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Nick Sikkuark

Untitled (Shamans Flying over Water)


Nick Sikkuark
Near Garry Lake, Nunavut, 1943 – Kugaaruk, Nunavut, 2013


Untitled (Shamans Flying over Water)




Coloured pencil


27.6 x 34.5 cm


Gift of Mark London, inv. 2017.374


Graphic Arts

Although principally known as a sculptor, Nick Sikkuark shifted his focus towards drawings in 2003 and created a large body of work focusing on shamanism, particularly the representation of spirit flight. Although this is a common theme in Inuit art, Sikkuark’s depiction of disembodied, flying heads engaged in aerial acrobatics is a unique take on the subject and emerges from his own imagination rather than any specific story from his Netsilik background. This may be in part because Sikkuark was torn away from his culture when he was orphaned at a young age and subsequently adopted by Oblate priests. After receiving a largely religious education, he relocated to Winnipeg and then Ottawa to study for the ministry before abruptly moving back north and eventually settling in Kugaaruk to work as an artist. Understood in the context of this personal history, the focus on shamanism in his work might be read as a reclamation of pride in his culture.

In his drawings, Sikkuark maintains an interest in landscape that was apparent already in his sculptural works. His use of Western forms of perspective in depicting this outcropped coastal landscape is unusual in the canon of Inuit art where space is usually minimized and flattened, thereby creating a greater emphasis on the subject. This aspect of his work, combined with his technical proficiency in using coloured pencil to create textured shading, adds an element of naturalism to an image that is otherwise fantastical in its subject matter.

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