Igloos on the roof. Subartic temperatures outside. And inside, some really great art.
Jessie Oonark (Baker Lake), Woman, 1970, stonecut on paper
The Winnipeg Art Gallery is holding a free public opening for Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art
on Friday, January 25. The WAG is home to the largest collection of
contemporary Inuit art in the world - more than 13,000 works.
always something to celebrate, but with recent announcements about the
purpose-built Inuit Art and Learning Centre that's due to break ground
in 2014, and with the WAG's ongoing centenary bash, it's the right time
for a comprehensive exhibition of Inuit art.
This ambitious show spreads across several galleries in a
chronological arrangement that traces modern Inuit art from its early
era in the 1950s right up to today. There's a ton of background info
here, thanks to the scholarship of long-time Inuit curator Darlene
Coward Wight, but what hits first is the immediacy and vitality of these
works. They can't be relegated to some sub-category of contemporary
One of the first Inuit prints, Caribou
by Joseph Pootoogook (1958),
offers keen insight into the natural world--the two feeding animals seem
to embody the essence of caribou-ness--along with elegant and succinct
aesthetic stylization. That combination is common.
Karoo Ashevak (Taloyoak), Shaman, 1971, whale bone, plastic, stone, sinew
In the expansive
1970s, Jessie Oonark uses punchy graphics and clear, bright colour to
create her iconic Woman
(1971), an experimental
mixed-media sculpture from the fabulous Karoo Ashevak, captures the
artist's offbeat, googly-eyed expressiveness. (Karoo's influential
international career was tragically cut short by his death in a house
fire at age 34.)
Many works depict legends of shamans and spirits.
Others portray traditional life on the land, with men skinning ducks or
mothers carrying children in their hoods. But there are also airplanes,
snowmobiles and satellite dishes, hinting at the tremendous pace of
social and technological change in Canada's arctic.
By 2000, these
rapid shifts are expressed through new directions in art. Annie
Pootoogook, who became a crossover art star in the south, uses detailed,
matter-of-fact coloured-pencil sketches to depict daily life in
contemporary northern communities. She often includes dark strains of
alcoholism, abuse and isolation, as seen in Man Hitting Woman
(2000-2001). Passersby on the snowy road hurry on, pretending not to
Tim Pitsiulak (Cape Dorset), Timoon Drawing Timoon Drawing, 2010, coloured pencil on black paper
In a brilliant juxtaposition of form and content, Jamasie
Padluq Pitseolak's Chopper
(2007) uses smooth, shiny, deep-green stone
(so often associated with traditional carvings of polar bears or
walruses) to construct a motorcycle. Tim Pitsiulak gets all
self-referential in Timoon Drawing Timoon Drawing
(2010), a witty
Most of these pieces are made from stone and
bone or paper and ink, but the exhibition also features some films,
from the Stories From Our Land
series and from the Nunavut Animation
Lab. Film has become an important northern medium, especially since the
critical and commercial success of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
part of the show's related programming, there will be an Inuit film
night tomorrow, with a screening of Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of
by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril.
The free public opening of Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art
is January 25, 7:00-10:00 p.m. The exhibit runs till April 14.