Pierre Aupilardjuk is a ceramic artist who works out of the Matchbox Gallery studios in Kangiqliniq (Rankin Inlet), NU. Aupilardjuk has worked at the gallery since its inception in 1987, taking on many roles in addition to studio artist, including instructor and assistant studio manager . From early on in his career Aupilardjuk was influenced by his father who was a renowned sculptor and respected community elder.
Familial relations are a common theme in Aupilardjuk’s work. In Two Friends Sharing Gossip (n.d.) the two figures are arranged in a convivial manner, standing towards each other and holding hands. Emerging from each figure’s parka are human faces turned at different angles and made up of different sizes. Through both the title and the work itself Aupilardjuk has created a fantastical narrative. It appears as though all the friends and family members the pair is discussing are present, aware and rising to the surface to join the conversation. All of Aupilardjuk’s works are similarly evocative and imaginative and seem to remind viewers that we bring our family or relations with us wherever we go.
Balance and technical elegance are also evident throughout Aupilardjuk’s practice in the sculptural forms of his vessels and the human and animals forms that claim space on their surfaces. Giving Thanks (2005) depicts three figures emerging from the top of a pot, each extending a qulliq (traditional oil lamp) in a different direction. The figures stand with a sense of purpose, offering warmth through the qulliit as well as through their welcoming expressions. From the lower half of the vessel human faces emerge just beyond the surface of the clay, gazing in every direction, visually balancing the work. The natural hues of the clay and the unique patterns and colours also add a sense of dynamism. The glazing and firing process gives the clay vessels their distinctive grey, black and brown tones as well as the unique patterns . As a whole the work offers a glimpse into the traditional knowledge, cultural values and shared knowledge that grounds Aupilardjuk’s practice and that he is thankful for . In this way Aupilardjuk weaves his own experience and history into the work.
In addition to collaborating with artists at the Matchbox Gallery in Kangiqliniq in 2016 Aupilardjuk travelled to Alberta to attend the Medalta Residency with other artists. Works that came out of this residency and subsequent collaborations have become the focal point of the touring exhibition Earthlings, which is currently travelling across Canada.
September 2016 - Artist residency at the Medalta International Artist in Residence Program
1.The Matchbox Gallery, Pierre Aupilardjuk, The Matchbox Gallery, accessed November 28, 2017.
2. Jim Shirley, “New Ceramics from Rankin Inlet”, Inuit Art Quarterly 21 no.1, Spring 2006, 10.
3. Shirley, "New Ceramics from Rankin Inlet," 10.