Milan, 6 September 2017
After our friends’ birthday party, described in my previous post, my wife and I decided to stay a couple of days more in Venice to visit the Art Biennale, the international exhibition of modern/contemporary art which the city holds every two years. We spent one day at the Giardini section of the exhibition and one at the Arsenale section.
I don’t know, maybe I’m getting old, maybe it was the oncoming cough and sore throat that got to me, but it was all such … crap – I can’t think of a better word to describe what we saw. It was just a lot of empty rhetorical flourishes: large pieces of things hanging from ceilings or plonked down on the floor; meaningless videos; assemblages that wouldn’t look out of place in a teenager’s bedroom; and long-winded texts on the walls full of ultimately empty words that pretended to make sense of the rubbish surrounding us. What’s the problem with modern art, for God’s sake?! Looking at all this with an admittedly dyspeptic eye I concluded that art has entered a cul-de-sac where it will die with a whimper.
I had a glimmer of hope on the first day, in the Giardini section, when I saw the quite powerful portraits by the Syrian-German artist Marwan Kassab-Bachi.
But it was really only on the second day, at the Arsenale section, when I was at my most despairing, that I stumbled across the one light shining in all this gloom, eleven paintings by the Inuit artist Kananginak Pootoogook – drawings is probably the better term, since they were mostly done with ink and coloured pencils.
I had never heard of this artist before coming face-to-face with these drawings, but I have since boned up on him a little. 1935, born in a traditional Inuit camp near Cape Dorset in Canada’s Northwest Territories. 1957, married Shooyoo and moved to Cape Dorset. Was one of the leaders in the establishment of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, the first Inuit owned cooperative, and was its president until 1964. In the 1970s, finally began working full-time as an artist, producing drawings, carvings and prints. 1980, was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. 2010, was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent an operation, from which he did not recover.
After that potted biography, let me without ado show some of his drawings at the Biennale, together with one extra drawing out of many which I found on-line.
Reflecting the Inuits’ traditional way of life, we have:
Successful walrus hunt
Reflecting the Inuits’ modern lifestyle, we have:
He thinks he has run out of gas but his engine is shot
Kananginak and his wife Shooyoo in their home
Wonderful … Thank God someone had the great idea of including him in the Biennale. It made up for all the misery of two days’ worth of glum traipsing around from one pile of crap to another.
Portrait 1: http://mosaicrooms.org/event/not-towards-home-but-the-horizon-marwan/
Portrait 2: http://artsalesindex.artinfo.com/auctions/Marwan-Kassab-Bachi-3598424/Sans-titre-1976
Whale hunt: http://canadianart.ca/news/kananginak-pootoogook-inuit-art-venice-biennale/
Successful walrus hunt: http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/65674inuk_artist_to_be_featured_in_renowned_international_exhibit/
He thinks he has run out of gas but his engine is shot: http://canadianart.ca/news/kananginak-pootoogook-inuit-art-venice-biennale/
Kananginak and his wife Shooyoo in their home: http://canadianart.ca/news/kananginak-pootoogook-inuit-art-venice-biennale/
Self portrait drawing a wolf: http://canadianart.ca/news/kananginak-pootoogook-inuit-art-venice-biennale/
Shedding the velvet: http://digitalcollections.stlawu.edu/collections/inuit-art/bycreator/Pootoogook,%20Kananginak