• Feature

How Inuit Artists Have Used Pantone’s 2021 Colours of the Year

Jan 08, 2021
by Jessica MacDonald

When Pantone chose Ultimate Grey and Illuminating—a pebbly grey and zesty yellow, respectively—as their 2021 colours of the year, they did so with the intention that the solidity and practicality of the grey and the warmth and optimism of the yellow would provide resilience and hope following a tumultuous 2020 whose effects will be felt long into this new year.

While many Inuit sculptures encapsulate the grey by virtue of their polished stone, the artists’ own resiliency in carving such a dense material and the enduring solidity of both the pieces themselves and their popularity reinforces how appropriate Ultimate Grey is as a metaphor for Inuit art.

It’s not just sculpture, however—Inuit artists have taken this grey and yellow across a wide variety of mediums, frequently using the yellow to illuminate the vitality of living things. In their appearances as a dynamic duo, this combination of solidity and optimism could be said to permeate Inuit art and artists, whose pieces endure and even thrive despite the barriers they face accessing materials and selling their work.

Keep scrolling to see for yourself the many ways Inuit artists have incorporated Illuminating and Ultimate Grey in their work.


Caroline Blechert
Silver Chandelier Studs (2020) Caribou hair, delica beads, birch bark, silver 3.25 x 1.2 in each
Courtesy the artist


Helen Kalvak
Sea Monsters (1969) Print
Courtesy IAF


Sakkiassie Anaja
Untitled (shaman) (c. 1970) Whalebone 17.5 x 12 x 9 in
Courtesy Marion Scott Gallery


Itee Pootoogook
A Young Lady Wearing Amouti (2010) Coloured Pencil 22 x 15 in
Reproduced with permission Dorset Fine Arts Courtesy Marion Scott Gallery © Itee Pootoogook


Mary Ayaq Anowtalik
Untitled (family group) (2000) Stone 28 x 19 x 11 in
Courtesy Marion Scott Gallery


Janet Nungnik
Northern Lights (inside the Iglu at Night) (2002) Wool felt, embroidery floss and beadwork on wool duffel 60 x 14 in
Courtesy Marion Scott Gallery


Tony Anguhalluq
Light Green and Dark Yellow with Cracky Separate with Three Broken Rocks with Hills (2006) Coloured pencil on paper 12 x 9 in
Courtesy Marion Scott Gallery


Couzyn van Heuvelen
Nitsik 11 (2019) Aluminum, steel, stainless steel, paint and aircraft cable 54″ x 18″
Courtesy Fazakas Gallery


Janet Kigusiuq
Untitled (people & dogs) (c. 1978) Coloured pencil and graphite on paper 22 x 30 in
Courtesy Marion Scott Gallery


Eldred Allen
untitled (morning frost) (2020) Digital photograph
Courtesy the artist


Elisapee Ishulutaq
Playing Ball (2016) Oil stick on paper 22.5 x 30 in
Courtesy Marion Scott Gallery


Bibi Chemnitz
Sermitsiaq Wool Sweater (2020) Lambswool and nylon
Courtesy the artist


Agnes Nanogak Goose
Two Decoys (1985) Print
Courtesy IAF


Ashley Kilabuk Savard
Sealskin and Silver Fox Earrings (2020) Sealskin, fox fur and silver
Courtesy the artist


Mike Massie
he had a wounded spirit (n.d.) Anhydrite, bone, ebony, mahogany, acrylic paint and brass 11 x 9.75 x 6.25
Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery


Thomassie Echalook
Composition (1973) Print
Courtesy IAF


Holly Andersen
Untitled (fox) (n.d.) Digital Photograph
Courtesy the artist


Henry Napartuk
Happy Fish (1973) Print
Courtesy IAF


Vera Hatogina
Hungry Owl (1988)
Courtesy IAF


Billy Gauthier
Shaman with Amulet (n.d.) Anhydrite, serpentine, labradorite, ivory and sinew 6 x 5 x 6
Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery


Nicotye Samayualie
Missing Tube Since February 13, 2016 (2016) Ink, oilstick and coloured pencil on paper 30 x 23 in
Reproduced with permission Dorset Fine Arts Courtesy Marion Scott Gallery © Nicotye Samayualie


David Tukatuk
Igloo (n.d.) Stone
Courtesy IAF


Mark Igloliorte
Kayak is Inuktitut for Seal Hunting Boat (2019) Acrylic on unstretched canvas


Aisa Alasua
Legend (1961) Print
Courtesy IAF


Jessie Oonark
Untitled (Four Women with Ulus) (1967) felt-tip pen on paper 27.9 × 45.7 cm


Joe Talirunili
Woman (1972) Stone
Courtesy IAF


Victoria Mamnguqsualuk
Vision (1996)
Courtesy IAF


George Arluk
Untitled (c. 1975) Stone
Courtesy IAF


Simon Tookoome
Two Shamans With Helpers Greeting Each Other (1990) Stonecut and stencil 19.5 x 25 in
Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery


Atoat Akitirq
Mother and Child with Qulik (1966) Stone
Courtesy IAF


Eva Talookie Aliktiluk
Figure (1993) Stone and beads
Courtesy IAF

Suggested Reads

Related Artists