In the 1920’s, ethnographer Knute Rasmussen spent considerable time among the Netsilik Inuit communities that are located on the Boothia Peninsula high in Canada’s arctic. In his numerous interviews, recurring themes were fantastic creatures that the Inuit described. After quite a bit of encouragement Rasmussen was able to get several of these individuals to put pen and pencil to paper and illustrate these beasts and demons that peppered their stories and their dreams. Many years later these manifestations of legends and dreams found expression in stone and bone.
The artists who were at the forefront of this groundswell of creativity have names that lovers of Inuit art instantly recognize. Karoo Ashevak is the first among these. His career was all too brief and we are very privileged to have a superb example of his art in the magnificent shaman figure in whalebone, his favorite medium. In the intriguing complex of Inuit family relationships, Karoo’s uncles Charlie Ugyuk, Judas Ullulaq and Nelson Takkiruq have also established reputations and we are delighted to have fine examples from this trio. We have been most fortunate to acquire three works by Charlie Ugyuk, showing the range of his incredible talent. The word exquisite sums up the delicate winged shaman figure, contrasted by the sinuously powerful demon figure. In a complete change of mood is the seal, floating on bubbles of air beneath the sea. Judas Ullulaq’s sculptures are inevitably filled with his characteristic humour. His lucky fisherman looks both elated and totally surprised to have actually caught a fish. Contrast this with the haunting, eerie quality of the snaggle toothed head and the life and death urgency of the two men struggling, knives at the ready. We were only able to obtain one work by Nelson Takkiruq, the delightful roaring bear shaman. Although these very talented individuals died within months of each other, their legacy remains in their exceptional works of art.
Fortunately, talent seems to abound in the Netsilik of the Kitikmeot region, as we are graced with tantalizing works by both well established artists as well as those more recently on the scene. To cite but three, please note Bob Konana, whose style is immediately recognizable as is that of Uriash Puqiknaq and his son Wayne Puqiknak. Another artist, Andrew Palongayak has been creating works that are inspired by artists of the past while forging a style of his own. The expression of the Netsilik endures.
Please join us in this celebration of Netsilik Vision.