Iqaluit museum hosts Rankin ceramics exhibit

Potttery allows Inuit artists to tell stories in a way that carvings and prints can’t.



IQALUIT— Ceramics. They aren’t the art medium traditionally associated with Inuit culture, but a group of artists from Rankin Inlet is hoping a recent exhibit of their pottery, bronze castings and ceramic sculptures at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit museum in Iqaluit will help to popularize the medium.

“We’re trying to make people aware that it’s there,” say Jim Shirley, who came to Iqaluit with the work of six artists who work out of the Matchbox Gallery/Sila Visual Arts Centre in Rankin Inlet.

Works by Pierre Aupilarjuk, Roger Aksadjuaq, Lucy Sanerterut, Laurent Aksadjuaq, Yvo Sangushak, John Kurok and Michael Aksadjuaq were on display at the Iqaluit museum last Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Shirley stands with his legs shoulder width apart, his hands making motions as if he is shaping the very pottery he’s talking about. It’s not his art, but you can tell it excites him. Shirley talks about the art with the pace of a beat poet.

“You can tell a story with clay. It lends itself to extended kinds of narrative. And it responds to your personality and your particular artistic and creative identity. You can’t be angry and do pottery,” he says.

Because an artist can take a long time with a piece it can grow, he says. Unlike a sculpture, which is a subtractive work with an artist chipping away at the shape, ceramics allow an artist to add shapes, or even change his or her mind about how something should look.

Because of its three-dimensional quality, pottery can involve people more than a print, Shirley said.

“Because it’s additive you can really spin a yarn with it,” he says.

The artists have been working out of the arts centre for the last six years, he said.

“We’ve brought artists up from the south to work with the artists in Rankin and there’s been a lot of sharing of ideas,” he says.

Artists influenced by 18th century sculpture, artists with Japanese and African influences have come to Rankin to participate in a “cross-fertilization of ideas at the workshop,” Shirley says.

The result is an exhibit that Shirley says reflects many influences from outside Nunavut as well as the ideas and world views of the artists.

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