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Bringing the North to the AGO

June 29th, 2018

Sculptor and Curator Koomuatuk Curley speaking in front of a Tim Pitsiulak work

Co-curator Koomuatuk Curley inside Tunirrusiangit, Image by the AGO.

Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak ­celebrates the artistic legacies of “the grandmother of Inuit art”, Kenojuak Ashevak, and her nephew, Tim Pitsiulak, and the impact of their work on contemporary Inuit culture. The exhibition, which is getting rave reviews, is on now in the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion – the first time Inuit art has been showcased in the museum’s largest gallery space. It’s also the first time an AGO exhibition has been co-curated by four Inuit artists.

Tunirrusiangit co-curator Koomuatuk (Kuzy) Curley helped bring the voices of the artists’ families into the exhibition. Koomuatuk is Tim Pitsiulak’s nephew and he comes from the same area of the North as Pitsiulak and Ashevak, Kinngait (formerly known as Cape Dorset). Koomuatuk is also a celebrated sculptor. Art is in his blood – he’s a third generation carver in his family.

Like Pitsiulak, whose work features scenes of hunting trips and harvested animals, Koomuatuk considers himself equally an artist and hunter. For Tunirrusiangit, Koomuatuk moved his eye behind the camera lens. In Kinngait, he interviewed members of the artists’ families to add first-hand testimonies to the exhibition. Watch the videos below to learn more about the artists and their lives in the North.

Koomuatuk spoke to Silaqqi Ashevak, Kenojuak’s daughter, about visiting the South with her mother, her favourite piece by Kenojuak, and her thoughts about Tunirrusiangit.

Koomuatuk also interviewed Mary Pitsiulak, Tim Pitsiulak’s widow, about the importance of hunting in the North, and Pitsiulak’s legacy in the Kinngait community.

We spoke to Koomuatuk to hear more about his experience organizing the exhibition, his connection to Tim Pitsiulak and what he’s working on now.

AGO: What was it like working on Tunirrusiangit?
Koomuatuk: It’s been really great. I’ve never worked on a big scale like this. It was important to have a curatorial team of Inuit from Nunavik, Nunavut, and from down South. I’ve learned a lot. Working with a big institution like this opened doors for me. I don’t know what’s next but I’m excited.

AGO: What are your memories of Tim Pitsiulak?
Koomuatuk: I didn’t meet Tim until 2004, but he knew me as a little boy. We were at the Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik, that’s where we met. When I went to (Cape) Dorset a few years ago, he invited me to his house to have country food. We didn’t really talk about art because it’s just normal for us, being artists. We just never talked about art because we talked about something else, like hunting.

AGO: What are you working on now?
Koomuatuk: I’m working on a monument in Woodlawn where I live. It’s a seven-foot polar bear. I’m on my second year on this project, and it’ll take another two more months. It’s going to a private home here in Toronto.

Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak is free with General Admission, and runs until August 12.

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