Ningiukulu Teevee has been drawing all her life, but the shy and humble Kinngaimmiut artist still marvels that she is an internationally recognized artist. Teevee’s career in the visual arts really took off in 2004 with two of her works being featured in the 2004 Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection. Since then she has been on an upward trajectory.
Here, IAQ Associate Editor Napatsi Folger speaks to Teevee about the significance of five of her works.
Ningiukulu Teevee Bed of Kelp (2004) Printmaker Pitseolak Niviaqsi Lithograph 35.7 x 54.5 cmCOURTESY THE SMITHSONIAN ARCTIC STUDIES CENTER © THE ARTIST
Bed of Kelp
Bed of Kelp (2004) was one of Teevee’s prints that was featured in the 2004 Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection. This piece is particularly significant because it was the first time Teevee’s work was featured in the renowned collection. Teevee’s skill is brought to the forefront with this piece as it captures the mesmerizing motion of kelp caught in the current. The evocative colour choices and the strong sense of direction in the kelp itself produces the effect of the print seemingly breathing like a chest rising and falling. Teevee, who has worked with many artists in Kinngait, recalls artist and former studio manager Jimmy Manning commenting that the individual blades of kelp look like tiny ookpiks.
This early work is a testament to Teevee’s closeness to the land around her. As an avid fisher and boater, Teevee spends as much time on the land as possible and the natural inspiration she gains from those activities is evident here.
Ningiukulu Teevee Alego (2009) COURTESY GROUNDWOOD BOOKS/HOUSE OF ANANSI PRESS © THE ARTIST
Teevee doesn’t consider herself a storyteller, which makes the creation of her children’s book, Alego (2009), an interesting story. The book is based on local wildlife and told from the perspective of a young Inuk girl exploring tidepools by the shore. Teevee had initially drawn the images without a book in mind, but when she showed them to Terry Ryan, the then-manager at Kinngait Studios, he suggested that she write the story down to go with the pictures. Teevee credits Ryan with helping her get the book published through House of Anansi Press.
Not only was Alego a creative work that pushed the artist’s personal and professional boundaries, it was also nominated for a 2009 Governor General Award for English-language children's illustration. Alego was an early success for Teevee and she remains proud of the work to this day. It is available for purchase on the House of Anansi Press website along with educational resources for people interested in teaching the book in their classrooms.
Ningiukulu Teevee Owls in Moonlight (2007) etching and aquatint 76.8 x 59.1 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
Owls in Moonlight
A departure from her usual drawings and prints, Owls in Moonlight (2007) was created using etching and aquatint techniques, which gives it a hazy moonlit look. This work is one of significance because it has been prolifically reproduced as cards, puzzles, printed on clothing and accessories, and is a staple item in art galleries around the world. Owls showcases Teevee’s classic sense of humour, with the bottom ookpik winking slyly at the viewer. Her natural sense of composition is broadcast in this early career print, which features minute detail while projecting a sense of simplicity at the same time.
Ningiukulu Teevee Imposing Walrus (detail) (2009) Serigraph 38.1 x 45.7 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
Imposing Walrus (detail)
Walruses are an ongoing theme in Teevee’s work. We chose this piece because it was the first of Teevee’s to appear on the cover of the IAQ. Teevee notes how honoured she was in 2009 when she was asked to feature the artwork. It’s one of her favourites because the perspective is unusual: Being face-to-face with a bull walrus is quite an intimidating prospect.
Imposing Walrus (detail) (2009) is particularly striking because Teevee uses multiple elements to create incredible depth and texture. Using changing patterns in concentric circles along with darker shades of brown moving outward adds to the depth, while the “moustache” and tusks of the walrus are highlighted with bright bold colours and shading that gives them a three-dimensional effect. This piece is a testament to the incredible skill and attention to detail Teevee has had even in her early career.
Ningiukulu Teevee Neutralizer (2016) Printmaker Ashoona Ashoona Stonecut 61 x 45.7 cm COURTESY INUIT GALLERY OF VANCOUVER © THE ARTIST
While discussing this piece with Teevee, she laughingly corrected herself, “It was supposed to be Naturalizer, the brand name, but I don’t wear heels so I didn’t know.” This 2016 print is a prime example of what has become a signature style for the artist later in her career, translating traditional stories into modern Inuit life. The story Teevee relayed was about a woman who was married to an abusive husband. In the tale, the woman sees her husband coming from afar. Fearing his anger, she recites an incantation and transforms into a raven. The raven woman then flies away and watches from a safe distance while her husband looks agitatedly around for his missing wife. Teevee, who loves to hear Inuit stories, reimagined this one with the freshly transformed raven still in her high heels, ready for a quick escape.
Read more about the other longlisted artists
The Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award is made possible through the support of individual donors and RBC Emerging Artists.