Christine Lalonde remembers
“I like to challenge myself,” Tim repeatedly said during our first interview together when we talked about his ideas behind Untitled (Cockpit) (2008), his stunning life-size drawing of the cockpit interior of First Air’s ATR 72–500 as it was landing in Kinngait (Cape Dorset). Tim’s words are revived in my memory every time I see one of his drawings.
Tim was born and raised in Kimmirut and it was there his first efforts in artmaking began: drawing in art classes and, for his own pleasure, carving occasionally alongside his parents, Temela and Napachie Pitsiulak, and even teaching art classes at the local Qaqqalik high-school. Tim also participated in Arctic College’s jewellery and metalwork program in the 1990s (and later taught these practices). A key turning point was his move to Kinngait, around 2004, to be with his wife, Mary, as it allowed him to lead a rich life that balanced artmaking at Kinngait Studios with raising a family, hunting and fishing.
Since his first print Caribou Crossing was editioned in 2005, it was apparent that Tim constantly set new goals to challenge himself and achieved them with spectacular assurance, whether it was tackling unconventional subject matter, difficult compositions, unusual perspectives or different approaches in scale and media. Over the past several years, his choice of subject matter expanded, from his earliest interest in Arctic animals through to intricate engines and heavy machinery, commentary on social and global issues, everyday hunting and community scenes and expansive depictions of the landscape.
At the same time, although Tim was at the centre of a circle of Kinngait artists redefining contemporary Inuit art, he equally carried on the same spirit of reportage as elder artists. Like the groundbreaking artists Pitseolak Ashoona, RCA (1904-1983) and Kananginak Pootoogook, RCA (1935-2010) Tim was an observer of his own time and made drawings of his daily experiences, choosing subjects that strongly reflect his interests as an Inuk, an artist and an active hunter. By doing so Tim gave us a glimpse into his life and the lives of his fellow Inuit.
Tim steadily moved well beyond being a rising artist to become a pillar of Kinngait Studios and a respected artist throughout Canada; however, as a close friend of his recently commented, it was never about the art scene for him. Without a doubt Tim was proud of his artistic accomplishments—his career was a force, from his first solo show at Feheley Fine Arts, in Toronto to having his artwork included in major exhibitions such as Uuturautiit (2009), Inuit Modern (2011), Creation and Transformation (2012–13), and Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art (2013). Beyond showings of Indigenous art, he was one of the top Canadian artists selected for the National Gallery of Canada’s exhibition Shining a Light: Canadian Biennial (2014). Most importantly, his portraits of himself at work show how much he identified with being an artist. Yet, as he said many times, his motivation was to support his family and the challenge was to create and, from a deep-rooted commitment, to share his culture, experiences and knowledge with people “down South” through the remarkably broad reach of his art.
No words can diminish the painful loss of his death, but there is some comfort found in our memories, in the lasting impact he has had on our lives and in all that he gave of himself in his art, which will remain beyond his lifetime and ours.
Tim constantly set new goals to challenge himself and achieved them with spectacular assurance.
Tim Pitsiulak at Open Studio in Toronto, April 2016 Opposite: Tim Pitsiulak (1967-2016 Kinngait) GO PRO HYDROPHONE 2016 Pastel on paper 182.9 x 124.5 cm Courtesy Feheley Fine Arts © Dorset Fine Arts