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Arctic Wind III: an expression of survival 2010


Welcome to our newest exhibition opening October 16, 2010.

When one speaks of survival, numerous interpretations and opinions constitute its meaning. For the Inuit people, their understanding of this word speaks to weathering a nomadic lifestyle.

Survival is essential to the Inuit peoples, and having a sense of human against the harshness of their life was a survival technique that translated into their art form.

Interpreting the essence of survival, this exhibition will showcase over 60 Inuit sculptures by emerging and established artists, such as Samonie Tonoo, Jaco Ishultaq, Pitsiulak Qimirpir, Martha Tickie, Barbabus Arnasungaaq, Jatai Toonoo, Toonoo Sharky and others from regions throughout Nunavut and Nunavik.

“Witnessing the destruction of their traditional way of life, Inuit artists have felt strangely empowered by the knowledge that they could make and sell objects that the dominant outsiders could not make themselves and desired so fervently. In some communities, as much as 80 percent of the adult male population experimented with carving in the early years [1950s]. Inuit were greatly relieved to find an alternative to the volatile fur market, which had largely replaced the traditional hunting economy. Bound forever to an alien lifestyle, they had at least found another way to survive it.” – Except from Inuit Art by Ingo Hessel

What does it take to survive? People are often driven to survive despite reason or logic, and survival can be a motivating factor that inspires them to push beyond any boundaries. As nomads, the Inuit people were and still are revered for their improvisational adaptation to all ways of life.

Closeness as a family was an integral part of the Inuit culture. Each family member was crucial to the survival of the group and each one was valued for their individual contribution to the collective. Elders taught children their social values through demonstration, and they placed a high value on generosity and cooperation – qualities important to enduring their harsh environment.

Despite the shift in their cultural habits, the Inuit held onto their spiritual beliefs in the form of nature worship – powerful spirits that controlled the forces of weather and animal migration. To help them survive sickness and disasters, the Shaman played a significant role in being the conduit between the spiritual and natural worlds.

Surviving this shift caused many casualties and yet a new paradigm emerged, and it was the basis from which all forms of contemporary art flourished. Their new challenge was to make art in a non-traditional context for an outside world.

By possessing and demonstrating their creativity, innovation, experimentation and determination, the Inuit could express their stories of survival. Their fears, hopes and desires became the content of the art form.

Inuit sculptures involve form and content. Artistically, it’s understood that the content of a piece will far surpass the form. The meaning is more significant, and the form is intended to enhance or relay that meaning. Even when the form is simplified, it is purposeful. The artists can either leave carved surfaces untouched or apply texture, incisions, inlays or adornments to add content.

Through their art, they could give meaningful expression to the cultural mythologies of their people and the land. Themes of survival abound in their art: from the hunt for sustenance to the elements surrounding them; to family and community; to illness and disease; to Shamanism and the mystical; to forces of nature involving destruction and devastation.

In addition, the raw materials made available to each artist by region simply made a uniform style impossible thereby encouraging personal expression and emphasizing regional boundaries. Some of the regions represented in this exhibition are: Ulukhakoh, Cape Dorset, Iqaluit, Baker Lake, Pangnirtung, Holman, Kimmirut, Rankin Inlet, and Arctic Bay.  From each region comes various types of stone and mediums, such as Steatite (soapstone), Serpentine, Basalt, Marble, Muskox Horn, Antler, Bone, and Baleen.

In the stone lies the strength of character that Inuit peoples had inside to endure the hardships that befell them. The Inuit are strong and vital people, and they have perservered despite their fear of unseen forces. Their society encouraged them to obey rituals and taboos to placate the spirits and ensure prosperity. These spirits, whether human, animal or otherwise, gave them a sense of connection and purpose.

In a continuation of our Arctic Wind series, Coastal Peoples gallery is pleased to present this exhibition which introduces a more diversified view of the numerous communities that inhabit this vast land.

The collection illustrates a blend of figurative, transformational and representational sculptures. The distinct stylistic differences are characterized by their culture, way of life, climatic forces, interaction with wildlife and the mystic spirit world – all factors which drive them to sculpt, draw and innovate.

Please visit or contact us for more details or to obtain a catalogue, and we hope you enjoy the collection.

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