Jutai Toonoo: Body Landscape

Jutai Toonoo, REACHING FOR THE STARS, 2010, pastel, 19 5/8 x 25 1/2 in.

Exhibition opened February 2, 2022

Jutai Toonoo was born in Kinngait, NU in 1959, the same year that the inaugural Cape Dorset Print Collection was released. He grew up surrounded by artists and naturally fell into art making himself. He started with sculpture and gradually experimented with other media like print, drawing, pastel, and painting. Across all his media, Toonoo rarely conformed to traditional assumptions about Inuit art, breaking boundaries of both subject and style. His erotic compositions featured in Body Landscape are a testament to a desire to play with expectations, and to take artistic expression to unprecedented places.

Toonoo began to draw the body around 2010. He worked with pastel and coloured pencil to render the human form and often isolated certain body parts—an ear, an eye, a breast. He drew them as an Expressionist would, with intense colour and emotive lines. His expressive marks were made especially powerful through the oil pastel medium, allowing him to manipulate colour and create texture with his fingers.

Toonoo paid close attention to the female body, studying the undulating outlines of the body and eventually exploring the forms of reproductive anatomy. Once isolated and enlarged on the page, as Toonoo did with many of his subjects, some of his anatomical renderings began to oscillate between the abstract and the representational. Other images undeniably resemble their real-life counterparts, framed on the page in isolated parts. Executed within a bold and expressive technique, Toonoo’s works are never short of powerful.

Jutai Toonoo’s (1959–2015) work can be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, and the TD Bank Financial Art Group. Prior to Body Landscape, Feheley Fine Arts held three solo exhibitions for the artist: Body Contemplation (2012), Still Life (2014), and Life (2016). Toonoo’s erotic drawings were recently featured in the Border Crossings article An Obsession with Form: Bodyscape into Landscape, the Erotic Drawings of Jutai Toonoo by Nancy Campbell (Winter 2022, 3.158).