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How Tim Pitsiulak’s Work is Connected to the Land

Uqallaqatigiinngniq: Sharing Voices

Sep 24, 2021
by Kale Sheppard

Tim Pitsiulak was born in Kimmirut, NU, in 1967 and was inspired by his aunt, Kenojuak Ashevak CC, RCA, (1927-2013) to begin drawing early on as a child. Despite dabbling in sculpture and being trained in jewellery making, Pitsiulak primarily focused his efforts on printmaking and drawing. He first reached acclaim with his print Caribou Migration (2005) shortly after moving to Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU.

During his time in Kinngait, Pitsiulak was prominent in the Inuit art scene with his depictions of life in the community and wildlife, which he drew from his own experiences and connection to the land. This prominence continues to this day due to his incredible range and creativity, varying from traditional Inuit illustration and life-like landscapes to contemporary works, with uniquely imaginative details and storylines. Pitsiulak was also a hunter with great respect for wildlife, which he put forward in his work. He was particularly inspired by the bowhead whale, found in the frigid arctic waters, much like the ones featured in Spring Coastline (2013). 

With this illustration, I find myself reminiscing about my own community of Postville, Nunatsiavut, NL, with the steep, snowy coastline and dark skies reminding me of some of my favourite days from my time there. In particular, the overcast days at low tide and exploring the exposed sea floor in hopes of finding small treasures or the simple curiosity about what the sea had hidden beneath her mysterious waters. I would wonder: What did she leave behind? What did she take with her? I remember staring at the icy markers indicating where the water once was, in awe that I now stood below the waterline.

In this expertly rendered piece, the use of oils with their smooth finish parallels the slickness of the polished rock face, giving it an additional element of texture. Pitsiulak manages to capture colour in a way that gives this piece a photographic likeness, which perhaps stems from using his own photos as reference. He also employs the use of darkness in a way that does not make the image feel small but rather gives it richness and depth, creating a striking contrast to the bright reflections of snow on the water. His soft transitions between colours give this cold and desolate scene a sense of warmth—a warmth that, for me, feels like an invitation. A call to return to the shores I once called home, to explore everything the land has to offer. To return and feel connected to the ground I walk on once again.

Pitsiulak’s work often leaves me wanting to know more—to know the story beyond these still images. As a fellow observer and Inuk with connection to the land, I feel strongly drawn to his works. Spring Coastline is particularly intriguing, as it leaves me yearning to know what lies beyond the rocky, snow-covered ridge, expanding the landscape in my mind. Does the coastline continue? Or does the view expand to open waters, with whales dancing along the divide between sky and sea? Only Tim Pitsiulak knows for certain.


This series was made possible with the generous support of the TD Ready Commitment.

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