The Inuit Art of Povungnituk
February 16-May 12, 2019
Povungnituk work is populated with creatures, experiences, fantasies and lore, revealing a glimpse into the indigenous Arctic world view and reflecting the history and legends of a culture.
Inuit people have carved utilitarian as well as ceremonial objects of bone, antler, ivory and soapstone for thousands of years. In the 1950s, encouraged by a local priest, the Inuits of the village of Povungnituk formed a cooperative to build on this rich carving tradition as a means to artistic expression and economic development. Located along the eastern shores of Hudson Bay in Nunavik, Arctic Quebec, the indigenous artists of the Povungnituk Cooperative became known for the distinctive style and quality of their carving and printmaking.
The character of Povungnituk work has been described as unself-conscious and honest, reflecting the realities of Arctic life and the mystery of legends and myths. Their remote location may have shielded these artists from mainstream influences, preserving their unique style.
Though wood is traditionally used for print blocks, the Povungnituk printmakers carved a relief drawing into the surface of stone blocks. The rough texture and uneven edges of the block create a distinctive print. Crisp images of native animals and human figures set against stark backgrounds portray the rituals of survival of the people and creatures of the harsh northern regions.
The prints and sculptures in this exhibition present a cross section of tribal life that is occasionally humorous, often joyous and sometimes tragic. The drama of daily routine is shown in frozen landscapes, seascapes and illustrations of shamanic adventures. Inuit artists often find visual expression in terms of a shaman’s journey which may be undertaken to heal physical and emotional illnesses and to provide solutions for family discord, the challenges of finding food, and end-of-life issues.
Print collections were produced and sold annually through the cooperative between 1962 and 1989, when the print shop closed after the death of several prominent artists. The final print catalogue states, “print sales are important, but the need of Povungnituk artists to describe, in their pictures, their part of the world to the rest of it is just as powerful.” The MAC is providing an opportunity for them to do just that.
Paulosie Sivuak, one of Povungnituk’s most celebrated artists, is remembered not only for his artistic contributions but also for his involvement with economic and political issues confronting the Inuit. His works are prominently featured in the exhibition.
The Sivuak prints included in this exhibit, produced during the 1980s, capture the artist’s appreciation for the playfulness and caprice that he observed as inherent in the process of natural selection. Whether walruses awakened by sea gulls or a polar bear assuming a pose, there is a light-heartedness to his portrayals. Works depicting human activity reflect a spontaneous spirit, capturing the essence of Inuit life.
Inuit Art of Povungnituk was organized by
Blair-Murrah Exhibitions Sibley, Missouri, U.S.A.
Teck American Incorporated
Aenesie Novalinga, Chasing Molting Geese, 1986,
Abraham Irqu (Niaquq)