• Feature

5 Perspectives on Ningiukulu Teevee’s Expressive and Colourful Prints

Jul 24, 2023
by IAQ

If we were to create a word cloud based from what people have to say about 2023 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award shortlister Ningiukulu Teevee’s work, the biggest words to stand out would be “unique,” “humour,” “distinctive” and “appealing.” She’s a prolific creator who has a broad range of work that is always instantly recognizable as her own. Inuit Art Quarterly’s Tauttunnguait, Napatsi Folger, spoke with five curators, gallerists and Inuit art scholars to learn more about what makes Teevee’s work so universally intriguing.  

Blue Walrus Ning Teevee

Ningiukulu Teevee Aiviq Tungujuqtaq (Blue Walrus) (2010) stonecut, stencil  62 x 76.4 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
Georgiana Uhlyarik
I first saw Ning’s work on the cover of Inuit Art Quarterly's Winter 2014 issue. The Ning piece featured was Aiviq Tungujuqtaq (Blue Walrus) (2010). She has such a distinctive drawing style and she often revisits certain subjects and the things she's really interested in like walruses and owls, so when you see them they are so absolutely her. This past January in France, I walked by a museum and it featured this big Ning poster. I recognized her work right away. When you see it, you just know that it’s one of the images that has come out of her really incredible and beautiful imagination.

We just had the show [Ningiukulu Teevee: Chronicles for the Curious] at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) that Taqralik Partridge curated. So much is in each one of Ning’s images. With very few lines or colours, or even shapes, she captures a whole world or event in an immediate way.

She always puts in something that another Inuk can recognize, and they know that it is for them. You are attracted by her striking images and composition, but then the more time you spend with each work, you realize that she's also giving you this narrative. That’s my favourite thing about Ning’s work: the more you live with it, the more you get out of it because she puts so much in it to begin with. The story is just so full.


Georgiana Uhlyarik, who nominated Ningiukulu Teevee for the Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award, is Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art, and co-lead of the Indigenous + Canadian Art Department at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She works collaboratively with artists and curators from across the Americas and Europe with a focus on women artists. Uhlyarik is adjunct faculty in Art, York University and University of Toronto. Originally from Romania, she lives in Toronto with her twin sons.

Caribou in Bloom(2010) Ningiukulu Teevee
Ningiukulu Teevee Caribou in Bloom (2021) linocut and hand colouring 48.26 x 35.56 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST

Emily Lawrence

I have loved Ningiukulu’s work for years but I only met her for the first time this past April at the AGO artist talk she did. She's a very wise woman and she spoke about her work very eloquently. She conveys these stories and myths in her work in such playful and smart ways—she takes a myth and brings humour into it. There are these little hints of her sense of humour in almost all of her work.

I own one print by her, from the 2021 Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection. It's called Caribou In Bloom. It’s a linocut and it was done mostly in black and white. The print depicts a caribou and the antlers are tree branches and there are little berries growing on them. I would say it's not as typical of her style as other works but, as always, there's a little hint of humour. She's so good at reflecting the current moment, while also paying tribute to traditional stories.

We have shown a lot of her work at Feheley Fine Arts and I would say she's one of our most sought-after artists and she is consistently so. Her work appeals to such a wide audience, from older collectors to collectors new to Inuit art. A lot of people think art is supposed to be beautiful, which it is, but it can also be fun. And I think that that's an important part of Ning’s work. The lightheartedness of it is just a really wonderful thing.


Emily Lawrence is the Editorial Manager at Feheley Fine Arts in Toronto. Alongside her colleagues, she coordinates gallery exhibitions, art fairs, catalogue texts and more. Feheley Fine Arts has been promoting Canadian Inuit artists for over 60 years, notably championing the work of contemporary art stars including Annie Pootoogook, Tim Pitsiulak and Shuvinai Ashoona.

Heading Home Ningiukulu Teevee
Ningiukulu Teevee Heading Home (2022) lithograph 38.1 x 41.4cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
Michelle LaVallee

I first encountered Ningiukulu Teevee’s work while researching for an exhibition about a decade ago. My family and I also have the pleasure of seeing a piece by her every day (as do many others during virtual meetings) hanging in my office. While I have not yet had the privilege to meet her in person, I have included Ningiukulu’s work in exhibitions at the MacKenzie Art Gallery and at the Indigenous Art Centre; her work is also in the collection at the National Gallery of Canada—often on display in the galleries or requested for loans (including in an upcoming international project.) 

I am always taken by the unique way she sculpts her figures and forms, in compositions that work with negative space to highlight the imagery and draw you in. Ningiukulu has an extraordinary body of work that speaks to so many different themes, legends and everyday experiences—whether they be a mother in the rain with her babe tucked in tight under her hood, Arctic char appetizers, figurative transformations or the showing of tattoos—she captures these moments in a touching and heartfelt manner.


Michelle LaVallee is a mother, a curator and currently holds the inaugural position of Director, Indigenous Ways and Curatorial Initiatives at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Previously she led operations and programs delivery including loans, exhibitions and acquisitions as Director, Indigenous Art Centre at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. Her curatorial practice often explores the colonial relations that have shaped historical and contemporary culture through numerous exhibitions, notably: Radical Stitch (2022–2024); 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. (2013–2016); and Moving Forward, Never Forgetting (2015).

Ningiukulu Teevee Caribou Legs (2010) Stonecut 81.3 x 60.9cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
Robert Kardosh

The first show that we did of Ning’s work at Marion Scott Gallery was around 2010 and it was one of her first solo shows. My mother and I were both really struck by her drawing. The patterning in her work was very interesting to me. It was a little more abstract, and mostly monochromatic. It was clear that she was looking at nature for her inspiration, but seeing the abstract patterns within nature and then translating those to the page was very delicate. We even called the show Patterns from Nature.

Many of the artists from Kinngait are very individual, but they're working within a tradition that's been created over the years: that tradition of drawing on paper and looking at Inuit subject matter. I see Ning Teevee as one of one of these great artists from that community that can work within that tradition, but still maintains her own voice. When you see one of her drawings, you don't mistake it for somebody else's, it's definitely hers.

But it just comes back to that patterning for me—it's visually very interesting. She'll show an object or an animal and you get the sense of that amazing volume, but then the actual surface of that animal is flat patterning. It's quite remarkable the way she does that. It's a very interesting formal approach that is completely unique; I can't really think of other artists in the community who do it quite like that. 


Robert Kardosh is Director and Owner of the Marion Scott Gallery, where since 1990 he has curated solo and group shows by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadian artists. A specialist in the field of Inuit art, he has written numerous articles and essays on artists such as Shuvinai Ashoona, RCA, Oviloo Tunnillie, Nick Sikkuark and Jamasee Pitseolak. He is the author of Glory and Exile: Haida History Robes of Jut-ke-Nay Hazel Wilson, published by Figure.1.

Ningiukulu Teevee Fish Soup (2011) Lithograph on paper 32.5 x 33cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
Krista Ulujuk Zawadski

The first time I met Ningiukulu Teevee was in 2018 when Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq Inuit art curator Darlene Coward Wight did an exhibition of Ning’s work at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. That was my first deep dive into her work. The Canadian Embassy show was a four- or five-day trip and it was nice to just chat with her, but also to hear an artist's perspective on these kinds of events. She would speak Inuktitut to our group and was very candid and open about how she was feeling. 

There's such a range in her work on one hand, her content makes it easy for Inuit to connect with it because it's depicting our life. It represents what we do and our perspective. Like her piece Fish Soup: I’ve eaten that soup, I knew what it was right away. But then on the other side of the spectrum, her style is so unique and it's so cool. She mixes different ideas and themes, like a bird wearing a high heel! It’s universally appealing. 

She brings a lot of nostalgia into her pieces and contemporizes it so that it's really appealing for a lot of Inuit—because so many of us have one foot in the past and one foot in the future. we're almost standing in between. A lot of Inuit use tools or materials that our relatives used, items from the 1950s and ’60s that we still use at the cabin, or for fishing. That's what I mean about that nostalgia… but then Ning’s work is also really contemporary and cool. It’s appealing to so many generations in that way. When you see an artist making art that appeals to Inuit, it’s hard to describe the joy that brings.


Krista Ulujuk Zawadski is from Igluligaarjuk and Kangiqliniq, Nunavut. As an Inuk curator, anthropologist and scholar, Krista’s outlook, research and work are deeply rooted in her upbringing in Nunavut. Spending time with cultural materials in homes and in museum collections, Zawadski uses piqutiit as a catalyst to foster engagement between Inuit knowledge holders and younger generations. Zawadski was a co-curator for INUA, the inaugural exhibition at Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq.

Read more about the other shortlisted artists.


The Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award is made possible through the support of individual donors and RBC Emerging Artists.

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