From the Chauvet Cave of Southern France to the internationally renowned art of Banksy, humans have been creating murals for over 30,000 years. In this Portfolio we celebrate the colourful murals of five Inuit artists across Canada.
Born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, QC, artist Niap is an accomplished painter and seasoned muralist. Currently based out of Montreal, QC, Niap has painted murals throughout Nunavik and in cities across Southern Canada including Ottawa, ON, where she produced an interior mural for the Museum of Nature’s Canada Goose Arctic Gallery, Ilurqusivut (Our Ways) in 2017. The work produces an anamorphorsis effect—an optical illusion that makes a two-dimensional work appear three-dimensional and features colourful, geometric shapes and graphics overlaid with narrative imagery. Now well established, Niap’s early forays into art making, including detailed line drawings and expressive watercolours, were largely shared with friends and family over social media. Commissions, exhibition opportunities and other accolades soon followed.
Ilagiiluta (2017) however, was the artist’s first foray into mural art. Never one to say no to working in a new medium, Niap noted that she was working on a very steep learning curve for this project. She recalled with amusement that mixing enough colour to ensure the whole mural matched and covered an entire room was quite a lesson. Painted with interior latex house paint and chalkboard paint, the mural became a canvas for the children visiting the Kuujjuaq health centre, who were encouraged to add their own art onto the wall.
Incorporating the fine detail of tuniit, kakiniit and beaded flowers—highly skilled and time-consuming practices in themselves—Niap’s painted forms are often as intensive as the art forms they depict. When asked what she liked most about mural work, Niap recalled the inspiration and liveliness that she experienced when working with local youth to paint a mural in their school. The enthusiasm and openness of the students touched her in a way that differed from working alone: “It was fun to see kids doing something different and experimenting with a new form of expression. It was really beautiful to see what the youth came up with. As much as there are hardships in the North, there was a lot of hope and positivity that came out of the work from the students.” Niap was encouraged to see the self-expression of students who were normally withdrawn or shy, with the project igniting a sense of community where other art forms fall short.
Feature was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of the
Inuit Art Quarterly.
Find More Inuit Muralists Bringing Colour to the North