On March 1st, 2022, the Canadian Council for the Arts awarded David Ruben Piqtoukun
and five other artists the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts Artistic Achievement, honouring the artist’s excellence in his career and his contribution to visual arts in Canada. He was nominated for the award by Judi Michelle Young, President of the Sculptors Society of Canada and Director of the Canadian Sculpture Centre.
Piqtoukun, who is from Paulatuk, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, is well known for his sculptures and printmaking, which he uses to explore Inuit legends and mythology.
“I collect the stories from [my] childhood. We used our imagination when we heard the stories, and for me I was fascinated,” he says about his work in a portrait video by the Canadian Council for the Arts. “When I’m carving it, the stone tells me…I have a dialogue with the material.”
Piqtoukun’s first solo exhibition was in 1973 at Arctic Arts Limited, and he has had many solo exhibitions since, including a major show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) in Manitoba in 1997 called Between Two Worlds: Sculpture by David Ruben Piqtoukun
. He exhibited at Expo 1986 at the Northwest Territories pavilion and in 1989 was appointed to UNESCO's Canadian Committee for the World Decade of Cultural Development.
“Since the early 1970s, Piqtoukun has consistently retained the most important element in his work by focussing on his Inuit heritage,” said Young in a press release. “He is a leader, with progressive innovations of contemporary works incorporating Brazilian soapstone, Italian alabaster, marble, steel and bronze. In exploring the human condition, Piqtoukun’s work speaks of and to people’s resilience. Through his work, he inspires, mentoring the younger generation with poignant narratives.”
Piqtoukun has been featured in many previous issues of Inuit Art Quarterly
, gracing the cover for the Fall 1994, Summer 1997, Winter 2003 and Spring 2007 issues. He also served as a board member for the Inuit Art Foundation from 2011 to 2014.
Piqtoukun has works in permanent collections nationally and internationally, including at the WAG, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, ON, and the Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich, Germany.
“Storytelling in our culture, and in different places around the world, is passed down from generations, interpreted and reinterpreted,” says Piktoukun about his artistic oeuvre. “The artist’s job is to embellish it.”