Legacy of Inuk artist Itee Pootoogook explored in Canadian exhibition
Publication: Eye on the Arctic
Published: August 19, 2019
Author: Eilís Quinn
Itee Pootoogook (1951-2014)
Untitled (man with hoodie and sunglasses), 2012
coloured pencil and graphite on paper
49.5 × 64.8 cm
Collection of Christopher Bredt and Jamie Cameron
Inuk artist Itee Pootoogook (1951 – 2014) was well-known for his drawings of solitary figures or architecture placed amongst vast Arctic landscapes, and a Canadian exhibit is underway this summer exploring his career and the evolution of his work.
The exhibition, Hymns to the Silence, is being shown at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario in southern Canada. The show features over 80 drawings and other items related to his career.
“Pootoogook’s work features a minimum of incident yet captures the depth of seemingly mundane moments of everyday life,” the gallery said in a news release.
“In addition to his gift for making architectural drawings, Pootoogook was an imaginative landscape artist, with many of his works emphasizing the vast, open horizon that separates the land from the sky, often in a boldly minimalist compositional style.”
Itee Pootoogook (1951– 2014), After Midnight And The Stars Are Shining, 2011, coloured pencil and graphite on black paper, 50.1 × 65 cm, Gift from the Christopher Bredt and Jamie Cameron Collection, McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Nancy Campbell, exhibition curator and guest curator at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, says the exhibit is a powerful collection showcasing the nuances of his work.
“His distinct vision is perhaps most apparent are in his drawings on black paper, which are done with minimal interference, and focus on the horizon line and the colours of the Arctic sky,” Campbell told Eye on the Arctic.
“These works, while detailed, abstract the landscape so that it is the colour palette of the Arctic, rather than the landscape itself, that is most powerfully conveyed.”
Active in Cape Dorset print program
Pootoogook was part of the third generation of Inuit artists from the community of Cape Dorset in what is now Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.
He was the son of artists Ishuhungitok and Paulassie Pootoogook, and the cousin of Annie Pootoogook (1969-2016), one of Canada’s well-known contemporary artists of the early 2000s.
Itee Pootoogook, whose imagery was often compared to Canadian art icons like Alex Colville and Christopher Pratt, worked mostly from photographs, interpreting the images with graphite and coloured pencil.
His work was regularly featured in the annual Cape Dorset print collection.