The National Capital Region has a very supportive art community; even so, the tightly-packed crowd at the AXENÉO7 Gallery was a sign that the opening of Floe Edge was a special event. The crowd included the artists and guests who had come to Ottawa for the Northern Lights Conference, as well as many locals who ventured out on a damp Tuesday night to see some of the best and most promising new work from the North.
Floe Edge is a sexy show. In the main exhibition space, images of snow and ice are contrasted with sealskin stilettos by Nicole Camphaug and a sealskin bikini by Nala Peter, both Nunavut-based artists. These wearable art objects provide a wry critique on Southern expectations of Arctic fashion; they are hung prominently in the gallery’s back window and lit seductively to pique the curiosity of outsiders.
Nicole Camphaug (Iqaluit), The Barree, 2016, dyed red harp sealskin with dyed black sealskin leather insoles, complete with carved caribou antler and narwhal ivory tusk pearls, 20.3 x 20.3 x 22.7 cm
COURTESY AXENÉO7, PHOTO JUSTIN WONNACOTT
Across the hall, Mona Netser’s iceberg-like structure Hunter with Kakivak (2015) commands attention both within the gallery and beyond. The hunter’s spear is held at the ready and points towards a large drawing of a polar bear consuming a walrus carcass, forming a dynamic arrangement of hunter and hunted. This dramatic scene can also be viewed from the exterior, and, like Peter’s sealskin bikini, is sure to get attention from passersby.
Raw Hide (2015), a drawing by Tim Pitsiulak, is rendered with a delicate softness that evokes the beauty of the hunt. Skillfully executed, the piece is in keeping with the sensual quality and rich materiality seen throughout the exhibition, from Lavinia Van Heuvelen’s ivory work to Mathew Nuqingaq’s engraved silver aayuraa (snow goggles).
The third and final room holds Gauge (2015), a collaborative video piece by Sarah McNair-Landry, Raven Chacon, Danny Osborne, Erik Boomer, Eric McNair-Landry and PA System’s Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson. The single-channel video, is looped and projected at a massive scale. The resulting installation envelops the viewer, impressing on them the scale of the Arctic landscape.
The grandeur of this scenery is also illuminated in the work of Niore Iqalukjuak. Unlike Gauge, Iqalukjuak’s photographs are constrained by diminutive dimensions, made all the more apparent by the substantial space in which they are hung. The juicy orange hues of Nilaktarvik (2014) make for one of the most memorable images in the show and the cumulative impact of seeing four of Iqalukjuak’s works leaves this Southerner wanting more—and desiring bigger. As photography, and in particular digital image making, becomes a medium that takes hold with Inuit artists, explorations of scale will be critical to consider when conceptually locating these works alongside the monumental drawings we have come to expect from Shuvinai Ashoona and others.
This is a review from the Spring 2016 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.
Tim Pitsiulak (1967–2016 Kinngait), Raw Hide, 2015, coloured pencil on paper, 76 x 112 cm
COURTESY DORSET FINE ARTS