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20 Carvers to Know in 2020: Mathew Ashevak

Jan 13, 2020
by Jessica MacDonald

Although only in his mid-thirties, sculptor Mathew Ashevak has over thirty years’ experience carving. How? He began carving at the age of five. Born in Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, Ashevak is from a highly artistic family. His father, Adamie Ashevak, is a noted carver, and his grandparents include sculptor Pauta Saila, graphic artist Pitaloosie Saila, and the legendary Kenojuak Ashevak.

Ashevak often focuses on shamans and transformation in his work. Known for his openwork carving technique and attention to detail, his pieces display a fluid sense of movement and purpose. Every curve is polished to perfection, an action suspended in stone by a master carver. 

Here, Ashevak’s drum dancer balances gracefully on two feet while leaning backward, presumably looking sideways at his audience. The solid black marble creates a strong juxtaposition with the ivory drum, which beckons in the figure’s outstretched arms. Although the hair is the only densely textured part of this sculpture, Ashevak has suggested folds in the parka at the figure’s waist through gentle rolls, mimicking the effect that would be created were a parka-clad human to pose this way. Ashevak enacts these subtle details with the same skill his drummer must perform his dance.