Each spring print collections are flown South from various Arctic communities; the great geese migrate North. Now Anik is stabilized in orbit.
Each year the prints reveal collective and individual characteristics through slowly changing images derived from the subconscious, daily events, old tales, myths and memories.
These works identify the Inuit for us in terms wholly unlike those of Southern artists who have gone North with pencil, paper, oil and canvas. The prints reveal the inner response to reality and not the observed exterior characteristics of a people.
Contemporary Inuit art is a revelation of cultural identity in the process of transformation. Their ideas, values and dreams are made manifest and shared with us for us and, in this complex process, are fixed in time, associated with individuals and located in place. Their natural sources are not the land but man and his activities, the spirits recalled, the flora and the fauna. The diversity of imagery from the realm of events is rich in intense concentration upon the essential and the preservation of the significant as the Inuit move ever further from an oral past into a literate future. It is a physical, intellectual and emotional movement from the land and sea in their diverse seasonal manifestations to structured economic settlement patterns.
In the difficult activity of image-making memories of ancestral traditions are retained and carefully selected factors from the gradually shifting present are slowly introduced. Upon reflection some of it seems to be a sad art with an instinctive nostalgia for former ways of living, of human and animal relationships and activities never to be recalled except in memory and recorded through art forms. The astounding wealth of visual motifs range through a number of themes and associations extending back from the present to the introduction of print-making and to environmental cultural elements of virtually timeless antiquity.
The highly selective method of seizing upon the essential tends to eliminate the accidental, the incidental, the particular and the idiosyncratic. These images come from a unified mind and spirit response to life. They are direct, unambiguous and, at times, in diversity of style reflect, as in the art of the South, a variety of constantly changing circumstances and influences. A comprehensive examination of recent Inuit art in all its manifestations would reveal in subtle ways important aspects of cultural transition.
As we confront and absorb the sustained production of Inuit artists we inevitably raise the question of quality. Where are the potent visions comparable with those of early Kenojuak? Are they already a reality of the past? These more fragile - even tentative - visual statements are not only part of the vastly different traditions of the inland Baker Lake Inuit but are also a part of the evolution towards something other than the known.
Indirectly they reflect the pain of transition. This year from Baker Lake there is an indication of a new faith, of a newly devised presentation of contemporary experience and the personal struggle involved in daily life. The question of quality should be related to the changing realities of the North for the Inuit. The lack of awareness of or sensitivity to reflected change too frequently inhibits serious consideration of new artists' variations upon and deviations from traditionally accepted standards. In these works, as in those of our culture, style and content are the results of cultural evaluation. Quality will vary for numerous reasons but all of the chosen and memorable prints are clear indices of a culture employing art unconsciously for identity while moving inevitably into the unknown.
R. L. Bloore, Toronto, April 1973
The work begins to be created for a market rather than for the society itself. Bloore argues that contemporary Inuit art, created almost entirely for a southern market as an overtly commercial undertaking, retains that culture's “intense concentration on the essential and the preservation of the significant,” but begins to manifest a preoccupation with inner realities as it no longer serves its immediate society's cultural needs.
- Terrence Heath
Not Without Design
Catalog Essay, 1990