For the first time ever, four artists have been shortlisted for the 2021 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award. Eldred Allen, Tarralik Duffy, Kablusiak and Couzyn van Heuvelen are finalists for the biennial prize, created to honour the late Kenojuak Ashevak, CC, ON, RCA (1927–2013) and her tremendous impact on Inuit artists by supporting a mid-career artist with $10,000. Introduced this year, the shortlist showcases the incredible, diverse talent of contemporary Inuit artists, and awards each $3,000. Laakkuluk Williamson-Bathory was the inaugural winner in 2018.
The external, all-Inuit jury, made up of professionals in the field, explained that it was difficult to whittle down the list. “These four represent some of the best that Inuit art has to offer!” said one jurist. “Their work breaks new ground for everyone to follow by exploring identity, embracing new technologies, using humour and surprises to educate, and reflecting on the world from an Inuk perspective. You never know what these four will come up with next, and that's what's so exciting!”
Another jury member said, "The shortlist is filled with Inuit who make completely different types of art, but all feel deep connection, responsibility, love and critique of Inuit communities and of themselves. It is strong and beautiful . . . I look forward to everyone who didn't make it to the shortlist to apply again in the future."
Throughout the month of August, the IAQ will profile the shortlisted artists in the running for the 2021 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award with individual interviews, leading up to the announcement of the winner on September 8.
Eldred Allen The Pusher (2019) Digital photographCOURTESY THE ARTIST
Using a combination of hand-held 360-degree photosphere cameras, drones and 3D modelling, Eldred Allen creates extraordinary images of the landscape and wildlife from his community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, NL. Allen’s photographs take everyday scenes and subjects and present them with a fresh, artistic perspective through his use of innovative technology, literally presenting his subjects from a bird’s-eye view. Bird’s Eye Inc. is also the name of Allen’s drone business, which he started in 2016 with his wife. Their immersive footage is sought after by advertisers, archaeological surveyors, government officials and collectors.
Allen’s work was featured in the 2019 group exhibition Nunatsiavut–Our Beautiful Land at La Guilde in Montreal, QC, and he was the cover artist for the Summer 2020 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly. In 2021, his work was featured in INUA, the inaugural exhibition for Qaumajuq at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Later this year Allen’s photos will be featured in the exhibition Regeneration as part of the Bonavista Biennale.
Eldred Allen Low Drift (2020) Digital photographCOURTESY THE ARTIST
Throughout his practice, Allen’s stunning compositions of the land have helped document how climate change has shaped the landscapes of his region, engage with Indigenous counter-mapping practices and reflect the culture of Nunatsiavut.
Tarralik Duffy Kappuivvik is my home (2020)COURTESY THE ARTIST
Tarralik Duffy is a multi-talented artist, designer and writer from Salliq (Coral Harbour), NU, currently based in Saskatoon, SK. Her practice mirrors Inuit experiences and values, making use of all available materials and drawing inspiration from pop culture and stories from her relations.
Duffy’s work takes many forms, from the recycled beluga-vertebrae jewellery under her label Ugly Fish Designs, to pun-filled illustrations like Itii Pau (2018), featured on the cover of the Winter 2018 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly. Another example of Duffy’s pop-art sensibilities appear in the work Pipsi (2015), a Sharpie drawing of the beloved soda with the English-language letters replaced by Inuktitut syllabics. With this gesture, Duffy flips the script, reimagining Western pop culture through a distinctly Inuk lens and creates literal pop art. Across her practice, Duffy’s innovation and urgency to put her hands to work results in beautiful and iconic works that elevate the everyday material that surrounds her.
Tarralik Duffy Klik (2019) Archival pigment print 25.4 x 25.4 cmCOURTESY THE ARTIST
She is also an accomplished writer, authoring feature stories for the Inuit Art Quarterly about Inuit self portraiture and the practice of Megan Kyak-Monteith. Duffy’s work will be exhibited in an upcoming solo show of new drawings at the Art Gallery of Guelph (2021), the group show Atautchikun | wȃhkôtamowin at Remai Modern (Saskatoon 2021) and a show of new graphic works at SAW Gallery (Ottawa 2022).
Kablusiak Things that both a relative you haven't seen in a long time and the river could say (2019) Engraving on stone at Wandering Island, Mohkinstsis (Calgary), ABCOURTESY THE ARTIST
Working across a variety of mediums including, but not limited to, lingerie, white flour, soapstone, permanent marker, bed sheets, felt, acrylic paint and words, Kablusiak’s work and achievements are substantiantial. Currently based in Mohkinstsis (Calgary, AB), Kablusiak is an Inuvialuk artist and curator whose practice is rooted in themes of cultural displacement and reclamation, Inuit gender expression and sexuality, health and wellbeing and the everyday. Their work is often infused with a tender yet humorous tone, creating space for empathy, solidarity and the diverse expressions of Inuit culture.
Kablusiak Dildo (2019) Soapstone and tung oil 20.3 x 5.1 x 7.6 cmCOURTESY NORBERG HALL
Kablusiak has seen wide recognition for their work, notably winning the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Prize in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Sobey Award in 2019. In 2021, Kablusiak was part of a team of four Inuit curators who curated INUA, the inaugural exhibition for WAG-Qaumajuq. Later this year, their work will be exhibited at the Occiwan Contemporary Art Centre, Edmonton, AB.
Couzyn van Heuvelen Orange Lure (2019) Aluminum, resin, steel, stainless steel, paint and 137 x 46 cmCOURTESY THE ARTIST
Couzyn van Heuvelen
Originally from Iqaluit, NU, Couzyn van Heuvelen is a sculptor and installation artist now based in southern Ontario. Van Heuvelen’s practice is interested in Inuit placemaking in public spaces, new and old technologies and personal narratives. His work explores a range of fabrication processes, often transforming elements of Inuit tradition and history into new, unexpected forms through material exploration.
In 2018, van Heuvelen was longlisted for the Sobey Art Award, and went on to have his solo exhibition BAIT tour across Canada. BAIT will be making its last stop at the Owens Art Gallery in Sackville, NB, this summer.
Couzyn van Heuvelen Avataq (2016) Screenprinted mylar, ribbon, aluminum and helium 91 x 76 x 41 cmCOURTESY THE ARTIST
In his aim to create highly visible Inuit spaces, van Heuvelen has created a number of temporary and public permanent art installations in both indoor and outdoor environments. A giant, tufted sealskin rug was included in INUA, the inaugural exhibition at WAG-Qaumajuq this year, and he is currently completing a project that brings bold, graphic forms from Inuit printmaking to a pedestrian tunnel in the city of Toronto. By increasing the size of these objects to a monumental scale, van Heuvelen allows for an immersive experience that celebrates Inuit traditions and expands the definition for what Inuit art can be.
Don’t miss up-close interviews with each shortlisted artist, arriving every Tuesday and Thursday starting Tuesday, August 10 at IAQ Online!
Join the shortlisted artists for a conversation about their work and contemporary Inuit art on Tuesday, August 24 at 7 PM EST on Zoom.
The winner of the 2021 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award will be announced on Wednesday, September 8 at 7pm EST via Zoom.
Register today to secure your seat!