John Pangnark

John Pangnark
Courtesy of Ken Bell and Library and Archives Canada


Born in Windy Lake, NU in 1920, John Pangnark was an active sculptor from the mid-1960s until his death in 1980 [1]. He lived on the land until the 1950s, when he settled in Arviat, NU. Pangnark became most well-known for his abstract representations of human figures and minimalist style. 

Pangnark was considered a leader and an innovator in Inuit art. His artistic practice is defined by a transition from realism to abstraction [2]. Over the course of his artistic career, his figures had fewer limbs, the genders became more ambiguous and the forms became less defined. Pangnark created smooth, flattened planes in his sculpture to delineate his figures, imbuing his work with a sense of subtle movement [3]. The piece Seated Figure (1968) demonstrates Pangnark’s earlier focus on creating realistic figures. The surface has been extensively polished and shaped, the body defined by symmetrical contours. The viewer can clearly see a head, two arms, two legs and even a nose. Although the figure may not be obviously gendered, the facial expression could be described as contented and perhaps smiling. 

Pangnark’s later work shows an appreciation for line and volume over anatomy and proportions. His pieces favour the natural characteristics of the stone, coaxing features to emerge from the pre-existing geometry. His sculpture Inuit Figure (n.d.) is an example of this aesthetic [4]. The piece has been polished to the degree that the lines defining the figure have become smoothed and rounded; however, the viewer is still able to perceive the original form of the unworked stone. The face is denoted by simple etched lines—the shape of the head following the curve of the rock. Two hands, possibly mitted, have also been etched into the side. The figure appears to be wearing a parka, masterfully brought out by changing colours of the stone and narrowing towards the base. Pangnark’s style is partially attributable to the qualities of the material he worked with. The local deposits of stone near Arivat are notoriously resistant to modification, resulting in a distinctive minimalist style for artists from the area [5]. 

Pangnark was one of four Inuit artists to exhibit at Expo ‘70 in Osaka, Japan in 1970 [6]. During the same year, his work was featured alongside Jessie Oonark in a travelling exhibition Oonark/Pangnark hosted by the Canadian Museum of History [7]. His work is held in the collections of the Canadian Museum of History and National Gallery of Canada, among several other prominent artistic institutions.



2002: Set a record for his sculpture Inuit Figure sold at auction by Waddington's Auctioneers & Appraisers.

1970: One of four Inuit artists to participate in Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan. 

Artist Work

About John Pangnark



Artistic Community:

Arviat, NU

Date of Birth:

Artists may have multiple birth years listed as a result of when and where they were born. For example, an artist born in the early twentieth century in a camp outside of a community centre may not know/have known their exact date of birth and identified different years.

Windy Lake, NU

Date of Death:

Artists may have multiple dates of death listed as a result of when and where they passed away. Similar to date of birth, an artist may have passed away outside of a community centre or in another community resulting in different dates being recorded.

The Igloo Tag Trademark
The Igloo Tag Trademark is an internationally recognized symbol that denotes handmade, original artwork made by Inuit artists in Canada. Established in 1958, the Trademark is now managed by the Inuit Art Foundation. The appearance of the Igloo Tag on an artist profile means they have had the Trademark applied to their artwork.

Edit History

November 23, 2017 Edited by: Rebecca Gray
November 23, 2017 Created by: Concordia Student