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Shuvinai Ashoona wins 2024 Governor General’s Award

Mar 06, 2024
by IAQ

On March 6, 2024, the Canada Council for the Arts announced that Shuvinai Ashoona, RCA, and five other artists have received Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts (GGArts) for Artistic Achievement. Ashoona’s award acknowledges her artistic practice, which spans more than two decades, and the way in which her work and career challenge perceptions of what Inuit art is and can be. She was nominated for the award by Robert Kardosh, Director and owner of Marion Scott Gallery in Vancouver, BC.

Ashoona is a well known and loved artist, having created thousands of large scale detailed graphic drawings using primarily coloured pencil and ink during the course of her career. Based in Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, Ashoona began drawing in the early 1990s, learning from other artists working at Kinngait Studios. While at first her drawings focused largely on landscapes and the natural world, her later works combine elements of Inuit traditional stories and culture with contemporary references to recent history and pop cultural movements. 

“I see art in the forms that surround me,” Ashoona says in a 2024 video released with the award announcement. Her perspective on the world has led to a complex recurring symbology across many of her works that includes planets, playing cards, many-tentacled monsters and text in both Inuktitut and English.

Ashoona is “never content to follow rules and expectations,” said Kardosh in the GGArts press release. Her “unconventional artistic vision has successfully challenged and revolutionized how the public perceived Inuit art and contemporary Indigenous art more generally, helping to create a new space for expression and artistic freedom.”

Ashoona’s artistic career has included multiple solo exhibitions in places like The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, ON, and the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, Scotland. In 2010 she was the subject of the documentary Ghost Noise. Ashoona is one of the most decorated Inuit artists living today; she was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2016, received the Gershon Iskowitz prize in 2018 and in 2022 was awarded a Special Mention by the jury of the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

Despite her many accolades, Ashoona is determined to keep making art. “My forefathers who were artists made us who we are, gave us the eyes to see beauty. We see their fingerprints on the artwork,” said Ashoona, referencing the highly artistic family she comes from. “I want to be like them, draw like them, keep drawing like them.”


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