while koralee was in therapy.

She delved into somatic experiencing, a body-oriented approach developed by the American doctor Peter Levine for healing trauma and other stress disorders. koralee, who doesn’t reveal her surname or age, said her childhood was filled with sadness following the death of her 11-year-old sister in a tragic accident.

“It’s been something that’s been in my life that has affected me in an fairly momental way,” she said, noting addiction issues in her family also had an impact.

Through painting, she also explored transgenerational trauma and other deeply disturbing experiences that have shaken Canadians: the École Polytechnique massacre, First Nations residential schools, the opioid crisis.

By conveying her negative feelings with art, koralee said painting has become an outlet that allows her to feel free; the permanent mark is a way to acknowledge the past, and find change.

Healing, she said, is a journey.

Also opening Friday night at Place des Arts is Pacific Splendor (paintings and sculptures by Mat Holstrom) in the Atrium Gallery and Character Building (watercolour and ink paintings by Rose Kapp) in the Mezzanine Gallery. Call 604-664-1636 or visit

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