As Inuit artist Shuvinai Ashoona (b.1961) began to draw more regularly, she quickly adapted her techniques—and then adopted new modes of mark making. She began to use larger paper formats and increased the concentration of line and dense cross-hatching, eventually introducing colour as well. She shifted her typical bird’s-eye, long-view vantage point for landscapes of Cape Dorset and started to explore landscapes of imaginative depth and multiple layers that included tunnels, nooks, and crannies at closer range. 


Shuvinai Ashoona, Composition (Community with Six Houses), 2004–5

Shuvinai Ashoona, Composition (Community with Six Houses), 2004–5
Coloured pencil and ink on paper, 66 x 50.8 cm, Art Gallery of Guelph

Her exercises in building compressed, imaginary landscapes are wonderfully realized in Composition (Community with Six Houses). The landscape is rendered in black ink and rises five levels from rocky ground that is delicately and intricately drawn in fine detail, with ink and coloured pencil. Shuvinai outlines every pebble, stone, and rock individually, giving richness to the tundra. A hydro pole, a ladder, and stairs connect the levels of the landscape. In a trick to the eye, the lower levels seem to have more light while the upper levels appear more densely shaded. A side-view glimpse shows six matchbox houses, typical in Cape Dorset, coloured in pinks and blues. Shuvinai likes the fact that the houses are hidden in this vertical place. She has said, “It would be nice to live hidden in the rocks where you could go up and down.” Here, and from this point forward, Shuvinai tends to combine her imaginative worlds with things she has seen or remembers. 


This Spotlight is excerpted from Shuvinai Ashoona: Life & Work by Nancy G. Campbell.

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