Calgary-based Inuvialuk artist and curator Kablusiak is among the five artists short-listed for the 2019 Sobey Art Award, the most prestigious art prize in Canada, as part of the Prairies and the North catchment. They are the second Inuk and first Inuvialuk artist to be named to the short list for the accolade, presented annually to an artist under 40, after celebrated graphic artist Annie Pootoogook (1969–2016) was nominated and subsequently won in 2006.
The nomination follows numerous career milestones for the 26-year-old Alberta University of the Arts, formerly theAlberta College of Art + Design, alumni over the past year. In late 2018, their work was included in the group exhibition You hold me, as I fumble to emulate your care at TRUCK Contemporary in Calgary, AB, following participation in the fourth Contemporary Native Art Biennial (BACA) níchiwamiskwém | nimidet | ma soeur | my sister at Art Mur in Montreal, QC. In December 2018, Jarvis Hall Gallery in Calgary began representing the artist prior to exhibiting as part of opapāmācihowak / The Travellers in Stockholm, Sweden in 2019. Their many accolades include the Primary Colours Emerging Artist Award and the Alberta College of Art & Design’s TD Insurance Meloche Monnex Career Award for Alumni, among others.
Along with asinnajaq, Kablusiak recently co-edited the Spring 2019 issue of Canadian Art themed on SPACETIME. Their work is currently featured in the travelling exhibition ᐊᕙᑖᓂᑦ ᑕᒪᐃᓐᓂᑦ ᓄᓇᑐᐃᓐᓇᓂᑦ Among All These Tundras, on view at The Esker Foundation in Calgary, AB, Lets Talk About Sex, bb at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, ON, and akunnirun kuupak at the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) in Edmonton, AB. They are part of the curatorial team for the inaugural exhibition INUA at the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre .
From a felted wall hanging of a person scrolling through Facebook on a toilet to carvings of a disposable razor, butt plug and more, the artist employs humour to extend gestures of empathy and solidarity while inviting viewers to reconsider perceptions of contemporary indigeneity. In the Fall 2017 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly, they describe their wry and critical works “as a coping mechanism to subtly address diaspora, and to openly address mental illness.”
"Kablusiak is such an amazing, exciting artist," Lindsey V. Sharman, Curator at the Art Gallery of Alberta and jury member for the Prairies and the North region, notes. "I think their projects are deceptively simple but, when you start unpacking them, there are layers upon layers that you can go into."
"Humour can be used for a lot of things, and it can really disarm you in someways as well as allow a work to go deeper. You can see that the artist has a great sense of humour, and they are using that to be very direct in what they are doing," Sharman continued.
Kablusiak joins Corner Brook-based D’Arcy Wilson, Montreal- and Los Angeles-based Nicolas Grenier, Toronto- and Berlin-based Stephanie Comilang and Montreal-based Anne Low who were selected from 25 long-listed artists by a diverse panel of national and international representatives.
This year’s jury, chaired by Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada Josée Drouin-Brisebois, is comprised of Director and Curator of Dalhousie Art Gallery Peter Dykhuis, independent curator, artist and writer Swapnaa Tamhane, Executive Director of Contemporary Art Gallery Nigel Prince, Curator at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg Henriette Bretton-Meyer and Sharman.
The AGA will host an exhibition of works by the five artists from October 5, 2019 to January 5, 2020, with the $100,000 grand prize winner announced at a gala event at the gallery on November 15, 2019.
This story was updated on June 12, 2019 to include a quote from Lindsey V. Sharman and on June 14, 2019 to note that the figure on the wall hanging is a person scrolling through Facebook, not a young man texting as previously noted.