Tim Pitsiulak proudly identifies himself as a hunter and an artist. This same combination has informed works of art by generations of Inuit artists. However, as all aspects of life in the Arctic, the face of both of these activities has changed greatly in recent times. Modern boats and motors, rifles, and skidoos are a part of today’s hunting life. Established art studios and access to varied media and scale possibilities have expanded the creative potential of Cape Dorset artists. The drawings in this, his first solo exhibition, place Tim Pitsiulak firmly among the handful of Kinngait artists who have developed their own personal imagery; one which reflects their own reality through the creation of spectacular pencil crayon drawings on paper.
“My drawings are mostly of modern things. I want to show how people prepare food today or make snowmobile repairs outside rather than in a garage. And I wanted to show the boats towed by snow mobiles on the ice because we don’t have trailers. We have snow and ice.”
It is real life today that Pitsiulak chooses as his subject matter. He knows it intimately; he watches wildlife in motion and he knows their anatomy. He admires the colour and form of birds or the different shapes and sizes of beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales when the swim together by the floe edges. The resulting images range from ornithological accuracy in a group of flying cranes to iconic images of whales and walrus enlivened by the symbolism of ancient Arctic peoples. Shamanic depictions take their place with the everyday reality of preparing a motorboat for the summer season.
Images are also taken from everyday life; a skidoo leaving the co-op after a shopping trip; a new truck that arrived on sealift; a cardboard voting booth; a computer game. The content often contains subtle messages. Pitsiulak shows a skidoo driver holding his hand up to his face and explains that the evolved design of the skidoo, increasingly aerodynamic to suit the south, leave the faces of the Arctic hunters badly exposed. A power drill, used for sculpture, is juxtaposed with a dollar sign. A computer game is shown with a shadowy clock, a reminder of how the young spend their time.
In some cases, the subject is chosen for the challenge it presents; Pitsiulak saw and photographed a ship off Cape Dorset harbour. His research showed that it was an international cargo ship. Choosing to work in large scale, Pitsiulak took the forms of the brightly coloured cargo and hull and created a stylized image of the Beluga Projects, a ship which seems to float in space, its colours and forms suspended. The artist explains the lack of background landscape by saying that he did not want to detract from the image of the boat. Reality is tempered by the eye of the artist.
“Every drawing I make is a learning process. In some drawings I wanted to try something new instead of making the whole drawing inside the paper…I drew something off the paper. You can see it but not all of it.”
Pitsiulak loves the drawing process and experiments constantly. Born in Kimmirut in 1967, he began sculpting as a young boy. Although he still creates sculptures and has recently made a successful foray into jewelry making, Tim asserts that drawing is his first love. As can be seen in this exhibition, his subject matter poses different challenges for the artist; from extraordinary accuracy and naturalistic depiction to evocative images of transformations or found objects. He experiments with colour, scale and composition. Encouraged by art advisor Bill Ritchie to try large-scale drawing he immediately undertook and conquered the scale. “I had never done that and I wanted to try it. It was fun.” His enjoyment of this scale is evident in the frequency of the large drawings; his inherent talent is also overwhelmingly evident in the succession of superb images created in pencil crayon on these large sheets of paper.
Like several of his peers, Tim Pitsiulak is flourishing as a dedicated artist. The facilities and opportunities offered by the Kinngait Studios, along with the encouragement and assistance offered by Bill Ritchie, have nurtured this talent and facilitated his ability to bring his world to us. The works in this exhibition showcase both his talent and his vision – a vision of his life in Cape Dorset today.
Captions are taken from interviews between Pat Feheley and Tim Pitsiulak in Cape Dorset, June 2009.
To view available artworks by Tim Pitsiulak, click here.