In early April, Inuk photographer Robert Kautuk’s mural was revealed on the outside wall of Ontario College of Art And Design University’s (OCAD) Onsite Gallery on Richmond Street West in downtown Toronto, ON.
This mural is the third installment in Up Front: Inuit Public Art at Onsite Gallery—a series of commissioned digital murals by Inuit artists that will be displayed at Onsite Gallery over a two-year period, which was made possible by the Inuit Art Foundation in partnership with OCAD.
Kautuk is an award-winning photographer based in Kangiqtugaapik (Clyde River), NU, who uses a digital SLR camera and drones to document stunning views of moments, activities or landscapes that are not accessible or possible to capture using conventional cameras. He uses his work to honour and celebrate Inuit traditional knowledge and self-determination while also calling attention to environmental issues that significantly affect Inuit livelihoods such as climate change.
Kautuk’s Up Front mural depicts his aerial photograph Sea Ice Break Up (2019), which the artist captured near Cape Christian, NU, using a drone. The contrast between the stark white sea ice, the aquarmarine streaks and the deep green of the water’s depths not only creates a striking composition but speaks to the meaning behind much of Kautuk’s photography.
The mural “employs the perspective of technology with mapping his home’s vast territory to expose the natural beauty of land and water with urgency,” says Ryan Rice, Onsite’s Executive Director and Curator, Indigenous Art. “Inuit witness and experience the shifting climate at an alarming rate, which has prompted Kautuk to chronicle and create such dramatic documentation and bring attention to the environmental impact that extends globally.”
Kautuk’s work has been on display in recent exhibitions including ᓯᑯ ᕿᕐᓂᖅᓯᓯᒪᔪᖅ | DARK ICE at the Ottawa Art Gallery in Ontario, which ran from April 2022 to March 2023, and We Are The Story: The Canadian Now Photography Acquisition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, which opened in January 2023. He is also a contributor and a member of the Steering Committee for the Clyde River Knowledge Atlas—a digital platform providing access to research data and information for community members and encouraging community-led research.
The previous two Up Front murals were by multidisciplinary artist Kablusiak, whose pink, larger-than-life ookpiks found their home on the outside of the gallery from April to November 2022, and visual artist Kyle Natkusiak Aleekuk, whose mural graced the wall from November 2022 to March 2023, encapsulating his love for combining tattoo-style art with an Inuk twist. Kautuk’s mural will be on display at Onsite Gallery until August of this year.
Up Front is made possible with the support from the City of Toronto’s Indigenous Arts and Culture Partnership Fund and the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts and is an official Core program of the 27th edition of the annual Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.