Cape Dorset - Kinngait
Concern for the state of world events has increasingly become part of Shuvinai Ashoona’s art practice. She belongs to the middle generation of Inuit artists who hover somewhere between the old and new worlds of the Arctic, negotiating an identity that is at once introspective and worldly. Her work visualizes an Inuit world view within the context of her self-referential images. She challenges us to relate to life in the Arctic and her own creative sphere.
Moving beyond Pudloo Pudlat’s inclusion of the contemporary view (planes and motor boats), Shuvinai depicts current home life, northern tents, camps, hunting, and sleds. She emphasizes the land and community life, drawing directly from her experience and memory, yet her perspective, multiple viewpoints, and fantastical elements stretch our belief systems. Our viewing is complicated as she invites us to see her world in new ways (from below, above, and sideways).
Katharine Viner (editor-in-chief for The Guardian) states: “If people long to create a better world, then we must use our platform to nurture imagination – hopeful ideas, fresh alternatives, belief that the way things are isn’t the way things need to be. We cannot merely criticise the status quo; we must also explore the new ideas that might displace it. We must build hope ("A mission for journalism in a time of crisis," 16 November 2017).”
It is with this spirit we curated a collection of Shuvinai Ashoona drawings in our gallery ‘platform’ resonant with promise. Included are early ethereal ink drawings, stronger intensely detailed black and white aerial views as well as vibrant coloured pencil and ink drawings.
Shuvinai Ashoona has been making art for the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative (Cape Dorset) since 1996. She is the daughter of the well-known Cape Dorset sculptor, Kiuga (Kiawak) Ashoona. Initially inspired by her sister, Goota Ashoona, and her family in general, Ashoona’s work now attracts the attention of both curators and private collectors. She was featured along with her late aunt, Napachie Pootoogook, and her grandmother, the late Pitseolak Ashoona, in the McMichael Canadian Collection’s 1999 exhibition entitled, Three Women, Three Generations. In 2008, she was profiled along with Qavavau Manumie of Cape Dorset and Nick Sikkuark of Gjoa Haven in the Spring issue of Border Crossings, a Winnipeg-based arts magazine. Shuvinai and Saskatchewan-based artist John Noestheden collaborated on a ‘sky-mural’ for the 2008 Basel Art Fair, Toronto’s “Nuit Blanche,” and the Sydney Biennale. It was included in the National Gallery of Canada’s international Indigenous Art exhibition Sakahan. The Justina Barnicke Gallery (Hart House, UofT) exhibited Shuvinai Ashoona’s work alongside Toronto-based artist Shari Boyle. Shuvinai is also the subject of a documentary art film, Ghost Noise, produced and directed by Marcia Connolly. In 2017 Shuvinai Ashoona was appointed to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art (RCA) in drawing.