A powerful collection of drawings from Canada’s North on display in Victoria for the first time will challenge expectations of Inuit art, says Michael Warren, owner and director of Madrona Gallery where they’ll be on display Nov. 5 to 19.
The exhibition, called Contemporary North, features drawings by six Inuit artists from Cape Dorset (on the southern tip of Baffin Island), Nunavut, home to Kinngait Studios and the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op — the oldest print studio in Canada, established in 1959.
“The drawings were primarily used as basis for prints,” says Kate Vasyliw, head of drawings and prints at Dorset Fine Arts, the Toronto based marketing office for the co-op.
“It’s only in the last 10 to 15 years that there’s been much more interest in drawings as a contemporary art form, and not just for prints. The print collection, released every fall since 1959, is a huge deal here in North America and across Europe.”
But the creations may not be quite what you expect Inuit art to be. These drawings have become the contemporary focus of Kinngait Studios, where it has traditionally been on stone-cut prints and carvings. The drawings tend to focus less on traditional iconography, legend or wildlife and more on telling the real story of life in the North.
“I think that generally people have a certain preconception of what Inuit art looks like and a lot of these drawings that are being created now are so completely different that I think it does take people by surprise,” says Warren who was introduced to the drawings when he went to visit Dorset Fine Arts on a buying trip.
“It really sparked my enthusiasm and made me want to share it with everyone else in Victoria,” says Warren. “I think it will change people’s expectations of what they’ll see in Inuit art especially in terms of iconography. That’s definitely my main motivation for doing the show, just having that flip of expectation and showing that there is such an amazing range of work coming out of that community.”
Contemporary North features the art of Shuvinai Ashoona, Qavavow Manumie, Tim Pitseolak, Itee Pootoogook, Ningeokuluk Teevee and Jutai Toonoo. The opening reception is Sat, Nov. 5 from 1 to 4 p.m. Vasyliw will be giving a talk about the artists and the co-op. M
Drawings from Cape Dorset at Madrona Gallery, Nov. 5 to 19
Opening reception: Sat, Nov. 5, 1 to 4 pm