James Houston, known as Saumik or “the left-handed one” in the Inuit language of Inuktitut, was the leading proponent in establishing printmaking in Kinngait. Houston approached his friend and fellow artist Osuitok Ipeelee during the now legendary conversation they had about the reproduction of a single graphic. After Houston demonstrated the printing technique with ink, a newly carved tusk, and tissue, Ipeelee agreed that there were indeed many interesting possibilities to be found in this new medium. The group became larger as the most talented and enthusiastic printmakers joined and the first catalogued collection was released in 1959. Noted Kinngait artists Parr, Niviaksiak, Pudlo Pudlat, Pitseolak Ashoona, Napatchie Pootoogook, Lucy Qinnuayuak, Mangitak Kellypalik, the renowned Kenojuak Ashevak, and many others all made important contributions.
Saumik: James Houston’s Legacy offered a unique opportunity for the viewer to experience first hand this pivotal moment in Canadian art history through selected graphics, both drawings and prints, along with a survey of works, early to very recent, by specific key artists like Kenojuak Ashevak. In addition to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection’s extensive holdings of Inuit art the Gallery was also pleased to present Kenojuak Ashevak’s exciting recent drawing Mother of the Children, on loan for its first ever gallery showing.