Exhibition organized and circulated by Esker Foundation, Calgary

Curators: Shary Boyle, Shauna Thompson

Artists: Roger Aksadjuak, Shuvinai Ashoona, Pierre Aupilardjuk, Shary Boyle, Jessie Kenalogak, John Kurok, Leo Napayok

March 10, 2018 - April 14, 2018

Opening: March 10, 2018, 3:00 pm

Curator: Shary Boyle, in collaboration with Shauna Thompson

Starting March 10, Galerie de l’UQAM will be host to Earthlings, a major exhibition touring Canada since its presentation at Esker Foundation in Calgary at the beginning of 2017. The ceramics and works on paper of Earthlings, produced both individually and collaboratively by seven contemporary artists, including six Inuit artists, are at once visionary, transformative and otherworldly – and profoundly human.

Though making work from distinct cultural and geographical positions – from Kangiqliniq (Rankin Inlet), Kinngait (Cape Dorset), Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), and Toronto – the artists in Earthlings share an intuitive and labor-intensive approach to materials and narrative imagery. In these works, detailed figures are subject to transformations and transmogrifications, hybrid blendings of animal and human, reality and myth, and actual and imagined spaces. These pieces seem to emerge from phantasmagorical worlds, simultaneously fleshly and physical, sensual and spiritual, alien and familiar.

The exhibition is produced and circulated by Esker Foundation (Calgary).

The exhibition

Space, and how we occupy it, is a political as well as a practical concern. I wish to make small sculptures, slowly, with great care. An invitation to exhibit them at the Esker Foundation was a grand opportunity, on a generous scale. Who could I invite to join me at the table?

There are artists who work from their intuition, who channel their personal experience and cultural memory for narrative. These artists choose their subjects because they know them intimately, personally, physically. It is a way of working that is innate, and encourages a human conversation larger than art.

I think of this work, my own included, as “bridge art”; it spans between things, between people, animals, space, and the earth. It spans languages. It spans the real and the unreal. The living and the dead. The past and the future. It is art to communicate, through symbols, myths, dreams, and hybrids. It connects.

– Shary Boyle

The artists

Roger Aksadjuak’s work is complex, inventive, and embraces multiple forms and playful imagery while respecting traditional narratives. It can be found in many public and private collections across North America, including the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. His work Square Dance had the honor of being selected as the first artwork purchased by the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in Iqaluit. Roger Aksadjuak lived in Kangiqtiniq (Rankin Inlet); he passed away in 2014.

Shuvinai Ashoona is a contemporary artist based in Kinngait (Cape Dorset) whose work often combines reality and the imaginative. Her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions including SITElines Santa Fe: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas (2014-2015), SITE Santa Fe; Woven Thoughts (2014), Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto; and Oh, Canada (2012), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams. Ashoona’s work is the collections of numerous major art institutions, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, among others.

Pierre Aupilardjuk’s artistic practice represents his strong roots in a traditional aesthetic. His work is included in the ceramics collection of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Yellowknife; the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; as well as in private collections throughout North America. He lives and works in Kangiqtiniq (Rankin Inlet). His work has been included in several exhibitions, including Modern Echoes: Contemporary Inuit Ceramics and Sculpture(2000), Native American Trading Company Gallery, Denver.

Shary Boyle lives in Toronto and works across diverse media, including sculpture, drawing, installation, and performance. Collected and exhibited internationally, Boyle represented Canada with her project Music for Silence at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. Shary Boyle’s work was included in Ceramix: Art and Ceramics from Rodin to Schutte (2016), organized by the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, and la maison rouge, Paris. In 2017 her sculptures were featured in the Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale, and in the publication Vitamin C: Clay and Ceramic in Contemporary Art (Phaidon, London). Boyle’s first public art commission will be installed in spring 2018 on the front grounds of the Gardiner Ceramic Museum in Toronto.

Jessie Kenalogak was born in Back River in the early 1950s and currently lives and works in Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake). Working primarily in drawing, her most meaningful artistic influences came from her grandfather Angushadluk, one of the most important and respected artists ever to work in Baker Lake, and her aunt, Mary Singaqti, another highly respected Baker Lake artist. The titles of her drawings, her very personal interpretations of her work, serve as an expressive element of the overall work.

John Kurok began working full-time as a ceramist in 1996. His work emphasizes the relationships of forms and the visual movements created by those forms over the surface of the sculpture. His work has been shown at the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Waterloo; and the Cerny Inuit Collection, Bern. Kurok’s work is included in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and the Museum of Inuit Art, Toronto. He is currently based in Kangiqtiniq (Rankin Inlet).

Born in the early sixties, Leo Napayok spent most of his time growing up in the towns of Salliq (Coral Harbour) and Kangiqtiniq (Rankin Inlet). Working in collaboration with other ceramicists who prepare a vessel or sculptural shape, Napayok then incises extraordinary designs that completely cover the sculpture’s surface. His collaborative work is included in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

The curators

Shary Boyle – see above

Prior to joining Esker Foundation as a curator, Shauna Thompson was the curatorial assistant at the Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre. Thompson has also worked with the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and YYZ Artists’ Outlet, both in Toronto, as well as the Art Gallery of Mississauga. Her writing has been published in Canadian Art as well as in numerous exhibition catalogs and texts. She currently sits on the Board of Directors at TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary. Thompson holds master’s degrees in Curatorial Studies from the University of Toronto and in English from the University of Guelph.

The catalog

Earthlings is accompanied by a richly illustrated, trilingual catalog (French, English and Inuktitut). It is on sale at Galerie de l’UQAM.

Authors: Naomi Potter, Shary Boyle, Shauna Thompson and Heather Igloliorte
Editor: Esker Foundation
2017, 142 p., trilingual (French, English and Inuktitut)

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