Ning Ashoona is a Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU based artist who was raised on the land in Saturituk, on the southern coast of Baffin Island. She fondly recalls fishing as a child, and that carving and drawing were a practice in daily life, work made for the co-op to support supplies for life on the land . Her grandparents being established carvers, the young Ashoona learned from them, using hand tools, carving with great detail . Ashoona’s favourite subject was the loon, observing them on the water and on land. It was upon her move to Kinngait where she began to be more deeply influenced by the female carvers around her, including her grandmother.
Carving for most of her life, Ashoona is one of only a few full-time female carvers , yet is very prolific and has a distinctive style. Using both hand and power tools Ashoona bridges tradition and innovation in her approach and technique. Inspired by Arctic wildlife and her childhood on the land, much of Ashoona’s work depicts animals at play. The animals dance and glide, giving an impression of movement, and their glossy coats hint at their kinship with water. The smooth soapstone Ashoona uses, in a variety of colours from ink black to green and gray, are polished to a high lustre and give the appearance of the animals and birds just having emerged from the water.
In Seals Playing (2017), three seals are delicately chiselled from dark stone. The bottom seal is propping the top two on its tail, which is carved with detail on a curve, rather than a flat plane of stone, leading the eye visually around the sculpture. Each of the seals are gazing upwards, on their backs, the heads looking in different directions, flippers extended, so the seals look to be at home both on land and in water, as their apparent buoyancy places them in either environment. The sculpture is asymmetrical with the visual weight on one side evenly divided by movement of flippers and tucked heads. Its small scale invites the viewer to look at the sculpture in the round, the gaze following the impression of movement that is an inherent sense of play between the three seals.
Ashoona’s work has been exhibiting in Canada and abroad at institutions such as the Albers Gallery of Inuit Art, San Francisco, U.S., Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto, ON and the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver. She has appeared in the Inuit Art Quarterly.