Landscape in Inuit graphic art is usually defined by its absence. First generation Inuit artists commonly focused on the wildlife of the Arctic, traditional depictions of human life and on mythological legends, powers and creatures. If landscape was incorporated, it was often only to highlight these principal activities.
We have only seen pure landscape as the main subject of drawings in the last decade and a half. There might be many reasons for that. Western concepts of space were new and didn’t readily apply to the Inuit imagination.
Landscape itself probably was perceived to take away from the central image rather than enhancing it. It might have been that land, the physical environment, was always “there” whereas everything else (animals, food, tools and clothing for example) was scarce and had to be found or created and thus was more important, more noteworthy. Print making techniques also put a limitation on the artistic expression. With that in mind, these artists might have chosen to omit the land in order to have the ability to translate their drawings into prints later on.
Today, landscape has become an important inspiration and subject in Inuit drawings. Modern conditions, living in permanent settlements (and not on the land) and the exposure to western culture and art have likely played a role in this. Re-imagining the past as well as the current environmental issues in the Arctic also might have made landscape more precious. At the same time the sources of food, the process of hunting animals and the necessary items to survive which make up a large part of traditional Inuit graphic art, have become more readily available. While the wonderful interpretations by artists from different artistic generations that we have included in this exhibition won’t give us a definite answer, they certainly make us excited to explore and see more of this new facet of Inuit graphic art.
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