Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 21, 2014 - 7:25 am

Nunavut artist draws inspiration from his renowned aunt

"Since you’re an artist, don’t ever quit or give up on what you do"

THOMAS ROHNER
Artist Tim Pitsiulak poses Oct. 17 before two of his prints, which are included in the 2014 Cape Dorset print collection on display at Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in Iqaluit. The exhibition runs until Dec. 7. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)
Artist Tim Pitsiulak poses Oct. 17 before two of his prints, which are included in the 2014 Cape Dorset print collection on display at Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in Iqaluit. The exhibition runs until Dec. 7. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)

For Nunavut artist Tim Pitsiulak, growing up as the nephew of one of Canada’s most illustrious and prolific artists meant receiving artistic support and encouragement as a kid.

But the words of the late renowned Cape Dorset artist, Kenojuak Ashevak, as remembered by her nephew, could inspire any young person to do almost anything.

“I would bring her country food,” Pitsiulak told Nunatsiaq News Oct. 17 at Iqaluit’s Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, “and she would say, since you’re an artist, don’t ever quit or give up on what you do. Life at times will be hard, but the main thing is to love what you do and to continue doing that.”

Iqaluit’s museum held an opening reception Oct. 18 for its annual Cape Dorset print collection exhibition, which includes two prints by Pitsiulak: “Sated Bear” and “Diving Walrus.

Much of Pitsiulak’s work draws on his love of hunting and spending time on the land.

“I love to take photographs too, while I’m out on a day trip or a hunting trip,” Pitsiulak said.

“I’ll take pictures of icebergs, landscapes, people cutting up walrus meat, people sharing whale meat. Stuff that’s eye-catching, I guess, and that people maybe don’t know we do while we’re out hunting.”

But Pitsiulak, originally from Kimmirut and now living with two young daughters and their mother in Cape Dorset, often veers away from realism and into the mythical in his art.

“I like to challenge myself, thinking what a story would look like in the past, with my imagination,” he said.

One of his favourite subjects is Sedna, the sea-woman at the centre of one of the best-known Inuit creation stories.

Sedna, Pitsiulak explained, helped sea mammals in trouble and helped feed people.

But Pitsiulak created “Edna,” Sedna’s counterpart, who does almost everything better than Sedna.

“When someone starts to drown, Edna would rescue the person and bring them back to life. Or if someone saw Edna out on the beach, the person who helps Edna back to the ocean would receive good hunting.”

Pitsiulak said he finds himself leaving Cape Dorset more often these days, travelling for exhibitions and commissioned work.

But as a modern Inuk artist, he continues to depict “happenings from up north nowadays.”

“One time I did a drawing called ‘Carver’s Income,’” Pitsiulak said.

The drawing shows a man walking on an angled grinder towards a house in the distance, carrying Home Hardware shopping bags.

“The cord is attached to the house, meaning one piece will explain the carver, what he does: pay for bills, groceries and whatnot. Stuff like that.”

Pitsiulak is currently working on an eight-by-twelve-foot drawing commissioned to hang in the Toronto-Dominion tower in downtown Toronto.

“The drawings of whales, belugas swimming with bowheads. I love whales,” he said.

Pitsiulak’s prints, and the entire 2014 Cape Dorset collection, are for sale at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum and will be displayed until Dec. 7. The collection is also on sale at many other galleries across Canada.

For more information on this year’s collection, visit the Dorset Fine Arts website.

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