Ryerson University

Ooloosie Saila. Ornamental Owl, 2017. Stonecut. Printed by Qiatsuq Niviaqsi on Kizuki Kozo paper. Courtesy of Dorset Fine Arts.

Re-Locating the Canadian North: Contemporary Inuit Art and the Group of Seven

Canada prides itself as the “true North, strong and free,” a national myth bolstered by the Group of Seven’s renowned paintings of vast Northern Ontario landscapes. At the same time, the art from Nunavut’s Inuit communities has been largely disregarded in the cultivation of Canada’s national imagination, especially when these works alter, question, and speak back to these myths. Routinely depicted in stark, snowy terrains performing traditional customs, the Inuit people and the lands they populate are too often relegated to a historical past outside of contemporary, neoliberal nationhood. Exploring themes of colonial exclusion, nation-building, and the ties between geography and identity, Re-Locating the Canadian North puts artwork by Inuit artists across generations into dialogue with resonances of the Group of Seven.

This exhibition features original prints by present-day Inuit artists from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, including Ooloosie Saila and Saimaiyu Akesuk. Many of these artists offer imaginative narratives, psychological landscapes, and colourful animal imagery through a plethora of diverse artistic practices, such as stonecutting, etching, and locally sourced printing processes. Particularly notable in this showcase is work by the late and critically acclaimed graphic artist Kenojuak Ashevak, one of Canada’s pioneers in modern Inuit art; lithography by Shuvinai Ashoona, who depicts the Northern landscape in contemporary settings; and a print by Annie Pootoogook, who reflects on cultural identity through the fashion and garments of everyday life. In addition, Emily Pleasance, a Communication and Culture MA student at Ryerson University, engages the idea of Canada’s North creatively and critically in her recently defended MA thesis. The exhibition features selections from her creative project: a series of resin and acrylic toy cubes with motifs and themes from the Group of Seven.

 

Saimaiyu Akesuk. Transfiguration, 2017. Lithograph. Printed by Niveaksie Quvianaqtuliaq on BFK Rives White paper. Courtesy of Dorset Fit Arts.

 

Saimaiyu Akesuk. Transfiguration, 2017. Lithograph. Printed by Niveaksie Quvianaqtuliaq on BFK Rives White paper. Courtesy of Dorset Fit Arts.

Images, top to bottom:

Ooloosie Saila. Ornamental Owl, 2017. Stonecut. Printed by Qiatsuq Niviaqsi on Kizuki Kozo paper. Courtesy of Dorset Fine Arts.

Emily Pleasance. Lake and Mountains, Toy Cube, 2018. Resin and Acrylic. 5 cm x 5 cm x 5 cm.

Saimaiyu Akesuk. Transfiguration, 2017. Lithograph. Printed by Niveaksie Quvianaqtuliaq on BFK Rives White paper. Courtesy of Dorset Fit Arts.

 

“We are proud to give a platform to the evocative and complex work of Inuit print artists and to engage it with the provocative and timely work done by Emily Pleasance,” says Irene Gammel, the co-curator and director of the Modern Literature and Culture (MLC) Research Centre. “Together, these artists help shift our prevailing image of the North. Seeing how these northernmost artists creatively engage the shifting forces of modernity requires updating our understanding of the North itself.”

The exhibition is a collaboration between the MLC Research Centre and Dorset Fine Arts in cooperation with the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. Many of the artworks, artifacts, and publications featured are on loan courtesy of Dorset Fine Arts in cooperation with the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. Re-Locating the Canadian North is curated by Emily Pleasance, William Huffman, and Irene Gammel, with assistance by Cameron MacDonald.

Seventy resin-casted soil cubes made from earth native to Nunavut are for sale with all proceeds to be donated by the artist to the Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, a resource providing anonymous and confidential telephone counselling for northerners in crisis.​ Each cube sells for $50.00. Contact: emily.pleasance@ryerson.ca

Exhibition

Friday, October 19 – Friday, December 21
Tuesday – Friday, 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM
MLC Gallery, 111 Gerrard Street East
Free of charge and open to the general public

Public Reception with refreshments

Thursday, October 18, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
MLC Gallery, 111 Gerrard Street East
Free of charge and open to the general public

For more information regarding the exhibition and for booking interviews with the curators, please contact:
 
Cameron MacDonald, admin@mlc.ryerson.ca, 416-979-5000 ext. 7668
 
Or

Irene Gammel, gammel@ryerson.ca

Emily Pleasance, emily.pleasance@ryerson.ca

 

Ryerson University logo, Modern Literature & Culture Research Centre logo, Dorset Fine Arts logo, West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Limited logo, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada logo

 

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