Saimaiyu Akesuk: Radiant

COMPOSITION (STRIPED BUTTERFLY), 2022, Ink, pastel & graphite, 23 x 30 in.

Exhibition opened April 13, 2023

“I used to doodle when I went to Arctic College and Ningiukulu Teevee was encouraging me to draw. In fact, she took a doodle I did to the co-op to show them that I was drawing. When I started, I sometimes thought my grandfather [Latcholassie Akesuk] was helping me because when I could not decide what to draw, I would think of his style of carving. I would look at the paper for ages and remember his works.  –  Saimaiyu Akesuk [1]

We are thrilled to present Saimaiyu Akesuk’s first major solo exhibition Radiant, featuring 27 primarily new drawings. Based in Kinngait, Akesuk has been creating art since 2012 through the Kinngait Studios. Drawings in this exhibition celebrate the bold colour, line, and form that defines Akesuk’s playful artistic style, featuring a variety of the artist’s favourite subjects including insects, bears, birds, and more.

Akesuk has cited her grandfather, the great sculptor Latcholassie Akesuk (1919–2000) as her artistic inspiration. Latcholassie’s often oblong, minimalist carvings of birds and other Arctic creatures are powerful in their simplicity, showing further influence from his father, the incredible Tudlik (1890–1966). Saimaiyu Akesuk’s drawing Sitting Raven (2022) is perhaps one of the clearest examples of Latcholassie’s pivotal influence. The army green colouration of the simplified bird recalls the old Kinngait serpentine used by Latcholassie and other sculptors of the 1960s, ’70s, and ‘80s. Akesuk’s coloured pencil marks are harsh and quick though not as dense as in earlier drawings, creating an intriguing texture that summons the quality of carving stone. Most evident, the silhouette is strikingly Latcholassie-like, yet Akesuk imbues the image with a quirk and design sensitivity that is uniquely her.

Colour-wise, Akesuk’s images radiate a delightful energy that is similarly unique among her work. In Bear and Cubs (2022) and Spotted Fox (2022), stripes and circles attach themselves to their respective animals in extraordinary colour pairings – orange and green, red and purple. In Stargazing (2022) and Loonatics (2022) the deep hues evoke a striking boldness that only oil pastel can achieve. Akesuk has admitted that at first she was not fond of bright colours, but took a liking to them overtime. [2] Today, the presence of vibrant colour in combination with the minimalism of her animal forms are what define Akesuk’s signature style, who summons the artistic excellence of generations past in her own, radiant way.

About the Artist
Saimaiyu Akesuk (b. 1986) is based in Kinngait (Cape Dorset), Nunavut, Canada and has become known for her bold drawings and prints of animal forms. Feheley Fine Arts presented Akesuk’s drawings at Art Toronto for the first time in 2013 which received immediate attention from the contemporary arts community. Ten years later her drawings continue to stun and stylistically evolve.

To view available artworks by Saimaiyu Akesuk, click here.

[1] Interview with Pat Feheley, 2017.
[2] Ibid.