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5 Innovative Artists Shortlisted for 2023 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award

May 19, 2023
by IAQ

Billy Gauthier, Maureen Gruben, Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona, Kablusiak and Ningiukulu Teevee have been announced as the shortlist for the Inuit Art Foundation’s Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award. These five dynamic artists are all in the running for the prestigious award, which comes with a $20,000 cash prize, a residency at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq in Manitoba, and a solo exhibition with accompanying catalogue and acquisition in partnership with WAG-Qaumajuq, scheduled for fall 2025. 

“These five artists represent what is so exciting about contemporary Inuit art,” said Dr. Heather Igloliorte, President of the Inuit Art Foundation (IAF) Board of Directors. “Though their practices are varied, they each have clear connections to their communities and they push forward what is possible for artists.”

As finalists, Gauthier, Gruben, Kabloona, Kablusiak and Teevee will each receive $5,000 and take part in a group exhibition at the WAG-Qaumajuq, Anaanatta Unikkaangit (Our Mother’s Stories), which also opened today in tandem with the shortlist announcement.

"The five shortlisted artists are adepts of expression and skill," says Dr. Stephen Borys, Director and CEO of WAG-Qaumajuq. "The diversity of mediums, styles and subject matter brought together by the Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award is an incredible opportunity to showcase contemporary Inuit art, a mission that WAG-Qaumajuq shares. We're thrilled to shine a light on the beautiful works by these exceptional artists."

These artists were chosen from a longlist of ten, which also included Manasie Akpaliapik, Deantha Edmunds, Glenn Gear, Gloria Inugaq Putumiraqtuq and Couzyn van Heuvelen. As part of the 2023 award’s expanded scope, each longlisted artist received $2,500 and was featured in a limited-edition archival-quality catalogue that was sent with the Spring 2023 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.

“I’m so pleased that we’re able to showcase even more artists this year,” said artist and IAF Strategic Initiatives Director Heather Campbell about the award’s expanded scope. “Being shortlisted for this award provides benefits for any artist, adding many varied opportunities for people to experience their work.”

The Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award was established at the Inuit Art Foundation in 2014 by a group of committed Inuit art supporters to honour the life and legacy of Kenojuak Ashevak, CC, ONu, RCA, who made significant contributions to the community and culture of Inuit art. The award celebrates contemporary Inuit artists and supports their growth by providing opportunities to expand their careers, reach new audiences and explore their artistic ambitions. “I think it’s a fitting way to keep Ashevak’s story alive and speak to the impact she continues to have on Inuit art today,” said Campbell.

KAMA’s expansion since inception is due both to the support of donors as well as partnerships with WAG-Qaumajuq and RBC Emerging Artists. Support from RBC Emerging Artists for the 2023 award cycle has led to the creation of the longlist and accompanying catalogue, as well as the shortlist exhibition and increased financial support for all the artists recognized.

“With deep appreciation for their outstanding creative expression, we are delighted to celebrate the five artists shortlisted for the Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award,” says Kim Ulmer, RBC Regional President. “The RBC Foundation, through RBC Emerging Artists, is honoured to elevate contemporary Inuit culture and create opportunities for diverse voices to flourish.”

“We're so grateful that the participating artists have more of a platform this year,” said Igloliorte. “So many people will be able to experience their work in person at WAG-Qaumajuq and the award will allow each artist to advance their practice, reach new audiences and create new work.”

About the Shortlisted Artists
A sculptor hailing from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL, Billy Gauthier is known for his mixed-media work. He creates composite sculptures from anhydrite, antler and other materials, which frequently depict Inuit cosmologies, contemporary social issues and his intimate relationship with the land. Gauthier won the Newfoundland and Labrador Art Council’s award for Emerging Artist of the Year in 2011 and in 2019 was the subject of a major mid-career retrospective, Saunituinnaulungitotluni | Beyond Bone, at The Room’s in St. John’s, NL.

Maureen Gruben is an Inuvialuk artist from Tuktuuyaqtuuq (Tuktoyaktuk), Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, who works to link community, land and pressing cultural and environmental issues in her art. Featuring a wide range of materials such as polar-bear bones, resin, cloth and steel, her creations meld installation, performance, textile art and sculpture. She was longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize in 2019 and the Sobey Art Award in 2021.

Mixing knitting and ceramics with printmaking and major textile works, Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona’s art combines symbolically Inuit objects and traditional stories, recasting them in modern, feminist ways. Based in Ottawa, ON, in 2022 this multidisciplinary artist had her first show at the Art Gallery of Guelph, worked with Google Pixel on wallpapers to celebrate World Indigenous People’s Day and designed a Canada Post stamp to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

A multidisciplinary Inuvialuk artist based in Calgary, AB, Kablusiak uses their work to push boundaries, treating contemporary Indigenous issues and mental health with a humour that extends empathy and solidarity. Kablusiak was shortlisted for the 2019 Sobey Art Award and the 2021 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award, and won the Gattuso Prize in 2022. Earlier this year, they were longlisted for the Sobey Art Award a second time.

Graphic artist and author Ningiukulu Teevee is best known for her storytelling abilities, made famous in whimsical, colourful and popular drawings and prints. Teevee is based in Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, where her work has been included in the annual print collection every year since 2004. In 2009 her debut children’s book, Alego, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for children’s illustration.

Save the Dates
The shortlist exhibition Anaanatta Unikkaangit (Our Mother’s Stories) will be on view at WAG-Qaumajuq from May 19 to November 2023.

The five shortlisted artists will also take part in virtual artist talks over the coming months, where they will discuss their practices, what they are working on now and their future plans. The first of these talks takes place on June 1 at 7 PM EST, and will culminate in a roundtable with all the artists in September. 

To reserve your spot for the artist talks, visit inuitartfoundation.org/kama.

The winner of the 2023 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award will be announced on September 22 at the opening of Gasoline Rainbows, the solo exhibition of 2021 KAMA winner Tarralik Duffy, at WAG-Qaumajuq.

Learn more about the KAMA 2023 shortlisted artists!


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