6 IAF Staff Pick Their Favourite Prints
Oct 17, 2019
Ningiukulu Teevee Aasiva (Spider) (2012) Printmaker Qiatsuq Niviaqsi, Stonecut and stencil 46 x 46 cm ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT DORSET FINE ARTS
The history of printmaking in Canada is impossible to tell without looking to and celebrating the prolific output from the hamlet of Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, and its unprecedented success. The origins of the program, now well-worn art historical lore, have been recounted and analyzed across numerous texts and catalogues over the past six decades. To celebrate the 60 years of printmaking in the community, IAF staff share their decade-specific picks.
On Ningiukulu Teevee's Aasiva (Spider) (2012): There is a running joke amongst Inuit about the fearfulness of insects. Hunters will gamely go after dangerous walrus and polar bears, but run from bumblebees. Spiders are not insects, but they are equally good at causing a fright, and we are told from childhood that we must not kill them. It’s no wonder then that whoever was picking these paurngait (crowberries, or blackberries) suddenly dropped their prize. They might have taken a warning from the way the shrub climbs up spider-like over the sod, and some of the berries and the usual evergreen needles are discoloured, as if the plant is no longer living—even though the rest of the ground grows green. The spider has taken hold of this terrain. Even the design on the classic enamelware cup reflects the reach of her limbs.
Napachie Pootoogook Winsome Travellers (2003) Printmaker Studio PM, etching and aquatint 80 x 82 cm
A departure from her more subdued early work, Napachie Pootoogook’s (1938–2002) aptly titled Winsome Travellers uses bold bright colours to express the charm and appeal of a joyful family enjoying a beautiful day on the water. Pootoogook frames her travelers with whimsical qapuit (bubbles) rising up around them. She captures the depth and clarity of the Arctic water as they fade from dark blue to azure, bringing us viscerally along for the ride on this crisp summer day. The artist does, however, hold true to her signature style by capturing tradition and daily life adeptly. Through careful rendering of body language and the casual, conversational expressions of the travelers, Pootoogook expertly brings movement to a still image, like how a song transforms the printed word.
Kananginak Pootoogook, RCA Tuktu (1995) Printmaker Qiatsuq Niviaqsi, stonecut 74.9 x 58.4 cm
Kananginak Pootoogook’s (1935–2010) skill as a graphic artist and interest in Arctic wildlife is well documented and beloved by many. Dubbed the “Audubon of the North” by some, his keen eye for detail and inherent sense of composition combined to create some of the most iconic images of wildlife produced from Kinngait Studios. All of these qualities are on display in Tuktu—Pootoogook realistically renders the walking caribou from the rear, paying close attention to its shifting posture and the varying details of its foot pads as it continues on. Like many of his animal prints, the image is devoid of a background, which lets the viewer more closely contemplate the animal itself. It seems almost surprised mid-step, its head turned and almost yelping in shock, that the viewer has intruded on this private moment. While portraiture often strives to capture a subject’s best angles, sometimes the opposite is true. It can be the shits.
Executive Director and Publisher
Kingmeata Etidlooie Hunter’s Dream (1988) Printmaker Nitseolak Niviaqsi, lithograph 55 x 76 cm
I’ve never been much for longwinded answers or unnecessarily complicated concepts when simple and direct will do. It strikes me that Kingmeata Etidlooie (1915–1989) and I might have this in common. A fixture of the studios in Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, for over two decades, Etidlooie had more than fifty of her prints included in the annual collections, beginning in 1970—many of which follow the formal and aesthetic logic on display in Hunter’s Dream. A concise concept, realized in a limited palette, confidently marked and beautifully rendered. Here, the artist presents us with an entire cosmology in only four elements: starry sky, deep ocean, bear and seal. It’s everything and nothing more.
Peter Pitseolak Two Girls Eating (1975-77) Printmaker Pee Mikkiga, lithograph 51 x 66 cm
Though hardly a mainstay of the print collection and more noted for his groundbreaking photography than his graphic work, Peter Pitseolak’s (1902–1973) posthumously released Two Girls Eating captures a tradition shared by many: eating together. In what could easily be interpreted as expressions of relief or glee, we watch as two young women bite into their meal, uluit at the ready to cut off delicious mouthfuls. With their matching features and ensembles, they appear to be sisters, sitting side by side and hunched over so that their bodies become perfect circles. On closer inspection, the vibrant blue and red rings outlining their bodies overlap on the page as they huddle close, as though to suggest they have sat shoulder to shoulder many times prior, keeping the evening chill off their supper.
Qabaroak Qatsiya Two Men Discussing Coming Hunt (1961) Printmaker Eliyah Pootoogook, stencil 50.8 x 63.6 cm
I often look at an artwork and wonder what the figures depicted are thinking; what they are saying? Two Men Discussing Coming Hunt by Qabaroak Qatsiya brings me into the inner fold, visually sharing the dialogue and inner-thoughts of its characters. A teetering blue band connects the two men’s heads like a tandem top hat. On it rests three birds—the bounty the men hope to find on their coming hunt, though not yet in hand. The man on the left is cautious, raising his hands, so as to not get too excited before the birds are caught, but the figure on the right smiles broadly, gesturing with one finger raised; he is confident of their coming feast.