Shuvinai Ashoona

Year and place of birth: 1961, Kinngait (formerly Cape Dorset), Canada
Shuvinai Ashoona 1526

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Shuvinai Ashoona is a third-generation Inuit artist from Kinngait, Nunavut, Canada. Here she spent her formative years, followed by a decade of living independently in remote outpost camps with her family. The Arctic landscape and its wildlife had a deep impact on Ashoona, which was later reflected in her artistic practice. Toward the end of the 1980s, when she was in her late twenties, Shuvinai Ashoona’s family settled back into Kinngait, but the transition to community life proved difficult for her.

Shuvinai Ashoona began artmaking without formal training but through observing her elders; her grandmother Pitseolak Ashoona, and her cousin Annie Pootoogook were particularly influential. Thanks to access to the renowned drawing, printing and carving studios of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, she started to experiment and developed a distinctive style. While in her early drawings she captured the natural world that surrounded her, the subject matter of her later work became more personal and combined elements derived from Inuit culture and mythology, Christianity and Western commercial imagery. She thereby defied preconceived notions of what Inuit art should look like and helped to expand the definition of contemporary Inuit art.

Ashoona’s work came to the broader attention of galleries and institutions in the South in the early 2000s. In recent years, her work has been selected for international exhibitions of contemporary art. Ashoona’s work was represented at the Biennale of Sydney (2012) and is shown at the central exhibition of the 59th edition of the Venice Biennale (2022).

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