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20 Carvers to Know in 2020: Ruben Anton Komangapik

Jan 14, 2020
by Jessica MacDonald

Although he carved sporadically as a child, Ruben Anton Komangapik became serious about art-making when he enrolled in the Jewelry and Metalwork Arts program at Nunavut Arctic College. Innovative, unique and surprising, his works bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary, mystical and physical. As a stone and bone sculptor and a member of the Metal Guild of Canada, Komangapik’s mastery of different mediums leaves him free to mix materials in unique ways, like laying metalwork or precious gems into stone and bone carvings. 

Komangapik’s paternal grandfather Joshua Komangapik, who played a leading role in his childhood in Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), NU, is one of the reasons Komangapik engages so frequently with Inuit spirituality and traditional mythology. His depictions of shamans and shamanistic activity are influenced by Joshua, who was known for his spiritual abilities within his community. Another factor is Komangapik’s determination to hold on to his culture. “When I’m lost in my art—I’m at home,” says Komangapik, a valuable immersion technique for someone like Komangapik, who has moved far from his birthplace and now resides in Quebec. 

Sedna shows Komangapik’s carving abilities with notoriously brittle whalebone, and his clever use of the texture of the material to depict individual strands of hair on Sedna’s head. The graceful arc of her tail belies the temperament indicated by the open mouth and staring eyes, showing both the tender and tempestuous facets of this notoriously stormy goddess.

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