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My Story Edna by Tim Pitsiulak, 2014. Photo from the Ottawa Shool of Art website.

Contemporary North: A snapshot of Inuit artwork for the whole family

By Gloria Song on February 19, 2016

If you live up north, Inuit artists will sometimes knock on your door to show and sell their newly crafted handiworks, such as carvings made of wonder stone, caribou bone, or sometimes even narwhal tusk. But for the majority of Canadians that don’t have the luxury of being able to enjoy Inuit artwork from their own front door, the Contemporary North exhibit at the Ottawa School of Art Orleans Campus Gallery at the Shenkman Art Centre is now offering Canadians a special opportunity to experience an impressive showcase of Inuit art in various media including drawing, printmaking, sculpture and tapestry.

Contemporary North, which began showing on January 8 and will run until February 28, displays three different groupings of artwork representing a range of experiences. One series features works from students of the Nunavut Arctic College, no doubt following in the footsteps of famous Inuit artists such as Kenojuak Ashevak.

Another displays prints from youth artists from Cape Dorset through the Embassy of Imagination, a multidisciplinary arts initiative for youth which has been working hard at bringing art opportunities to Inuit youth. Embassy of Imagination artists include Cie Taqiasaq, Charlie Tunnillie, Ruth Jaw, Gogo Curley, Saaki Nuna, Tommu Quvianaqtuliaq, and Joanasie Tunnillie.

A third series exhibits works from twenty professional and established Inuit artists from different regions of the North, including the works of David Ruben Piqtoukun. The range of artists displayed all in one exhibit has produced interesting juxtapositions, such as is the print of youth artist Susie Saila, hanging in the same room as the carving made by her artist father Toonoo Sharkey, another experienced Inuit artist.

Although the Inuit have been creating artwork such as intricate carvings for centuries, their media forms have rapidly expanded and transformed in the last century, due in part to initiatives by the Canadian government to foster an art industry to stimulate economic growth in the North, establishing communities such as Cape Dorset as world-famous artistic hubs for Inuit art. TheContemporary North exhibit examines contemporary Inuit art, and the interplay between new themes and traditional art styles, as well as how traditions and legends are represented in a contemporary way.

One particular treat will be the free cultural reception this Sunday afternoon which will be a great opportunity for the whole family to learn about Inuit cultures. The event will feature throat singing and Inuit drumming, provided by Tungasuvvingat Inuit, as well as northern themed crafts such as building mini inuksuks and snow goggles. And if you really like some of the art, you may be able to take them home, as some of the works of art are for sale.

Contemporary North: An Exhibition of Inuit Art is on display until February 28, 2016 at the Ottawa School of Arts Orleans’ gallery at the Shenkman Arts Centre (245 Centrum Blvd). A reception featuring cultural events will be held on Sunday, February 21, 2016 from 1PM to 3PM, at the upper lobby of the Centre by the gallery entrance. Admission is free.