Shuvinai Ashoona: Kinngait Visions

Shuvinai Ashoona, COMPOSITION (STUDIO MONSTERS), 2021, coloured pencil & ink, 50 1/2 x 54 1/4 in.

Exhibition opened October 23, 2021

After a nationwide touring solo exhibition, a feature in the Berlin Biennial, winning the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, and a subsequent retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario; Feheley Fine Arts is pleased to present an exhibition of stellar new drawings by Shuvinai Ashoona. Aptly titled Kinngait Visions, the exhibition brings together twenty-two recent works by the artist that focus on the people and ongoings of Kinngait, Nunavut, her home community. In these drawings, Ashoona envisions and re-envisions scenes from home. Some images look to the past, others are in observation of the present, and a few visualize an imagined Kinngait, intermingled curiously with elements of the fantastical.

Kinngait’s Landscape

Born in 1961, Ashoona took up drawing in the 1990s following her family members, renowned artists Pitseolak Ashoona (1904–1983), Kiugak Ashoona (1933–2014), and Napachie Pootoogook (1938–2002). Beginning with delicately rendered black ink pen drawings of the local landscape, Ashoona gradually progressed into the colour-filled drawings that she is best known for today, capturing a magical variety of subject matter.

Kinngait’s local landscape and rocky terrain is one subject that Ashoona returns to quite frequently. Sometimes a main theme, such as in the monumentally sized piece Composition (Community Monster) (2020). Other times, as a background element to distinguish setting. This is seen in her piece Composition (Showing Drawing of Bones) (2020), which includes a black and white background of terrain, typical of her earlier work. The backdrop is juxtaposed with groupings of people, executed in pastel and coloured pencil. The people are holding up a drawing of whalebone and rocks.

When asked about this work—a drawing of elements of the landscape within the landscape—Ashoona recalled thinking about past times, “[they are] showing off their big drawing of bones that [were used] as huts for people from a long time ago.” [1]

Visualizing the Past and Present

Kinngait’s past is a thread that runs through many works in the show, and Composition (Kingngamiut Studio People) (2020) is a fantastic example. As explained by Ashoona, “[these are] Kingngamiut studio people showing off their drawings and prints that they have done in the past years gone by.”[2] Works by fellow artists Papiara Tukiki and Ningiukulu Teevee are recognizable—another depiction of art within art. In the brightly coloured pastel piece Composition (Artists from the Past) (2020), Ashoona visualizes first-generation Kinngait artists, each wearing a nametag in Inuktitut with a fish perched on their shoulder. Stars like Kananginak Pootoogook (ᑲᓇᒋᓇ), Pauta Saila (ᐸᐅᑕ), and Pudlo Pudlat (ᐸᓘᐳᓚ), among many more, are paid homage in this luminous drawing.

Shuvinai Ashoona, COMPOSITION (SEWING SKINS), 2020, coloured pencil & ink, 50 1/8 x 76 in.

Less specific to studio life are Ashoona’s scenes of the community’s more general past. Selling Furs (2019), for example, harkens back to a time pre- mid-1950s before the artmaking studios took shape. Similarly, Composition (Family Ice Fishing) (2020) depicts a family from the past dressed in traditional clothes, on the ice ready to catch a meal. Their igloo can be spotted behind them in the far distance amid a whirl of cold blue coloured pencil strokes. Another drawing, Composition (Boy Ice Fishing) (2021) shows a young man pursuing the same activity in a contemporary-style parka. Likewise, Composition (Sewing Skins) (2020) and Making a Rope for Hunting (2019) visualize contemporary people carrying on traditional activities. These works and more reflect the continuity and simultaneity between traditional and current life in Kinngait and the broader North.

Wild Imagination

Ashoona is perhaps best-known today for her depictions of fantastical monsters and otherworldly creatures. These imagined beings are often intertwined amongst the people of Kinngait, or within the community itself. Ashoona has described her monsters as curious beings, such as those depicted in the pastel piece Making a Movie (2020): “The monsters are getting curious and approaching Marcia [Connolly].” [3]

The bird-eye’s view drawing Composition (Community Monster) (2020) depicts a geographically accurate area of Kinngait overridden by a giant green monster giving birth—a trademark action of Ashoona’s fantastical creatures. The monster gives birth to another monster, while latched on to a footed clam. Wonder woman appears to be stuck inside the clam and therefore, held captive by the enormous monster-in-labour.

More monsters give birth in Composition (Water Birth) (2021) amongst, once again, the distinguishable rocks of the Kinngait landscape. And in Composition (Creatures Around the Globe) (2021), people from the community watch an assortment of creatures circle the world from the drawing’s sidelines. Their faces exhibiting horror, shock, and their own human curiosity.

Today, Ashoona is not only one of Kinngait Studio’s most prolific artists, but perhaps the most recognized around the world, with numerous renowned exhibitions and prestigious collections under her belt. The works on view in Kinngait Visions provide a small window into Ashoona’s creative world and her spectacular oeuvre.


[1] From a telephone interview with Shuvinai Ashoona, February 2021.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid. The figure with red hair in the drawing represents filmmaker Marcia Connolly, who has made films about Shuvinai Ashoona and Annie Pootoogook.

To view available artworks by Shuvinai Ashoona, click here.

Shuvinai Ashoona, COMPOSITION (COMMUNITY MONSTER), 2020, coloured pencil, ink, 50 3/8 x 99 in.