Shuvinai Ashoona, Earth Transformations, 2012
Coloured pencil and Conté crayon on black paper, 123 x 124.5 cm
Collection of Martha Burns and Paul Gross
Earth Transformations is one of many works completed by Shuvinai Ashoona between 2011 and 2014 that feature the planet. Earth appears in many combinations, including piles of globes, links of globes connected by harpoons or lightning bolts, and faces and body parts made of globes. A large selection of these works was shown in a 2012 exhibition under the title Shuvinai’s World(s) at Feheley Fine Arts in Toronto. Though rendering geographically “accurate” depictions of Earth’s continents does not preoccupy Shuvinai, she consistently represents globes as “‘earthlike’ and/or suitable for life.”1
Earth Transformations is a stunning example from the exhibition Shuvinai’s World(s). This large drawing was made on black paper, a medium not uncommon at Kinngait Studios and one that provides a dramatic alternative to white paper. The image is first outlined in white, contrasting the black background, and later filled in with coloured pencil, pastel, or Conté crayon—or any combination of these. Studio manager William Ritchie (b. 1954) says, “[Shuvinai’s] remarkable sense of colour becomes very apparent, particularly when she is working on black paper. She uses rich, saturated colours that resonate together.”2
Many of the motifs that Shuvinai used during this period can be seen in Earth Transformations. The large globe in the upper left displays an aerial view of a community, complete with wildlife: a walrus, a caribou, and a lemming are running about. The globe seems to grow out of two human legs, complete with sky-blue toenail polish on the feet. Circling the legs are the tentacles of an octopus—dark purple with blue undersides that have suction cups—stretching through the lower half of the picture plane. The arms of the figure are made of a string of globes with clawed hands that seem to be grasping for something.
On the far right an Inuk dressed in a traditional parka and kamik boots is holding up a drawing (again, a motif Shuvinai has used before). One of his arms is made of globes with a clawed hand, matching the hybrid figure on the left. The inset drawing shows a hunter holding a rifle. He is kneeling behind a stretched canvas, perhaps using it as a blind to camouflage himself. Shuvinai has thus created two levels of inset images: the man on the right holding a canvas and the hunter in that image, holding a canvas, presumably of the same Kinngait landscape pictured in the first inset.