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Shuvinai Ashoona Life & Work by Nancy Campbell

Shuvinai Ashoona is one of the first Inuit artists to exhibit as a contemporary artist, both in Canada and internationally. She has also collaborated with a number of other contemporary Canadian artists, producing joint works and exhibitions. Her work has been subject to critical discussions in books, articles, and exhibition catalogues, and a documentary film features her work.


Key Exhibitions

Shuvinai Ashoona’s drawings and prints have been included in national and international contemporary art exhibitions, solidifying her reputation as a contemporary artist and breaking barriers that have ghettoized Inuit artists in the past.


Installation view of Woven Thoughts at Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto, September 2014, photograph by Renzo Fernandez.

Solo Exhibitions

2006

November 4–25, 2006, Shuvinai Ashoona: Time Interrupted, Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto.

2007

October 13–November 27, 2007, Shuvinai Ashoona: Drawings 1993–2007, Marion Scott Gallery, Vancouver.

2009

April 27–June 14, 2009, Shuvinai Ashoona Drawings, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa. Catalogue.

2012

September 15–October 10, 2012, Shuvinai’s World(s), Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto.

2014

September 20–October 11, 2014, Shuvinai Ashoona: Woven Thoughts, Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto.



Group Exhibitions

1999

May 14–August 31, 1999, Three Women, Three Generations: Drawings by Pitseolak Ashoona, Napatchie Pootoogook and Shuvinai Ashoona, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario. Catalogue.

2006

May 4–June 18, 2006, Landscape: Contemporary Inuit Drawings, Marion Scott Gallery, Vancouver. Catalogue.

2006
–07

February 2006–March 2007, Ashoona: Third Wave, New Drawings by Shuvinai Ashoona, Siassie Kenneally and Annie Pootoogook, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton.

2007

June 2–July 28, 2007, 3 Cousins: Original Drawings by Annie Pootoogook, Shuvinai Ashoona and Siassie Kenneally, Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto.

2008

September 20–October 11, 2008, Stadthimmel (“Citysky”): Shuvinai Ashoona and John Noestheden, Basel, Switzerland.

2009

May 28–August 23, 2009, Noise Ghost: Shuvinai Ashoona and Shary Boyle, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House, University of Toronto. Catalogue.

July 11–August 29, 2009, Contemporary Traditions: Shuvinai Ashoona and Annie Pootoogook, Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, Montreal.

July 18–August 30, 2009, Extreme Drawing, Marion Scott Gallery, Vancouver.

2009
–10

October 10, 2009–January 17, 2010, Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario.

October 16, 2009–January 17, 2010, Uuturautiit: Cape Dorset Celebrates 50 Years of Printmaking, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

2010

February 5–May 8, 2010, Monster, West Vancouver Museum.

July 17–August 7, 2010, The Drawing Room, Pendulum Gallery, West Vancouver.

2010
–11

November 5, 2010–January 23, 2011, It Is What It Is: Recent Acquisitions of New Canadian Art, Canadian Biennial, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

2011

April 2–August 21, 2011, Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Catalogue.

October 14–November 20, 2011, Surreal: Eight Artists in the Fantastical Tradition, Marion Scott Gallery, Vancouver.

2012

February 10–March 18, 2012, Sky Ecchymosis, Women of the Arctic series, La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, Montreal.

February 24–March 24, 2012, Dorset Now, Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto.

March 22–May 19, 2012, Sleep of Reason, Yukon Arts Centre, Whitehorse, Yukon.

June 27–September 16, 2012, John Noestheden: Sky and Shuvinai Ashoona: Earth, 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia.

2012
–13

May 26, 2012–April 1, 2013, Oh, Canada: Contemporary Art from North North America, organized by the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), North Adams, Massachusetts. Tour; catalogue.

2013

May 17–September 2, 2013, Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Catalogue.

June 29–September 2, 2013, Takujaksait (Something to See), Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, Iqaluit.

2014
–15

July 20, 2014–January 11, 2015, Unsettled Landscapes: SITElines: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas, SITE Santa Fe. Catalogue.

October 17, 2014–March 8, 2015, Shine a Light: Canadian Biennial 2014, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

2015

November 7–December 19, 2015, Universal Cobra: Shuvinai Ashoona and Shary Boyle, Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, Montreal, with Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto.



Primary Sources

Shuvinai Ashoona has been a regular contributor to the annual release of Cape Dorset prints, which is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue. She was a contributor to the 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015 collections. The first drawings by Shuvinai Ashoona that came through Dorset Fine Arts date to 1993. Dorset Fine Arts is the marketing division for Kinngait Studios at the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative.



Critical Texts

Cover of the catalogue for Three Women, Three Generations: Drawings by Pitseolak Ashoona, Napatchie Pootoogook and Shuvinai Ashoona, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, 1999, photograph by Ian Lefebvre.  

Blodgett, Jean, ed. Three Women, Three Generations: Drawings by Pitseolak Ashoona, Napatchie Pootoogook and Shuvinai Ashoona. Kleinburg, ON: McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1999. Exhibition catalogue.


Borderviews: “Hilarious Horror.” Border Crossings 136 (December 2015), http://bordercrossingsmag.com/article/hilarious-horror.


Boyd Ryan, Leslie, ed. Cape Dorset Prints: A Retrospective; Fifty Years of Printmaking at the Kinngait Studios. San Francisco: Pomegranate Communications, 2007.


Campbell, Nancy. Noise Ghost and Other Stories. Toronto: Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, University of Toronto, 2016. Exhibition catalogue.


De Zegher, Catherine, and Gerald McMaster, eds. All Our Relations: 18th Biennale of Sydney. Sydney: Biennale of Sydney Limited, 2012.


Dyck, Sandra. Shuvinai Ashoona: Drawings. Ottawa: Carleton University Art Gallery, 2012. Exhibition catalogue.


Hill, Greg, Candice Hopkins, and Christine Lalonde. Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2013. Exhibition catalogue.


Kardosh, Robert. “The New Generation: A Radical Defiance.” Inuit Art Quarterly 23, no. 4 (winter 2008): 20–30.


Karlinsky, Amy. Portfolio: “Land of the Midnight Sons and Daughters: Contemporary Inuit Drawings: Shuvinai Ashoona, Kavavaow Mannomee, Nick Sikkuark.” Border Crossings 105 (February 2008).


McMaster, Gerald, ed. Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2011.


Sinclair, James. “Breaking New Ground: The Graphic Work of Shuvinai Ashoona, Janet Kigusiuq, Victoria Mamnguqsualuk, and Annie Pootoogook.” Inuit Art Quarterly 19, nos. 3 and 4 (fall/winter 2004): 58–61.


Wight, Darlene Coward, ed. Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery; Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2012.



Further Reading

LEFT: Interior spread of Noise Ghost and Other Stories (2016), a catalogue documenting three exhibits at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House (now the Art Museum at the University of Toronto), including Noise Ghost: Shuvinai Ashoona and Shary Boyle, 2009, photograph by Sean Weaver. RIGHT: Cover of Noise Ghost and Other Stories (2016), photograph by Ian Lefebvre.

Until the early 1990s most scholarship on Inuit art focused on sculpture and prints. The rise of the drawing culture in the North, centred in the community of Kinngait (Cape Dorset), has not been explored in depth. Ingo Hessel’s Inuit Art: An Introduction (1998) provides an intelligent overview of Inuit art and a straightforward examination of the developments in different communities since the late 1940s but makes little mention of drawing. Leslie Boyd Ryan’s Cape Dorset Prints: A Retrospective; Fifty Years of Printmaking at the Kinngait Studios (2007) traces the development of print production in Kinngait Studios. Inuit Art Quarterly (IAQ), a journal produced by the Inuit Art Foundation since 1985, publishes new scholarship in the field and provides a timeline of trends in Inuit art practice, often featuring articles on the artists of Cape Dorset.

          Many university presses, most notably McGill-Queen’s University Press and the University of Manitoba Press, publish on a wide range of artistic practice in the North. Exhibition catalogues on other significant graphic artists from the Kinngait community have been published, including catalogues on Annie Pootoogook, Napachie Pootoogook, Pitseolak Ashoona, Pitaloosie Saila, Kananginak Pootoogook, Parr, and Pudlo Pudlat; these focus on their drawings in isolation from other artistic production, both in Kinngait and beyond.


Auger, Emily E. The Way of Inuit Art: Aesthetics and History in and Beyond the Arctic. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2005.


Cotter, Holland. “Asking Serious Questions in a Very Quiet Voice.” New York Times, June 22, 2007.


Crandall, Richard C. Inuit Art: A History. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2000.


Graburn, Nelson H.H. Ethnic and Tourist Arts: Cultural Expressions from the Fourth World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.


Hessel, Ingo. Inuit Art: An Introduction. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1998.


Lee, Pamela M. “Boundary Issues: The Art World under the Sign of Globalism.” Artforum International 42, no. 3 (November 2003).


Maire, Aurélie. “Dessiner, c’est parler : Pratiques figuratives, représentations symboliques et enjeux socio-culturels des arts graphiques inuit au Nunavut (Arctique canadien).” PhD diss., Université Laval and Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, 2015.


Mitchell, Marybelle. From Talking Chiefs to a Native Corporate Elite: The Birth of Class and Nationalism Among Canadian Inuit. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996.


Nasby, Judith, and Marion E. Jackson. Contemporary Inuit Drawings. Guelph, ON: Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, 1987. Exhibition catalogue.


Stern, Pamela, and Lisa Stevenson, eds. Critical Inuit Studies: An Anthology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.



Interviews and Film

Balzer, David. “Shuvinai Ashoona: ‘I Don’t Think from Newspaper.’” The Believer (November/December 2011). This interview by Canadian Art magazine editor David Balzer incorporates the artist’s voice in an insightful and expansive manner, offering rare insights into the thought process of this remarkable artist. Here is an excerpt.


Still from the film Ghost Noise (2010) directed by Marcia Connolly, at 9:32.

Ghost Noise. Directed and produced by Marcia Connolly. Siteline Media, 2010. English and Inuktitut with English subtitles. Colour / black and white. HDcam, 23 min. https://www.idfa.nl/industry/tags/
project.aspx?id=38f02b44-b13b-43bc-a3cf-01388a8a065c
Marcia Connolly’s film explores the sources of Shuvinai Ashoona’s drawings, with their images of everyday life in the Canadian Arctic infused with mythic symbolism. Connolly offers insights into what it is like to work in a remote community and at a co-operative like Kinngait Studios. We discover what it means to Shuvinai to be an artist and how the source of her art in traditional Inuit culture is shot through with Western modernity. “I want to speak in Inuktitut,” says the artist, “but I always slip into English. Changing directions, that’s how I am.”

          The etymologist Bill Casselman writes: “A Noise Ghost is an Inuit poltergeist, an arctic auditory phenomenon of incorporeal guile. This unseen, unbodied noise ghost may announce his haunting visitation by curling around a northern house on a cold quiet night and emitting a small, high-pitched hissing.”