Abraham Anghik Ruben,
master Inuvialuit sculptor
An exceptional exhibition at La Guilde inaugurates the 2017 Montreal First Peoples Festival
Text and photos by Jean-François Brucel
Upon searching Abraham Anghik Ruben on the Internet, we learn that this Inuit artist from the north of the Canadian Arctic, an Inuvialuit, is a prominent figure in his field and that his works appear in numerous museums as well as private and corporate collections.
Fascinated by the cultures and peoples of the Northern Hemisphere for a long time, the artist reveals his vision of what the immemorial relationship between the Vikings and the Inuit might have been.
… the artist reveals his vision of what the immemorial relationship between the Vikings and the Inuit might have been.
Spirits that meet, spirits that remember…
For it is at the level of his creative thought that this master-sculptor stands out the most. In the past, the Inuit had contacts with the Vikings. These two northern peoples shared values, similar spiritual beliefs, reinforced by their ties with the earth and the spirits.
Shamanic transformations, dreams, the passage of time, voyages at sea, are among the many themes that this master-sculptor interprets in his works, formerly shapeless blocks of stone… Among the themes that the artist brilliantly explores through his works, we find Sedna – the mother of the sea and marine animals in Inuit mythology – and shamanism, but also Odin, Thor and Beowulf, as well as undeniably Viking graphic motifs, such as a bestiary that includes polar bears and birds of prey, as well as dragons and dogs.
Through his works, Abraham Anghik Ruben “has sought to bring life to these ancient voices from a time when these two northern people held a reverence for the land and for all living things therein that provided sustenance and survival”.
And then it is surprising to notice in the exhibition a work on St. Francis of Assisi, without a doubt the result of a Christian education acquired during an eleven-year stay in a residential school that had inevitably left profound emotional and cultural scars.
Born in 1951 in the Northwest Territories, his first vernissage took place in 1971 in Toronto, but it was not until 2016 that Ruben was awarded the Order of Canada. His mastery of the medium, his technique and his themes, make this artist exceptional.
The fifteen works that are presented at the exhibition are either bronzes or soapstone from Brazil tinted with ochre or streaked with dark brown. His other favourite materials are vertebrae and whale ribs, and soapstone from Oregon and British Columbia.
This exceptional exhibition inaugurates the 2017 Montreal First Peoples Festival, in collaboration with the project manager of the festival Terres en Vues / Land InSights, at La Guilde, 1460 B Sherbrooke W, near the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
A must for Inuit sculpture lovers, the exhibition opens up new perspectives for Inuit art, in a spirit of renewal envisioned by artists such as Abraham Anghik Ruben. One can only rejoice in this new concept of Nordic art practiced by all peoples living close to the Arctic.
Photos: Jean-François Brucel
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Jean-François is a Montreal visual artist in the fields of screen-printing, acrylic and photography. Specialized training in screen-printing and acrylic transfers enabled Jean-François to broaden his horizons in the visual arts.