ART IN THE KITIKMEOT REGION
REGIONAL STYLES AND FORMS
Inuit art - Eskimo art may appear to be homogenous to the
untrained eye, there is great diversity in stone and style
from region to region.
Inuit population (about 60.000) live in 30 isolated
communities across Canada's north – stretching from the
Northwest Territories in the West, across the Central
Arctic Region of Nunavut to the provinces of Quebec and
Labrador in the East.
in geology, flora and fauna between the various
communities, has resulted in distinctively different
regional styles and forms, ranging from naturalism or
decorative stylization to minimal abstraction and from
brutal expressionism to whimsical surrealism. The personal
styles of individual artists are readily identifiable by
avid collectors and patrons of Inuit art Regional Styles
is comprised of three regions;
Canada specializes in Inuit art from the Kitikmeot region.
for larger map of Kitikmeot region
Region – Central Arctic
Kitikmeot region is 457,209 square km and includes the
southern and eastern parts of Victoria Island with the
adjacent part of the mainland as far as the Boothia
Peninsula, together with King William Island and the
southern portion of Prince of Wales Island. Approx. 4,800
live in the Kitikmeot region in seven hamlets:
Bathurst Inlet, Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuuttiaq), Gjoa
Haven, Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay), Kugluktuk (Coppermine),
Taloyoak and Omingmaktok (Bay Chimo).
major hamlets creating stone carvings are Kugluktuk and
a hard, white stone found on the islands in the Coronation
Gulf is the primary carving medium for Kugluktuk carvers.
Darker stones from river embankments are sometimes used to
create accessorial pieces, as are musk ox horn, walrus
teeth, weathered whale bone and caribou antlers. “White
Stone” Inuit art is very difficult to acquire, primarily because of the
significant geographic distance
between this region and the major art markets in the south
i.e. Toronto and Montreal. Gallery Canada exclusively
features Inuit art - Eskimo art from the Kitikmeot region.
predominant sculpture style from this region is life-like realism.
Compositions of polar bears, caribou, walrus and musk-ox are
depicted accurately with much attention to detail and are
usually highly polished. Dioramas (little scenes with many
pieces) of traditional life - igloo scenes, dog sleds,
hunting or camping scenes -are quite popular.
- Eskimo art Specialties
of this area include:
Musk-ox horn bird carving
stone carving with removable lids; detailed scenes inside
dancer carving in traditional dress
- depictions of traditional camp life
face Inuit - Eskimo dolls
Hunter on Kayak
with catch stone carving
(formerly Spence Bay)
first became famous for its whalebone sculptures, which
were large and rather fantastic in conception. The
community style was dominated quickly by the work of one
man, Karoo Ashevak, whose combination of the surreal and
the whimsical produced powerfully haunting, yet amusing
masterpieces. Some aspects of his style have been
appropriated by other artists, but the switch to stone as
the main carving material and the rise of new talents have
led to more varied approaches.
stone carvings of Gjoa Haven are, to a certain extent, influenced
by the Taloyoak style. This can be seen in the distortion and expressionism
of human and spirit faces and bodies, and in the
combination of different media such as stone, whalebone,
ivory and musk-ox horn.
For some time, Gjoa Haven carvers worked with an
imported translucent green stone but they now carve with the
local, harder dark green and black stone.
Inuit art is best known for its ivory miniatures, which were for
many years, encouraged by local missionaries. Small
delicate works in ivory and antler, as well as stone
still produced today.
Region –Eastern Arctic.
Baffin region includes the communities which made Inuit
art famous: Cape Dorset, Lake Harbor, and Iqaluit.
Serpentine, a hard stone with a composition similar to
jade, ranging in color from light green to brown to black
is the stone most used in this region. Most Inuit Art
Galleries carry carvings from this area. The sculptural
style is strongly stylized. There is often a portrayal of
dramatic and emotionally charged shamanic or mythological
images. Bears, caribou and muskox, are depicted
realistically, but often in unusual poses with great
exaggeration. Sculptures have soft, undulating outlines
and are brilliantly polished.
Lake is the most famous community in this region for Inuit
Art. This area (northwest of the Hudson Bay) is filled
with a very hard and dense volcanic stone known as basalt
(prior to the glacier age this area was mountainous).
Sculptural styles range from crude, primitive and simple
with few details to strict naturalism. Additionally, the
stone is not highly polished -- the artists preferring a
dull and rough effect. Predominant subject themes are
family/maternal scenes, muskox and spiritual themes,
especially that of transformation. There is less art being
created in this region and hence it is not always
available in the galleries.
INUIT ART CARVINGS - MATERIALS AND METHODS
most communities (other than Cape Dorset, where there are
many quarries of serpentine stone) raw materials suitable
for carving, are in short supply. Artists must travel
great distances overland or by boat to get their stone.
the stone is very dangerous and physically demanding work.
Kugluktuk carvers can only get their stone in the two
summer months, when they can take a boat out on the Arctic
Ocean. They then must scale an Island cliff or descend a
riverbank to locate a suitable piece for carving. Using
spikes, crow bars and drills, they pry off whatever chunk
they can and then transport it back to their house work
area or carving shed by boat and ATV.
carver looks at the shape, coloration and composition of
the stone (looking for mineral deposits) and determines
what object he will sculpt. The necessary skills,
perfected in the fashioning of traditional implements,
have been passed down through generations of Inuit.
Most sculptures are produced today using a
combination of hand and power tools. Saws, axes and adzes,
hammers and chisels are used for the initial roughing out
stages of a carving. Files, rasps, steel wool and
sandpaper are used for fine work. Most artists finish
their work by wet sanding, at least four to six times to
get a good polished finish. Penknives and nails are used
for detailed incising.