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This summer: two extraordinary Inuit artists, one incredible exhibition

January 8th, 2018

Kenojuak Ashevak. Large Bird from the Sun, 1979. Stonecut and stencil, 62.5 x 83.1 cm. Gift of Samuel and Esther Sarick, Toronto, 2002.  © Estate of Kenojuak Ashevak.

We’re celebrating the power of Inuit art by bringing together two extraordinary artists – Kenojuak Ashevak and her nephew Timootee (Tim) Pitsiulak – for this summer’s major exhibition Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak. Ashevak and Pitsiulak represent two generations of Inuit artists who have challenged us to respond to their art and the Inuit world view in new ways. Running from June 16 to August 12, the exhibition will be the first time Inuit art is showcased in the AGO’s largest exhibition space, the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion, and will be Pitsiulak’s first major gallery retrospective.

Hailing from Kinngait (previously known as Cape Dorset) Nunavut, Kenojuak Ashevak (1927–2013), an Order of Canada recipient, is known as the “grandmother of Inuit art.” She is famous for her fluid graphic storytelling and stunning use of magic markers. Ashevak heavily inspired Pitsiulak (1967–2016), who became a popular figure in Inuit art during his relatively short career for drawing animal figures with a hunter’s precision, and for capturing the technological presence of the South in the hamlet.

Tim Pitsiulak. Swimming Bear, 2016. India ink and coloured pencil on paper, 74.9 x 105.4 cm. Purchase, 2017. © Estate of Tim Pitsiulak.

To link the work of these artists to Inuit voices today, the AGO has invited Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage (MICH) project at York University as well as the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative (WBEC) to bring together a curatorial team comprising of Inuit artists and curators.

This team includes:

  • Louisa Parr Pootoogook (Kinngait)
  • Koomuatuk (Kuzy) Curley (Ottawa)
  • Taqralik Partridge (Kautokeino, Norway)
  • Jocelyn Piirainen (Ottawa)
  • Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Iqaluit)
  • Georgiana Uhlyarik, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art, Indigenous and Canadian Art Department, AGO
  • Anna Hudson, professor, York University and Principal Investigator of the Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage (MICH) project

“ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᖅᑏᑦ ᐊᖅᑯᑎᖃᖅᑐᑦ ᓴᓇᔭᐅᓯᒪᔪᓄᑦ ᐅᕙᑦᑎᓐᓄᑦ ᐃᓐᓇᑐᖃᑦᑎᓐᓄᑦ ᕿᓐᓄᐊᔪᐊᖅ ᐋᓯᕙᒃ ᐊᒻᒪ ᑎᒻ ᐱᑦᓯᐅᓛᖅ, ᑕᐸᐃᖅᓯᒪᔪᒍᑦ ᐱᔭᕇᖅᓯᒪᔭᖏᓐᓂᑦ. ᒪᓕᓐᓂᖃᕐᓂᖏᑦ ᐊᔾᔨᓐᖑᐊᖏᑦ, ᐱᓪᓚᕆᐅᔮᕐᓂᖏᑦ ᐊᒻᒪ ᐅᑉᐱᓇᑦᑎᐊᖏᓐᓂᖏᑦ, ᐅᕙᑦᑎᓐᓂ ᑭᖑᕚᕆᔭᐅᔪᓂᑦ ᓄᑖᓂᑦ ᐱᓕᕆᕕᖃᕈᓐᓇᑎᑦᑎᔪᑦ, ᐅᕙᑦᑎᓐᓄᑦ, ᐃᓚᑦᑎᓐᓄᑦ ᐊᒻᒪ ᓄᓇᓕᓐᓄᑦ ᐊᒻᒪ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᒐᕐᓂᑦ ᐱᓕᕆᖃᑦᑕᖅᑐᓂᑦ ᓯᓚᕐᔪᐊᒥᑦ,” ᐅᖃᖅᑐᖅ ᓛᑯᓗᒃ ᐅᐃᓕᐊᒻᓴᓐ ᐹᑐᕆ.

“ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᑕᑯᔅᓴᐅᑎᑦᑎᓂᐅᓂᐅᓴᔪᖅ ᓴᓇᐅᒐᖏᓐᓂᑦ ᕿᓐᓄᐊᔪᐊᖅ ᐋᓯᕙᒃ ᐊᒻᒪ ᑎᒻ ᐱᑦᓯᐅᓛᖅ ᐱᖃᑕᐅᑎᑦᑎᖁᒥᓇᖅᑐᖅ ᐊᒻᒪ ᐊᐱᕆᔭᐅᓗᑎᑦ ᑕᑯᔭᖅᑐᖅᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᐃᓱᒪᒋᔭᖏᓐᓂᑦ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᓴᓇᐅᒐᖏᓐᓂᑦ  ᐱᖃᑕᐅᓐᓄᑎᑦ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᖅᑎᐅᖃᑕᐅᔪᑦ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ, ᐊᒻᒪ AGO, ᑕᑯᔅᓴᐅᑎᑦᑎᓂᖏᓐᓄᑦ ᐃᓱᒪᒋᔭᐅᓯᒪᑦᑎᐊᖅᑐᓂᑦ ᓴᓇᐅᒐᕐᓂᑦ,” ᐅᖃᖅᑐᖅ ᐃᓚᒋᔭᐅᒃᑲᓂᖅᑐᖅ, ᔮᖦᓕᓐ ᐲᕋᐃᓇᓐ.

This exhibition is a new venture in collaboration and curating at the AGO and will feature a large number of works on paper (drawings, sketches and prints) by Ashevak and Pitsiulak, highlighting their immense creativity, confidence and artistic ambition. It will showcase works from the AGO Collection (the second-largest collection of Inuit art in the country), important pieces from Dorset Fine Arts (DFA), newly-commissioned work from contemporary artists, as well as significant loans from public, private and corporate collections, such as TD Bank Group’s Inuit art collection.

“Fundamental to the mandate of MICH and this exhibition project is the idea that cultural health – including Inuit traditions, culture and language – is the foundation of all well-being. Our aim is that this exhibition will showcase Inuit cultural health and resilience through visual, aural and performative expressions supported from within a major art institution. It will be a transformative curatorial process,” said Anna Hudson.

In November 2017, the curatorial team met in Toronto for three days of brainstorming, goal-setting, and research, where the foundations of the exhibition formed through stimulating and collaborative discussions.

“ᖁᕕᐊᒋᓚᐅᖅᑕᕋ ᓂᕈᐊᖅᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᐅᔪᖅ ᐱᔾᔪᑎᒋᓪᓗᒍ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᖃᕈᓐᓇᓚᐅᕋᑦᑕ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᓴᓇᐅᒐᖏᓐᓂᑦ ᐊᒻᒪ ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᐃᑲᔪᕐᓂᖃᓚᐅᖅᑐᖅ ᑐᑭᓯᑎᑦᑎᓪᓗᓂ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᓴᓇᐅᒐᖏᓐᓂ ᓯᓚᕐᔪᐊᒥᑦ,” ᐅᖃᖅᑐᖅ ᑕᑯᔭᒐᖃᕐᕕᓂᑦ ᑲᒪᔨᐅᔪᓂᑦ ᐃᓚᒋᔭᐅᔪᖅ ᑰᔨ ᑰᕐᓕ.

Art Gallery of Ontario Project Manager Hillary Taylor with curatorial team members Jocelyn Piirainen, Taqralik Partridge, and Kuzy Curley. Image by the AGO.

Curatorial team members Jocelyn Piirainen, Taqralik Partridge, and Kuzy Curley. Image by the AGO.

Art Gallery of Ontario Interpretive Planner Gillian McIntyre with Jocelyn Piirainen, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art, Indigenous and Canadian Art Department, Georgiana Uhlyraik, and Taqralik Partridge. Image by the AGO.

“Our visit in Toronto was an exhilarating chance to experience the art of Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak together, pay respect to the remarkable vision and accomplishments of these two artists and rediscover this area of the AGO Collection,” said Uhlyarik. “As the start of a brand new kind of curatorial partnership, I’m thrilled to see where we go from here.”

For more details on Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak click here.

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