Shuvinai Ashoona

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Shuvinai Ashoona
Born1961 (age 57–58)
NationalityInuit, Canadian
Known forDrawing

Shuvinai Ashoona (born 1961) is an Inuit artist who works primarily in drawing.[1] She is known for her detailed pen and pencil drawings depicting Northern landscapes and contemporary Inuit life.


Ashoona was born in 1961 in Cape Dorset, Nunavut to a family of celebrated artists. Her father Kiugak Ashoona was a sculptor, her mother Sorosilooto Ashoona was a graphic-artist and her grandmother Pitseolak Ashoona was one of the most acclaimed Inuit artists of her generation.[2] She is also related to artists Napatchie Pootoogook, her aunt, and Annie Pootoogook, her cousin, with whom she was selected to participate in Oh, Canada a showcase of contemporary Canadian artists curated by Denise Markonish and held at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in May 2012.[3][4]

Artistic career[edit]

Shoveling Worlds acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2013[5]

Ashoona's drawings are sometimes rooted in nature, but other times drawn from imagination, creating a claustrophobic, dense effect.[6] Recurring images include the egg shape; the kudlik, a stone oil lamp; and the ulu, a round women's knife; historical images or events occasionally appear, like the Nascopie supply ship, which brought goods and people to Cape Dorset until its sinking in 1947.[7] Setting Ashoona's work apart from the Inuit artists before her is a reflection of the blending of modern and traditional life in Nunavut.[8]

Her first drawings in the Kinngait Studios archives — the internationally renowned printmaking studio founded by the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative in 1959[9] — date from around 1993. Her early works were small, detailed, monochromatic landscape drawings, often depicting rocky, sparsely populated terrains from aerial perspectives. Her first major exhibition was Three Women, Three Generations: Drawings by Pitseolak Ashoona, Napatchie Pootoogook and Shuvinai Ashoona at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario.[2]

She began using colour in her drawings in the early 2000s, portraying human figures, their shelters, and tools within graphic, imposing topographies, like in the work Composition (Sewage Truck) (2007-8) in the Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario.[6] Her work was exhibited at Art Basel in 2009, paired with the Saskatchewan artist John Noestheden in an installation complex called "Stadthimmel Citysky," and at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at the University of Toronto, paired with the Toronto-based artist Shary Boyle.[10]

In roughly 2009 Ashoona began working with a motif of worlds, drawing human, animal, and hybrid figures interacting with blue and green planets within fantastical settings, as exhibited in Shuvinai's World(s) at Feheley Fine Arts in Toronto, September 2012.[11] She has exhibited most frequently with Feheley Fine Arts and Marion Scott Gallery in Vancouver.

Ashoona is the subject of a short documentary film titled Ghost Noise (2010), directed by Marcia Connolly[12] and had the song "Midnight Sun" dedicated to her by musician Kevin Hearn, who she painted a guitar for.[13]


  1. ^ Feheley Fine Arts. Shuvinai Ashoona. Retrieved 8 March 2015
  2. ^ a b Blodgett, Jean (1999). Three women, three generations: drawings by Pitseolak Ashoona, Napatchie Pootoogook and Shuvinai Ashoona. Kleinburg, Ont.: McMichael Canadian Art Collection. ISBN 9780777889251.
  3. ^ Balzer, David (2011). "Shuvinai Ashoona". The Believer (November/December). Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  4. ^ Tousley, Nancy. "Oh, Canada: National Dreams". Canadian Art. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  5. ^ Sandals, Leah (October 24, 2013). "AGO Acquires Works by Funk, Burnham, Ashoona & Sidarous at Art Toronto". Canadian Art. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  6. ^ a b McMaster, Gerald; editor (2010). Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection (1st U.S. ed.). Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario. ISBN 1553657780.
  7. ^ Time Interrupted exhibition catalogue, November 4–25, 2006. Toronto: Feheley Fine Arts, 2006.
  8. ^ Varga, Peter (July 2, 2013). "Shuvinai Ashoona's 21st century style represents Nunavut as she sees it". Nunatsiaq News. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  9. ^ Alsop, Jennifer (2010). "History of Cape Dorset and the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative". The Co-operative Learning Centre. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  10. ^ Stefania., Tiberini, Elvira (2011). Women in charge: artiste Inuit contemporanee = Inuit contemporary women artists = artistes Iunuit contemporaines. Museo preistorico-etnografico Luigi Pigorini. Milano: Officina libraria. ISBN 9788889854655. OCLC 778841636.
  11. ^ Milroy, Sarah. "Inuit Feminism Goes Global." The Globe and Mail. 8 September 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  12. ^ Bingham, Russell (12 December 2013). "Shuvinai Ashoona". The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  13. ^ Murphy, Sarah (October 28, 2014). "Kevin Hearn Gets Lou Reed, Ron Sexsmith, Dan Hill for 'Days in Frames' LP, Shares New Single". Exclaim!. Retrieved March 11, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Sinclair, James (2004). "Breaking New Ground: The Graphic Work of Shuvinai Ashoona, Janet Kigusiuq, Victoria Mamnguqsuuluk, and Annie Pootoogook". 19:3/4 (Fall/Winter): 58–61.

External links[edit]