Category Archives: WInnipeg Art Gallery

A New Favourite!

It was gone!  I was sad when I returned to my job at the Winnipeg Art Gallery after a holiday to find the most popular painting in our Group of Seven room was gone.

I loved Clouds by Lawren Harris. It is always a favorite with children on tours.  I usually ask kids to walk slowly around the Group of Seven exhibit room looking carefully at all the art pieces. Then I have them vote for their top two paintings.  Clouds was always a sure-fire winner. But now it was gone and had been replaced by Alfred Casson’s Morning Light. 

Morning Light- Mazinaw Lake 1968- Alfred Casson

Imagine my surprise when on my first Group of Seven tour after my holidays Morning Light was the hands down favorite of the kids just like Clouds had been. Some said Cassion’s painting seemed strangely familiar to them. It reminded one girl of a mountain she had seen on cruise in Costa Rica. Another told me there were rocks like the ones in Morning Light at her family cottage near Kenora. A boy said he’d seen cliff jumping on TV and he thought the cliffs in the painting would be fun to jump from. Another fellow pointed out the monster’s claw he could see in the cloud formation. Someone  thought the shadows on the lake and rocks looked a little scary. 
I still miss Lawren Harris’  Clouds but I’m not as sad anymore that it is gone.  Its absence and its replacement with the Casson painting means visitors at the gallery will be introduced to another great painting by a Group of Seven member; another great painting that stirs their imaginations and links them to personal memories.

Other posts……..

Love My Job

The Horizon Line

Autumn at the Art Gallery

 

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What’s a Portscape?

I was absolutely delighted when I found out the Winnipeg Art Gallery would be displaying Wanda Koop’s portscapes again. Never heard of a portscape? That’s the name a lively ten year old boy created last week to describe Wanda’s intriguing series of landscapes skillfully drawn inside faces. I was giving a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to grade five and six students. We had been in the Group of Seven gallery looking at landscapes. We talked about what a landscape is. Then I took the students into another gallery where we examined portraits and tried to figure out what we could learn about the people in the portraits by looking carefully at how the artist drew them. Finally we visited Wanda Koop’s View From Here exhibit. “Are these portraits or landscapes?” I asked the kids. One boy piped up enthusiastically. “They are portraits AND landscapes. We should call them portscapes.”
“That’s perfect,” I said excitedly. “Can I tell other people who come to the art gallery about your new word?”
“Sure,” he said grinning broadly. We went on to examine each of Wanda’s portscapes figuring out how she had used things in her landscapes to create facial features for each portrait.
Then I had the students create some portscapes of their own. They did a great job.

One reason I love giving tours to children at the art gallery is because every single time I learn something new from them. This week I learned about portscapes.  What are portscapes? Come to the Winnipeg Art Gallery to see Wanda Koop’s View From Here and find out!

Other posts……..

Portraits or Landscapes?

Haunted by Ghosts

Through the Eyes of A Child

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Cut in Stone

The Owl stonecut on paper by Lukta Qiatsuk- 1959

The Owl stonecut on paper by Lukta Qiatsuk- 1959

Stone block for owl by Lukta Qiatsuk 1959

Stone block for The Owl by Lukta Qiatsuk 1959

For me the most fascinating room in the Our Land exhibit currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is the one featuring a series of stone cut prints. There are many different ways Inuit artists make prints but stone cuts are unique. In the Our Land exhibit we are fortunate enough to be able to see not only the prints, but also the stone cuts used to make them.  The Owl is interesting because the same artist, Lukta Qiatsuk drew the image and created the stone cut to be used for the print. Often however the artist who creates the image for the print is different from the carver who recreates the image in the stone.

Wier at Shartoweektok by Pitseolak Ashoona- 1975

Weir at Shartoweektok by Pitseolak Ashoona- 1975

The image for this print was drawn by one artist…

Stone block for Weir at Sharoweetok by Sagiatuk Sagiatuk and Timothy Ottochie-1975

Stone block for Weir at Sharoweetok by Sagiatuk Sagiatuk and Timothy Ottochie-1975

But the stone block was carved by two different artists. Once they had carved the image in stone the printmakers applied colored ink to it using a tool called a brayer and then laid a sheet of paper on the inked block and rubbed the back of the paper using a flat tool to apply even pressure. After the ink had soaked into the paper, the paper was peeled carefully from the stone block to reveal the printed impression. The image on the print always appears in reverse of the original drawing.

Angakuk's Tent by Ikayukta Tunnillie

Angakuk’s Tent by Ikayukta Tunnillie

The art of stone cut printmaking is new to Inuit artists. It was introduced by James Houston an artist who went to the Arctic to work after World War II and in 1958 traveled to Japan to study woodcut printmaking with Japanese masters of the art. Houston shared what he had learned with Inuit artists and they adapted the woodcut technique for stone. 

Stone block for Angakuk's Tent by Qabaroak Qatsiya 1975

Stone block for Angakuk’s Tent by Qabaroak Qatsiya 1975

Normally when a printmaker has made about 50 prints the stone carving that created it is ground flat. So we are fortunate the ones in the exhibit have been preserved for us to see. The exhibit Our Land includes a film showing how the prints are made and a display case with some of the tools used in the printmaking process. 

Other posts……

The Globalization of Art from Japan to Cape Dorset

Learning to Print

Transferring the Real to the Unreal

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A Head Trio

heads-robert-tattyI am absolutely fascinated by this trio of heads created in clay by Inuit artist Robert Tatty.  They are part of the Our Land exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  Each face is so unique and there are animals and people all over the heads. robert-tatty-head-2This person looks relatively happy. Their mouth is open showing  teeth in a smile.  Perched on top of the head is a person watching while two bears approach each other. Are they ready to fight? Or is it a mother approaching her child to protect it?robert-tatty-head-2-backIf you look at that same head from the back the person appears to be scaling some sort of rock face and there seems to be an igloo at the top.  robert-tatty-head-1
This person definitely looks sad. Notice how the tails of the creatures on either side of the mouth draw the ends of the mouth down.  The animals look a bit like bears, but they have flipper- like appendages and are perhaps transforming from one kind of animal into another. The one at the top seems almost ready to fly away. robert-tatty-head-3-frontThis person looks stoic.  Do you notice how their ears are formed by some kind of creature? The fox or bear on top seems to have sprouted wings. While the other two heads feature eyes half closed this one’s eyes are wide open and recessed. robert-tatty-head-3-backThe rear view features a person looking at some kind of lizard that appears to have crawled out of a hole.  And flying downwards are winged creatures with tiny heads and pawed feet. 

Photo of Robert Tatty at work taken by John Reeves

Photo of Robert Tatty at work taken by John Reeves

Robert Tatty who was born in 1927 is the creator of these pieces.  Here you can read about how his Inuit father successfully ran a Hudson’s Bay post at Ukkusiksalik. Robert’s biological father was one of the previous managers. Here Robert’s wife Annie talks about her arranged marriage to Robert when she was sixteen and how they lived in Rankin Inlet for most of their married life. Robert initially worked in the nickel mines there.  In 1962 the mines closed and an arts and crafts project began in Rankin Inlet as a way to encourage local people to try their hand at carving, sewing and ceramics.  By 1966 the Rankin Inlet Ceramics Project was producing a large number of works which were critically praised.  However sales lagged and in 1977 the workshop closed. From 1978 to 1980 Robert and Annie moved back to Robert’s childhood home in Ukkusiksalik where Robert worked as a hunting guide. Ill health and their children’s education needs eventually took them back to Rankin Inlet. Robert died in 2009. 

Other posts……..

Stitching a Story

Inuit Fashion Show

Transferring the Real to the Unreal

 

 

 

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Stitching a Story

elizabeth-angrnaqquaq

She is the master of the herringbone stitch! Inuit fabric artist Elizabeth Angrnaqquaq uses the herringbone stitch almost exclusively in her artwork, but what a story she can weave with that stitch.  This untitled work of Elizabeth’s is one of the fascinating pieces in the wall hanging section of the current exhibit Our Land at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Version 2Take a closer look at Elizabeth’s piece and you can see a happy family near the top. Where are they off to? There is a kayaker with a dog perched precariously  on the back of his boat. What is it doing there? Two characters appear to be shouting at each other. What are they upset about?  Two people are dancing. Are they celebrating or mourning something? elizabeth-angrnaqquaq-photoElizabeth was born in 1916 and her family lived a nomadic life till starvation and poor health forced them to settle in Baker Lake. Here Elizabeth become part of a sewing cooperative and was one of the first women in Baker Lake to use her talents as a seamstress to make wall hangings instead of clothing. In some of her hangings not only the figures but much of the space between them is covered in stitches. Elizabeth’s magic needle can turn the herringbone stitch into a bird’s feather, a dog’s hair or a fish’s scales. 

fanny-algaalaga-avatituq

Fanny Algaalaga Avatituq is the creator of this hanging.  Fanny also comes from Baker Lake but is forty years younger than Elizabeth Angrnaqquaq. Although both women stitch with embroidery floss Fanny’s work is brighter, denser and more detailed.  The children I take through the galleries like to play a kind of I Spy game with this wall hanging looking for animals hiding in the leaves and flowers. A couple of figures are in the process of transformation. 

victoria-mamngupsualuk-kayuryuk

There are so many stories waiting to be told in this hanging by Victoria Mamngupsualuk Kayuryuk. It depicts an Inuit shaman named Keeveeok or Kiviuq who some say has lived for thousands of years.  There are countless legends of Kiviuq’s journeys and adventures.  Filmaker James Houston compiled information from interviews with forty different Inuit elders to make a movie about Kiviuq in 2007. On Houston’s website you can read different versions of six stories about Kiviuq with titles like Grizzly Bear, The Storm at Sea and Goose Wife

Fishing in the Weir by Martha Kakee

Fishing in the Weir by Martha Kakee

Martha Kakee who wove Fishing in the Weir says she wanted to show how things were done in days gone by with her artwork. Here she shows us how fishing weirs were built by piling stones at the mouth of rivers in a crescent shape to make a wall to trap the fish. People waded into the river and hooked the fish with long-handled spears called kakivat. A needle was passed through the fish under the spine to add it onto a stringer. 

irene-avaalaaqiaq-tiktaabaqIrene Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq has a bold colourful  style that makes her work easily recognizable.  In this hanging we can see the interplay between humans and animals.  What stories of the spirits is Irene depicting here?  Irene’s pieces are based on Inuit myths and legends told by her grandmother who adopted her when her parents died.  Her interesting shamanistic figures usually show heads in profile and duplicate. Perhaps some of these figures are the story tellers themselves. 

Other posts about Our Land

Inuit Fashion Show

Transferring the Real to the Unreal

 

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Inuit Fashion Show

caribou-outfits

Did you know that traditional Inuit parkas were constructed in a way that corresponded to the parts of a caribou?  The hoods and hats were made from the skin on a caribou’s head.  The hide from the torso was used for sewing pants and the  jacket. Fur from the caribou’s legs became mittens, socks and boots.  Caribou outfits have two layers. On the inner layer the fur faces in and on the outer layer it faces out.

The exhibit Our Land currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery has plenty of fashion items that illustrate the artistic talents of their designers and creators.

loon hatCheck out this fashionable head-gear made from caribou and ermine fur and the skin, feathers and beak of a loon.  It was used by loon dancers who danced as fast as they could to set the piece of ermine fur attached to the beak into a spin.  The loon is a bird of vision and speed and it is said that those who wear this loon hat are granted those gifts as well. I sometimes tell the children I guide at the gallery the legend of Lumak a blind child whose sight is restored by a loon. inuit-necklace

Of course no fashion ensemble is complete without jewelry. This fabulous piece is made of caribou antler, stone and sinew by an artist named Papiarak Tuqiqi. amuat-inuitCan you even imagine how skilled as seamstress you would have to be to create one of these beautiful amautiks? These are special parkas worn by Inuit women with young children because they have a pouch or amaut on the back for carrying babies. The pouch can be slung to the front allowing the mother to nurse a child while the infant stays cozy and warm.  One of the amautiks is made of caribou the other of cotton decorated with beads. four-inuit-generationsOne of my favorite pieces in the Our Land exhibit has to be this lithograph by Pitaloosie Saila called Four Generations which shows a family of Inuit women in their parkas.  Can you see the baby girl tucked into the woman’s hood on the far right? She’s the fourth generation. qingailisaqs-coatThis parka has quite the story associated with it. It belonged to an Inuit shaman named Qingalisaq and was sewn to tell the story of his encounter with a dangerous mountain spirit called an Ijirat. The spirit approached him while Qingalisaq was hunting caribou and tried to push him down. Because Qingalisaq maintained his calm composure the spirit realized he meant him no harm and left.  You can see the imprint of the Ijirat’s hands on the coat. inuit woman tattoosAlthough the Inuit women of long ago who had their bodies decorated with tattoos thought them beautiful and a kind of fashion statement they served other purposes as well, signifying the advent of childbearing years and a protection from evil spirits. Germaine Arnaktauyok the artist who created this lithograph called Tattoo Lady discovered that tattooing was done with soot and a caribou needle and tattoos have been found on masks in the Cape Dorset area dating back to 1000 BC. I found an interesting article that talks about young Inuit women who are trying to revive the art of tattooing which was banned by missionaries when they arrived in the Arctic. 

Fashion is definitely art as you will discover when you visit the Our Land exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts……

Looking Cool the Inuit Way

Whalebone Sculptures

Inuit Art at the Zoo

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Transferring the Real to the Unreal- Kenojuak Ashevak

Kenojuak Ashevak

Kenojuak Ashevak

In a beautiful Heritage Minute about Kenojuak Ashevak  the famed Inuit artist who created the iconic print The Enchanted Owl we learn there is no one Inuit word for art. Kenojuak describes art as “transferring the real to the unreal.”  A number of Kenojuak’s prints are part of the current exhibit Our Land at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

audacious-owl-by-kenojuak-ashevak

Audacious Owl by Kenojauk Ashevak 

Kenojouak was born in an igloo in an Inuit camp on Baffin Island in 1927. Her father was a shaman who could predict weather, transform into a walrus and make fish swim to the surface of the water to hunt.  His assassination by Christian converts when Kenojuak was six years old was the reason she went to live with her maternal grandmother who taught her traditional Inuit sewing skills.

gulls-by-kenojuak-ashevak

Gulls by Kenojuak Ashevak

When Kenojuak was nineteen a marriage was arranged for her with a local hunter named Johnniebo Ashevak. In 1952 Kenojuak contracted tuberculosis and went to the Parc Savard Hospital in Quebec for several years where she learned to do beading and make dolls.  In 1966 she and her husband decided to move to Cape Dorset so their children could go to school there. 

Ravens Gather by Kenojuak Ashevak

Ravens Gather by Kenojuak Ashevak

In Cape Dorset Kenojuak was part of a group of artists who participated in the first printmaking workshops started by Canadian artist James Houston. He came to Baffin Island after World War II and realized there were many talented artists in the Inuit community and a market for Inuit art in the south.  

Attentive Birds by Kenojuak Ashevak

Attentive Birds by Kenojuak Ashevak

Kenojuak went on to become one of Canada’s foremost Inuit printmakers.  Her work is featured on Canadian coins and stamps and has been included in art shows around the world.  She has earned honorary university degrees and was a Companion of the Order of Canada and won the Governor General’s Award. In an interview she gave after winning that award she provided insight into her artistic process describing how she just puts her pencil down on the paper and begins to draw and her work emerges from what she is thinking and feeling. 
john-bell-chapel-windowKenojuak designed a beautiful stained glass window for the John Bell Chapel in Oakville Ontario. She traveled the world as an ambassador for Inuit art visiting Germany, the United States, Holland, Korea and Japan. Many of her prints were made on Japanese paper. Mother of sixteen biological and adopted children, Kenojuak supported several generations of her family with her artwork till her death in 2013. 

School of Fish by Kenojuak Ashevak

School of Fish by Kenojuak Ashevak

You can see a beautiful film about Kenojuak and her family when she was only 35 years old on the National Film Board website and you can see her beautiful work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the Our Land exhibit. 

Other posts about Inuit women who were amazing artists……..

Getting to Know Oviloo

Falling in Love

Learn more about the connection between Japanese paper makers and Inuit artists……

The Globalization of Art From Japan to Cape Dorset

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