Inuit artist Pootoogook wins $50,000 Sobey Art Award

Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook, whose striking images show contemporary reality in Canada's North, has won the 2006 Sobey Art Award.

Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook, whose striking images show contemporary reality in Canada's North, has won the $50,000 2006 Sobey Art Award.

Pootoogook,37,of Cape Dorset, Nunavut, has been an artist for just nine years, but already has an international following.

"Annie Pootoogook's work reflects both the current moment of a specific tradition and of a contemporary drawing practice," jury members said in their citation.

"It comes from a point when Modernism is being re-examined and reflects the hybrid nature of contemporary life. There's really a lot to celebrate in the work of this artist."

Her drawings capture a shifting culture, where old customs still survive, but people are surrounded by southern goods, technology and media.

Modern depictions of whale hunting are hung alongside drawings of kids playing video games or watching TV.

The Sobey Art Award is an annual award of $50,000 meant to encourage young Canadian contemporary artists.

It is presented to an artist under 40 who has had a show in a public or commercial art gallery within the last 18 months. Pootoogook recently had a major show at Toronto's Power Plant.

Pootoogook was chosen ahead of four other contenders, each from a different region of the country:

  • Vancouver-based Steven Shearer, a multimedia artist whose paintings, collages, sculptures and installations have examined the themes of adolescent culture and the 1970s.
  • Don Mills, Ont.-born Janice Kerbel, an installation artist now based in London, England. Her work, which makes use of digital technology, has explored the themes of criminality and persuasion.
  • Quebec City-based collective BGL, comprising artists Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière, whose installations often deal with nature, the environment and social issues.
  • Halifax painter Mathew Reichertz, a runner-up for last year's RBC national painting prize and faculty member at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Pootoogook was born in 1969 into a family of artists in CapeDorset, a community that revolves around art.

She says she learned to draw from watching her grandmother, Pitseolak Ashoona, a giant of Inuit art, who used her work to tell stories and reflect a traditional way of life.

Her artist mother, Napachie Pootoogook, presented a wider, more contemporary range of subject matter.

Annie Pootoogook recently completed the Glenfiddich Artists in Residence Programme in Dufftown, Scotland, and has been invited to exhibit at the German art show Documenta in 2007.

She has been encouraged by the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative in Cape Dorset since 1997 and is represented by Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto.

An exhibition featuring the five finalists for the Sobey Art Award is at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until Jan. 7, 2007.