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Kiugak (Kiawak) Ashoona was born September 16, 1933 and was the son of renowned Cape Dorset artist, Pitseolak and her husband Ashoona. His brothers were, from oldest to youngest, Namoonai, Qaqaq, Koomwartok and Ottochie Ashoona, all of whom were well-known Cape Dorset sculptors with. Kiugak’s younger sister, Napatchie Pootoogook who married printmaker Eegyvudluk Pootoogook, was a well-known graphic artist.
Kiugak Ashoona was an accomplished sculptor and printmaker from Tariugajak, NU who later on relocated to Kinngait (Cape Dorset). Ashoona began carving in 1940 at the age of fourteen, making miniature sleds out of walrus ivory. He was one of the first artists to begin carving in Kinngait and was an early participant in the art production movement in 1951.
Ashoona’s sculptures are recognizable for their dramatic imagery and fluidity and are often highly detailed and depicted in dynamic postures. Ashoona frequently used serpentine as a medium for his sculpture and would polish the surface of the stone to highlight splashes of mottling and changing veins of colour. Ashoona preferred to begin his pieces by first carving the heads of his figures, which resulted in intense and refined facial expressions. He also valued taking time with his sculpture to ensure that he was satisfied with the quality and detail of his work.
Although less well known for his prints, Ashoona was a talented illustrator. He visualized subjects within his prints with the same tactile sense of flow as he might have carved them out of stone. His earlier prints are monochromatic and largely of animals, while his later works incorporate more colours and depict community events and stories. […] His illustrative skill is further evident in his incised walrus tusks, which feature detailed renderings of Arctic wildlife.
Ashoona has received extensive recognition for his work. In 1980 his sculpture Sea Goddess was reproduced on the Canadian seventeen-cent stamp. In 1997 he was the recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (now referred to as the Indspire Award). He was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000 and elected as a Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2003.
Artist biography courtesy of the Inuit Art Foundation.
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