A major art exhibit is underway in Canada featuring contemporary works by some 70 Indigenous artists, several of them from the Arctic.
Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel is being put on by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and features more than 100 works produced by artists from approximately 40 Indigenous Nations and 16 different countries. (Àbadakone comes from the Algonquin language and translates as “continuous fire.”)
The exhibit was curated by Rachelle Dickenson, associate curator; Greg A. Hill, Audain senior curator; and Christine Lalonde, associate curator, from the Indigenous art department of the National Gallery of Canada. Consulting curators included Candice Hopkins, Ariel Smith and Carla Taunton, along with other Canadian and international advisers.
The exhibit was built around three core ideas: continuity, relatedness and activation.
“One of the aspects of contemporary Indigenous art that’s really notable is the way they don’t break with the past,” says curator Christine Lalonde. “They bring the past forward,”
Canadian artists featured in the exhibition include contemporary art superstars like Shuvinai Ashoona from Cape Dorset in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, an artist famous for her fantastical, and sometimes abstract drawings done in mediums like ink and coloured pencils.
But the exhibition also includes artists from other regions of Canada’s North like Maureen Gruben, based in the Inuit community of Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories, whose work Seal in our Blood — a 20-foot long rope of alternating seal skin and red velvet that hangs from the ceiling and pools onto the floor in a coil — opens the show.
“Her work is very minimalist,” says Christine Lalonde. “By going with a very minimalist aesthetic, her work actually speaks volumes about [the emotional and spiritual ties that people have to the land an the animals] that are sometimes hard to communicate to outsiders.”
Besides installations, video and sculpture, Àbadakone also features photography, including a project by Brian Adams, who comes from the Iñupiac village of Kivalina in Alaska. His photography project involved travelling to Iñupiac villages in the state and co-creating the images with his subjects.
“He was looking for more a collaborative relationship with the person that was going to be portrayed, letting them choose how they wanted to be represented but also incorporating their story and their voice, ” says Lalonde.
Other arctic artists featured in the exhibition range from Evgeniy Salinder, a Nenets carver from Salekhard, Siberia, to Fredrik Prost, a Saami artist from Viikusjarvi, Sweden.
Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel runs until April 5, 2020.
Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Exhibition to showcase Inuit art from Atlantic Canada, Eye on the Arctic
Finland: Sámi-themed Finnish short film makes Sundance lineup, Yle News
Greenland: `Enough of this postcolonial sh#%’ – An interview with Greenlandic author Niviaq Korneliussen, Eye on the Arctic
Iceland: Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson lights up London’s Tate Modern, Blog by Mia bennett
Norway: Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2”, Eye on the Arctic
Russia: Russia’s Arctic culture heritage sites get protection, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Sweden, Norway team up to preserve ancient rock carvings, Radio Sweden
United States: Set of Indigenous Yup’ik masks reunited in Alaska after more than a century, CBC News