Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 13, 2014 - 1:19 pm

Nunavut artists stretch their skills for international exhibition

Scale model buildings require flat surfaces, hard angles

DAVID MURPHY
Matchbox homes, complete with stairs and water tanks, courtesy of artist Jamesie Alivaktak (PHOTO BY SARAH MCMAHON)
Matchbox homes, complete with stairs and water tanks, courtesy of artist Jamesie Alivaktak (PHOTO BY SARAH MCMAHON)
Using architectural drawings, Jaco Ishulutaq carves out a model of the Igloolik Research Centre. (PHOTO BY SARAH MCMAHON)
Using architectural drawings, Jaco Ishulutaq carves out a model of the Igloolik Research Centre. (PHOTO BY SARAH MCMAHON)

It turns out that carving and architecture go hand in hand.

Architects sculpt models before their buildings are constructed. And sculptors sometimes make art afterwards, inspired by those very structures.

Which is exactly what a group of Pangnirtung artists did in January, carving famous buildings in Nunavut, to scale, as part of Canada’s entry in an upcoming international architecture exhibit in Venice, Italy.

Architects and sculptors share a lot in fact.

“Generally speaking the idea is that architects and carving artists are often working in the same medium. They both make models,” said Mason White of Lateral Office, the company curating the Arctic Adaptations project for Venice.

“Architects make models. Carving artists make models. They make scaled figures of things and architects make scaled figures of buildings,” White said.

Arctic Adaptations was developed as a celebration of Nunavut’s 15th anniversary as a territory. Lateral Office is organizing the Arctic Adaptations project for the Venice Architectural Biennale, which takes place in June 2014.

The architectural carvings — masterful models of schools, recreation centres, churches, hotels and family homes rendered in varying shades of mottled green soapstone — will be individually displayed on a shelf inside a wall.

To make their sculptures, artists were given blueprints of famous buildings in Nunavut.

Then Lateral Office and the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association (NACA), partnered to bring in John McKinnon, a master carver from British Columbia, to help the six carvers make their unusual sculptures.

“An architectural carving requires different tools and different geometries and a different way of working with stone than, of course, a more organic work that the artists already do,” White said.

Two of the pieces were commissioned out to individual artists by the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association. The sculptures include renditions of:

• Kiilinik High School in Cambridge Bay;

• Piqqusilirivvik in Clyde River;

• DEW Station in Hall Beach;

• the old St. Jude’s Church in Iqaluit;

• the recreation centre in Kugluktuk;

• Iglu Hotel in Baker Lake;

• Igloolik Research Center in Igloolik; and

• Nakasuk School in Iqaluit.

One new skill the artists learned is how to use a belt sander to get the straight, flat edges — something that brought excitement to the group, White said.

“A lot of these buildings are a different type of skill set than most artists are used to. So it’s a lot of hard angles and edges,” said Pascale Arpin, spokesperson for NACA.

And “not many carving artists have access to a belt sander,” White said.

Kendra Imrie of Pangnirtung helped coordinate the artists at the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts in Pangnirtung.

She said the six artists were chosen because of their previous contributions to the arts centre. They include Jamesie Alivaktuk, Jaco Ishulutaq, Jupa Ishulutaq, Sandy Maniapik, Anugakuluk Tikivik and Malaya Pitsiulak.

“We had one woman and a master carver, Jupa Ishulutaq, as well as some lesser known carvers,” Imrie said.

And even though the artists didn’t necessarily possess certain skills going into the workshop — such as how to create the carvings based on blueprints and how to use a belt sander — they still pulled it off.

“Some of them even went above and beyond what was necessary,” Imrie said.

“Some of the matchbox houses that are common architecture in Nunavut, they were even equipped with fuel tanks alongside them,” Imrie said.

“It was really great work.” 

NACA said they are trying to plan another similar workshop in Iqaluit. But that depends on the timing of the event.

All pieces being contributed to Arctic Adaptations will return to Canada in 2015, after the exhibition, White said.

Tools of the trade: Jaco Ishulutaq, left, and Malaya Pitsiulak, work on their contributions for the Arctic Adaptations project. (PHOTO BY SARAH MCMAHON)
Tools of the trade: Jaco Ishulutaq, left, and Malaya Pitsiulak, work on their contributions for the Arctic Adaptations project. (PHOTO BY SARAH MCMAHON)
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