The longest running print studio in Canada, Kinngait Studios, released their 2022 Print Collection this month, featuring 34 prints by familiar favourites like Qavavau Manumie and Ningiukulu Teevee alongside the work of emerging printmakers like Kakee Ningeosiak and Neevie Jaw.
Nurturing talent new and old and bringing the artists together has been a focus of the past several years in the studio, with former Studio Manager Jordan McQuaid passing the tradition to new Arts Manager Audrey Hurd when she arrived at the studio in February 2022.
“Stonecut was a surprise!” says Hurd when asked about adjusting to the new space. “Nunavut is the only place practicing this technique, and it’s very labour intensive.” Qavavau Manumie is now the senior stonecut artist at the studio, working alongside Cee Pootoogook, Napachie Ashoona and others.
Collaborative efforts began developing in a series of exercises organized by McQuaid last year, when graphic artists reinterpreted Kinngait sculptures as drawings while sculptors reinterpreted Kinngait drawings as sculpture, bringing a new lens to the work of many of the studio’s artists.
“These artists had some room to experiment and realized ‘I don't have to be just one thing, I can try these new things!’” says Hurd.
Since then, the studio has worked to create more opportunities for cross-medium collaboration, for example by involving the whole studio in games of Exquisite Corpse, a type of collaborative drawing approach. Originally used by Surrealist artists, the game has each participant add to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by only being allowed to see the end of what the previous person contributed.
“It was really exciting to get the whole group together,” says Hurd. “I've been really focused on trying to get the studio and the drawing area to be a place where people want to spend time and work. It’s about making space for people to work collaboratively and explore.”
But the best part by far has been working with artists, says Hurd. “I feel super lucky that I've met a lot of artists that are really open with me about their work and have wanted to talk about the stories or the thought process behind it.”
Although she’s now facing forward to the 2023 collection to come, we asked Hurd to tell us some of the stories that stand out from the 2022 collection that’s just been released. This is what she had to say:
Cee Pootoogook Deep Blue Bear (2022) Printer Kakee Ningeosiak Stonecut 43 x 30 cmReproduced with permission Dorset Fine Arts © the artist
“It was great when Kakee Ningeoseak started, because he started not long after me. It was a team effort training him. Qavavau is so skilled and has so much experience that he really took the reins on that, but Napachie Ashoona and Cee Pootoogook, who are excellent printmakers, also helped. And I would be there, learning alongside and asking for clarification. I'm really excited about the many layers of learning, and I think you can see it in the prints.
“The first one [Kakee] did for the collection was Deep Blue Bear. It's a really simple piece, but on that one Qavavau was showing us different ways to ink up the stone, using multiple layers on one stone. The final print technique is informed by the visuals of that process.”
Saimaiyu Akesuk Breathless Spirit (2022) Printer Kakee Ningeosiak Stonecut 61.5 x 48 cmReproduced with permission Dorset Fine Arts © the artist
“The second one Kakee printed was a Saimaiyu Akesuk called Breathless Spirit. It's a strange one, a pink and white pale spirit, but I really like it.
“We were having problems with the original colour during printing, and sometimes the best things happen when things don't go right, when things aren't really working. We tried something radical and ended up really liking it.”
Ningiukulu Teevee Whistling Teapot (2022) Printer Nujalia Quvianaqtuliaq Lithograph 38 x 39.6 cmReproduced with permission Dorset Fine Arts © the artist
“There's a lot of beautiful lithographs in this collection. I love Whistling Teapot, which was done before I started. It's a Ningiukulu Teevee, and it looks like a steaming pot, kind of like a boil-up situation on a fire outside with interesting textures that I think really adds to the feeling of it. Nujalia Quvianaqtuliaq created the texture with tinfoil.
“Ningiukulu Teevee works so much with storytelling and Inuit stories, but also things that she's heard, local stories that you would tell at night. It's been really nice getting to learn about these through her drawings.”