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Montreal exhibition showcases the work of Nunatsiavut artists

OCT. 3 – NOV. 24: ‘The world has begun to embrace their diverse, powerful and expressive works’
September 26, 2019
Jason Sikoak is among the 25 artists who will be exhibiting their work at the exhibition. | Image and photo courtesy of Jason Sikoak

Twenty-five artists from Nunatsiavut, the Inuit region of Labrador, are taking part in an upcoming exhibition at La Guilde museum and gallery in Montreal, presented in partnership with Concordia and Air Borealis.

Nunatsiavut, Our Beautiful Land features more than 40 pieces, including photographs, sculptures, paintings and drawings.

“Artists from Nunatsiavut have, until very recently, been hidden from the spotlight that shines on Inuit art in Canada,” says Heather Igloliorte, associate professor in the Department of Art History and the Concordia University Research Chair in Indigenous Art History and Community Engagement.

“Left out of the early initiatives that supported the development of today’s thriving contemporary Inuit art ecosystem, and living so far from urban centres, Nunatsiavummiut artists have had a difficult time reaching broader audiences. That’s why this exhibition is so welcome and important.”

Igloliorte curated the first nationally touring exhibition to introduce new audiences to art from the Labrador region, SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut (2015-2019).

“Following the success of that exhibition, I think we’re seeing Inuit art enthusiasts begin to know more about and get excited about the fantastic work coming out of Nunatsiavut," Igloliorte says.

“There is an eagerness to learn more. What’s exciting about this exhibition is that it gives the public an opportunity to not only see but also potentially acquire the works, which was not possible with SakKijâjuk. It also means the artists may develop new relationships with collectors, which is exciting.”  

Jason Sikoak, an undergraduate student in Concordia’s Department of Studio Arts, is among the 25 artists who will be exhibiting their work. He’ll also be holding an engraving workshop at La Guilde during the exhibition, on October 12.

A mature student, Sikoak says he came to Concordia from Nunatsiavut looking for a fine arts program that would give him support and versatility. The mentorship he received along the way from Igloliorte and others inspired him to offer help to other up-and-coming artists.

‘With studio arts, I could choose from a wide range of areas’

What made you decide to go back to school?

Jason Sikoak: I’ve been working my whole life, trying to pretend I’m not an artist. But a severe illness about 10 years ago forced me out of the normal workforce, so I could sit down and draw and paint and whatnot. I decided that I love being an artist.

As my illness got progressively better, I decided that I wouldn’t go back to the construction or oil patch industries. Instead, I would further my education and look for something directly related to the arts.

I came to Montreal specifically to study at Concordia as I heard great things about the arts programs here. Also, my mentor, Heather Igloliorte, is a professor in the Department of Art History. She is from Nunatsiavut as well and I was lucky enough to be a part of her travelling exhibition, SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut. I first met her in the city of St. John’s at a printmaking workshop. That sparked an interest in furthering my career in fine arts.

Why did you choose to study studio arts?

JS: I appreciated the broad spectrum offered by the program. It was what I needed to further my artistic practice. Instead of studying something more specific like drawing or painting, with studio arts I could choose from a wide range of areas.

What are some of the best things about the program?

JS: I came here as a mature student full of anxiety, but the professors and TAs were all very willing to help me. They encourage an open line of communication and, because of that, the learning experience has been amazing.

How have you grown personally and professionally in this program?

JS: I’m working as part of the Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership Program with Heather. This past summer, I did a mentorship with a local graphic designer and now I’m leaning toward the graphic design field for future work.

When you entered the program, did you have a specific career path in mind?

JS: I want to open a working studio for young artists or artists who don’t have a developed portfolio. They could come do a residency and develop a portfolio, CV and bio for themselves to put out into the art world. Heather is helping me and I, in turn, want to help other people once I’m through the program.

What resources at Concordia helped you?

JS: The Aboriginal Student Resource Centre helped me through my first year. It became a second home for me. As soon as I walked in, they welcomed me with open arms. It’s a very safe place. The staff and support workers there are amazing.

The exhibition,
Nunatsiavut, Our Beautiful Land, takes place at La Guilde (1356 Sherbrooke St. W. Montreal) from October 3 to November 24. Jason Sikoak’s engraving workshop is on October 12.


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