“I cannot draw anything that I myself did not experience”
—Annie Pootogook (1969-2016)
KLEINBURG ON—‘Cutting ice’ is a term that implies something that matters or is of consequence. On September 2, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection proudly presents Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice—the first major exhibition on the life and work of this renowned Inuk artist since her untimely death in 2016.
Pootoogook, who received the prestigious Sobey Art Award in 2006, is widely known for the skill and colourful detail with which she captured candid and contemporary scenes of everyday life in Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Taking both the exceptional and the mundane as her subjects, Pootoogook’s drawings intrigue in their openness, wit and sincerity, all the while challenging the mainstream perception of what Inuit art should and could be.
“Annie Pootoogook’s work cracked the glass ceiling for Inuit art and its place in contemporary Canadian art history,” said Dr. Nancy Campbell, exhibition curator. “There is much to celebrate when looking at the potential and possibility for a new conversation that includes Inuit art in new ways in Canada and the world.”
Curated by Campbell, a distinguished Inuit art scholar, this exhibition will feature over 50 of Annie Pootoogook’s drawings made between 2001 and 2010, as well as works by her Cape Dorset contemporaries: Shuvinai Ashoona and Siassie Kenneally, her cousins; Itee Pootoogook and Jutai Toonoo, her friends; and Inuk Elder Ohotaq Mikkigak.
Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice will provide a comprehensive and thought-provoking overview of the legacy and influence of this artist, whose originality and contemporaneity left an indelible mark on the art world.
In this exhibition and accompanying catalogue, the McMichael takes a community approach by incorporating the perspectives of a range of individuals from Cape Dorset, Iqaluit and Ottawa who knew Annie Pootoogook. Campbell’s curatorial expertise brings new insights to our understanding of the award-winning artist’s oeuvre and influence on her peers, and brings to life the many voices from the community she has come to know well.
“Today, Inuit art has moved from its origins as an art representing an imaginary Canadian identity and a yearning for a romantic pristine North to a practice that can present contemporary Inuit identity,” said Campbell. “This socially conscious contemporary work that touches on daily life, the environment, religion and pop culture —as well as abuse and addiction—proves that Inuit artists can respond and are responding to the changing realities in the North.”
With a focus on presenting contemporary Inuit life through the work of Annie Pootoogook and her contemporaries, shedding light on issues of reconciliation and recovery in the North, and drawing on the unique history of Inuit artmaking and the Cooperative system, this special retrospective honours an artist whose tragic passing on September 19, 2016, left behind a legacy that continues to inspire and spark discussion about Inuit art and how it is interpreted across Canada and the world.
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is renowned for exclusively celebrating The Art of Canada*. With more than 6,000 works of art, one third of the McMichael’s private collection is comprised of works by First Nations and Inuit artists. Recent acquisitions by the gallery demonstrate a continued and concerted effort in the support and purchase of works by Indigenous artists and female artists. “Since 2014, the McMichael has acquired 176 works of art by Indigenous female artists to build upon the gallery’s earlier historical collection,” said Ian Dejardin, Executive Director of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. “Last quarter, the gallery purchased four works by Annie Pootoogook to complement a gift of twelve of her works the gallery graciously received. Along with additional works by the artist and some of her contemporaries, we are proud to be presenting this highly anticipated exhibition,” added Dejardin.
Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice will run at the McMichael until February 11, 2018.
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*The Art of Canada is an official mark of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.