Saimaiyu Akesuk: Prints 2013-2015 – Curated by Dr. Nancy Campbell
The Cape Dorset Print Collection produced at Kinngait Studios, part of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative in Kinngait, Nunavut, has annually catalogued collections of between 30 and 60 images as well as numerous commissions and special releases every year since 1959 providing a valuable record of the changes in the community. Pulling from this archive, Open Studio is pleased to present an exhibition curated by Dr. Nancy Campbell, highlighting prints by artist Saimaiyu Akesuk.
Kinngait Studios is the longest continuously running print studio in Canada. Despite these impressive origins and prolific print output, studio production is constantly changing to allow artists to create and sell art to new audiences and appeal to a changing audience. Saimaiyu Akesuk, born in 1988, is a recent artist member at the Kinngait Cooperative. Her bold, colourful prints featuring birds and animals recall the archetypal work of her Elders that feature a singular graphic image, such as Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013), Papiara Tukiki (1942-) and Sheojuk Etidlooie (1929-1999) but remain uniquely her own. Her acid colour palette and large scale mark a move from her origins and sit comfortably with both Inuit and contemporary art audiences. Her prints have recently been exhibited in Toronto, Brooklyn, and Portland.
When I went down to the litho shop to sell my first drawing, I was very nervous wondering whether they would buy it or not. My first drawing was an image of my late grandfather’s (Latchaolassie) carving of a bird. I was so proud to get paid for that drawing and it inspired me to do more drawings. Saimaiyu Akesuk
Saimaiyu Akesuk was born on April 28, 1988 in Iqaluit but she has lived in Cape Dorset her whole life. Her parents are Lau Akesuk and Olayuk Akesuk who was one of the first Members of the Legislative Assembly in Nunavut. Saimaiyu was inspired to start drawing by Ningeokuluk Teevee while they were taking a class together at the Nunavut Teaching Education Program. Saimaiyu’s confident drawings of birds and bears are characterized by her bold and dynamic simplicity rendered with soft tenderness and quite often a touch of whimsy.
Dr. Nancy Campbell has been a contemporary art curator for the past twenty years. She has held positions at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the University of Guelph, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and The Power Plant. In 2006 she curated an exhibition for The Power Plant on the work of Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook that travelled nationally and internationally, propelling Pootoogook to be included in Documenta 12 and win the Sobey Art Prize in 2007. Since that time, Nancy has focused her curatorial practice on the contemporary Inuit, producing many exhibitions attempting to bridge the Inuit with the contemporary art.