Pudlo Pudlat’s flair for design and colour and his sense of whimsy combined to produce a remarkable output of drawings and prints. The artist’s creative spirit was fed by the unusual, the foreign and the incongruous. Pudlo’s exposure to outside influences in the north as well as visits to southern Canadian cities provided additional fodder for his wide-ranging imagination. He was particularly fascinated by southern transportation, architecture and technologies, which he freely blended with northern themes to create an ever-expanding visual vocabulary of forms.
Pudlo first made drawings in 1959 or 1960 and became a regular contributor to the annual Cape Dorset Print Collection, enthusiastically embracing lithography and painting with acrylics by the mid-1970s. He gained fame as an innovative print artist, but a growing appreciation of his original drawings culminated in Pudlo: Thirty Years of Drawing, a landmark 1990 exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada – the first solo show for an Inuit artist at that institution. Pudlo was an artist truly ahead of his time. It could be argued that his innovative style foreshadowed and influenced new ways of seeing and illustrating the contemporary Inuit world in both sculpture and graphic art for a whole new generation of Cape Dorset artists.
This drawing, which Pudlo likely would have titled Fish-Airplanes, beautifully sums up the artist’s playful sense of humour and his ability to assimilate southern imagery into Inuit art. Pudlo’s whimsical vision of airplanes, which are typically compared with birds, is not only comical and poetic, it is strangely more apt. The artist effortlessly transforms fuselages into sinuous fish bodies and wings into fins. These fish-airplanes are magical but also highly sensuous creations. In the tradition of the greatest Inuit artists, Pudlo renders the improbable and incongruous absolutely convincing.