The Shadow Land

Cape Dorset Prints from the Bacardi Collection

Cape Dorset, Nunavut, in the Arctic territories of Canada, is considered the epicenter of printmaking and contemporary Inuit art. Focusing on stone cut prints from the 1960s, this new exhibition presents artworks produced by the first generation of full-time Inuit artists based at the settlement, including works by Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013) and Pitseolak Ashoona (1904-1983), two of Canada’s most esteemed graphic artists. Relief prints carved from stone, it is an artform unique to the Inuit that pays respect to their long history of stone carving.

Art is a vital element of Inuit culture. Distinguished by clean graphic outlines and a monochrome palette punctuated by bold strokes of colour, the “shadow prints”, as the Inuit refer to them, provide a contemporary insight into an ancient way of life. Many of the artists were raised in a semi-nomadic life, dictated by the elements and framed by the seasons, before taking up residence as part of 50 families brought together at the Cape Dorset settlement after its establishment in 1959.

Young Girl by by Eegyvudluk Ragee (Inuit, 1920-1983). 1969. Print on paper. Stonecut. 
Ed. 49/50. Collection of Bacardi Limited

The works in the exhibition, produced in the Cape Dorset Print Programme, illustrate both the continuity and change that has shaped the Inuit’s isolated and introspective way of living. The graphic works present a visual history of their culture and capture the strong bonds that they share with their ancestral homelands – a world in which, as Johnniebo Ashevak, Kenojuak’s husband, once suggested, the spirits “whisper in her ears.”

The exhibition, which is sponsored by Bacardi, is on display in the Upper Mezzanine Gallery through to December.