exhibition
Annie Pootoogook, Talking on the Phone, 2003. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © National Gallery of Canada
Annie Pootoogook, Talking on the Phone, 2003. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © National Gallery of Canada
Much of Annie Pootoogook’s work addresses the reality of contemporary Inuit life into which commodities from the south have become fully integrated. Her subjects are frequently shown engaged in indoor activities such as card games, eating dinner, or watching TV. Here she illustrates a present-day domestic interior giving careful attention to the furnishings. The items – a sofa, lamp, table, sewing machine – are familiar, but their sparse arrangement is typically northern. Pootoogook’s absorption in minutiae reflects a larger interest in the way people live in general. The telephone, like the clock and television, is a common object that unites people everywhere. It is through her contemplation of these simple things that Pootoogook connects with her audience.
Annie Pootoogook, Fine Liner Eyebrow, 2001-02. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © National Gallery of Canada
Annie Pootoogook, Fine Liner Eyebrow, 2001-02. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © National Gallery of Canada
Pootogook’s captivating portrait Fine Liner Eyebrow is surreal and somewhat disturbing. With her down-turned mouth, deep facial creases, and bloodshot eyes, the woman is clearly troubled. The tendrils that appear to sprout from her head are repeated in the delicate green veins of her hand. Using a Fine Liner pen – the same kind Pootoogook uses to create her drawings – the subject completes one of her own eyebrows. The reference could be to the use of cosmetics in everyday life, but the appearance of the tendrils, an element of Annie’s iconography to show disconcerting thoughts, implies a less direct meaning.

Annie Pootoogook began drawing in 1997 under the encouragement of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative in Cape Dorset. She quickly developed a preference for drawing scenes from her own life, and became a prolific graphic artist in the intervening years. In 2003, Annie’s first print was released: an etching and aquatint drawn by the artist on a copper plate. The image, titled “Interior and Exterior,” is a memory of the artist’s childhood, lovingly recording the particulars of settlement life in Cape Dorset in the 1970s. Her solo exhibition at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, and subsequent win of the Sobey Art Award – both in 2006, as well as her participation at Documenta 2007, have established her as the leading contemporary Inuit graphic artist.

Annie is the daughter of Napachie and Eegyvudluk Pootoogook, and the granddaughter of renowned artist Pitseolak Ashoona.

Annie’s artwork challenges conventional expectations of ‘˜Inuit’ art. Her subjects are not Arctic animals or scenes of nomadic existence from a time before settlement life; rather, her images reflect her experiences as a female artist living and working in contemporary Canada. Like her grandmother Pitseolak before her, Annie is an instinctive chronicler of her times. She fills her domestic interiors with details such as clocks and calendars, graduation photos, and Inuktitut messages stuck to the fridge in contemporary Inuit kitchens. Amongst meticulous depictions of modern outpost camp life and scenes peopled by local Cape Dorset personalities, Annie’s graphics are peppered with images of ATM cash machines, Playboy-style eroticism, the social services office, spousal abuse and the Iraqi war on television. The death of her mother Napachie in 2002 has also led Annie to explore themes of mortality and spirituality in her artwork.