Kenojuak Ashevak (1924  -  )

Kenojuak Ashevak Narwhal Gallery: Kenojuak - Diptych

Detail from Song Of Spring (diptych), 2006
Lithograph, Approx. 28 x 48 inches (HxW), Cape Dorset

Kenojuak has been awarded the highest accolade, Companion of the Order of Canada, recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation's award for lifetime achievement, member of the Royal Academy of Arts, commemorated on Canadian stamps, and in 2001 was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame: She is contemporary Inuit art's most famous personality. Born in an igloo, she is an artist who has lived in two very different worlds: the traditional Inuit culture, and, increasingly 21st century western culture. She grew up travelling between hunting camps on Baffin Island and Arctic Quebec. As a youngster, under the guidance of her grandmother she learnt sewing that later proved transferable to her eventual career as an artist, having first recovered in her early twenties from tuberculosis.

In the late 1950s, with her husband, Johnniebo they met James Houston, who was encouraging Inuit of the Cape Dorset area to make prints and drawings. They went into Cape Dorset regularly to obtain supplies, and during this period, she experimented with a variety of materials and techniques, carving stone sculptures, making boots, sealskin wall hangings and ornamental beaded bags. Although working with many materials throughout her life, when encouraged to try her hand at drawing with two foreign media -- pencil and paper, she commented about her introduction to paper saying, "a piece of paper from the outside world is as thin as the shell of a snowbird's egg."

In her first tentative drawings she portrayed subjects that were well known and traditional from her sealskin appliqués. Her drawings proceed directly from design to finished product, simply putting pencil to paper, not lifting the pencil until she had completed the essential form of her image. Preliminary sketches were rarely made. Interestingly, while she is known worldwide for her prints, she has never been involved in the actual printing process.

Pursuing works of art that primarily satisfy her own aesthetic ideals, exploring design, form and colour, rather than illustrating events or stories, she has developed some favourite subjects, especially birds, fish and human faces. The subject matter of her images is static; a solitary icon without any kind of background or context, and although creating flowing webs of interconnected images and intricately constructed patterns of texture and colour, look no deeper for a meaning within the images, it is solely the overall effect of the whole image that concerns her. The Narwhal Inuit Art Gallery is proud to present these examples of a prolific and prestigious career, including 'Song of Spring', a recent diptych, which once again depicts her classic style of expressing her environment.