Qavaroak Tunnillie (1928 –1993) was a prolific sculptor from Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU. After his mother, Ikayukta Tunnillie (1911 – 1980), found success as a graphic artist, Qavaroak soon discovered his own talents in carving. Interested in creating playful relationships between form and shape, Tunnillie’s works focus largely upon movement, fluid lines and clever compositions, employing open and negative space where possible.
Favouring depictions of animals, spirits and humans, Tunnillie’s subjects are characterized by rounded lines that flow smoothly from one extremity to the next . Tending to work on a grander scale, the artist’s sculptures are often comprised of a number of figures, intertwined with one another. Such complexities can be observed in Tunnillie’s piece Seamaids (1977). The carving depicts a mass of creatures in a tight embrace, their limbs and heads poking out from the pile, delineating separate bodies. Conveying a sense of movement within the stone, Tunnillie sculpts hair from one seamaid falling over another’s back, indicating a struggle for control as each figure seems to be slipping through the grips of another.
His work is included in many collections across North America, such as the National Gallery of Art in Ottawa, ON, and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Sculptures by Tunnillie have also been exhibited as part of [L’art inuit], shown throughout France from 1987-1992, and the Arctic Mirror from the Canadian Museum of History, among others.
1955-56: One of the nine Inuit craftsmen from Cape Dorset chosen to create and make the first mace of the Northwest Territories (NWT).
1. Jean Blodgett, “Qavaroak Tunnillie,” Grasp Tight the Old Ways: Selections from the Klamer Family Collection of Inuit Art, (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1983), 142.