Ooloosie Saila

Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS - by John Geoghe­gan

Strange coloured moun­tains, al­ways with a coast­line, fan­tas­tic birds and winged crea­tures di­rectly from Won­der­land, these are some of the things that pop­u­late the draw­ings of Ooloosie Saila, one of the most orig­i­nal young artists work­ing in Kin­ngait (Cape Dorset), NU, to­day.

Saila be­gan draw­ing in 2015, with her work gain­ing an al­most im­me­di­ate, en­thu­si­as­tic fol­low­ing in the South. She counts Keno­juak Ashe­vak, CC, ON, RCA (1927–2013) as an im­por­tant in­flu­ence and fondly re­mem­bers watch­ing the iconic artist mak­ing draw­ings in her home. Like Ashe­vak and her grand­mother Pi­taloosie Saila, RCA, Ooloosie Saila draws dis­tinc­tive birds with a style uniquely her own. Owls with yel­low eyes, as wide and as bright as head­lights, and geese with long crooked necks reap­pear fre­quently across her work; all are ren­dered with sharp talons and spiky feath­ers. There is tremen­dous charm and com­edy to these crea­tures, who some­times sport eye­brows and mous­taches that im­bue them with a dis­tinc­tive per­son­al­ity. In 2017 Saila’s first print was re­leased in the Cape Dorset An­nual Print Col­lec­tion. Or­na­men­tal Owl, a whim­si­cal stone­cut in sun­flower yel­low and inky black, fea­tures a bird, densely dec­o­rated with squig­gles, stripes and dots, that is part owl, part bum­ble­bee and maybe even part oc­to­pus. The print was an in­stant stand out in the col­lec­tion and quickly sold out. Hun­dreds of prints from Kin­ngait have de­picted birds, but few are as mem­o­rable or as hu­mor­ous as Saila’s Or­na­men­tal Owl.

What world could these strange birds in­habit? Cer­tainly they would find their home in Saila’s oth­er­worldly land­scapes. Though Saila de­picts the moun­tains and rock for­ma­tions found in and around Kin­ngait, they are ren­dered fan­tas­ti­cally with bul­bous hills, un­du­lat­ing shore­lines and puffy clouds.

Her land­forms are speck­led with rocks, snow and veg­e­ta­tion, all in bold blocks and stripes of colour. Saila loves colour. Her draw­ings are filled with sump­tu­ous reds and or­anges, vi­brant blues and teals, earthy browns and warm yel­lows. She also favours a bold, dark ap­pli­ca­tion of coloured pen­cil over shad­ing or blend­ing. Her use of colour-block­ing and pref­er­ence for flat com­po­si­tions gives her work the im­pres­sion of a patch­work quilt or a work by Amer­i­can mod­ernist painter Mil­ton Avery: bold, graphic and whim­si­cal.

Saila’s draw­ings have no straight lines. Her forms swell and pulse like the very en­vi­ron­ments by which she is in­spired.

In a com­mu­nity where many artists have em­braced photograph­y as an im­por­tant part of their draw­ing prac­tice, Saila has re­fused and in­stead em­braces her own imag­i­na­tion, and the im­pre­ci­sion that comes with it. She be­gins her draw­ings with a pen­cil out­line, which is then traced over with a fine­liner and fi­nally flooded with coloured pen­cil. Re­cently, she has been work­ing on large for­mat works that are well suited to her lush draw­ings of the ex­pan­sive arc­tic land­scape.

De­spite her rel­a­tively re­cent foray into draw­ing, Ooloosie’s work was in­cluded in the Imago Mundi ex­hi­bi­tion and pub­li­ca­tion Inuit: Land of Arc­tic Ice (2017) and has been col­lected by the Win­nipeg Art Gallery and the Mon­treal Mu­seum of Fine Arts. Saila will also soon be the sub­ject of a solo ex­hi­bi­tion at Fe­he­ley Fine Arts in Toronto, ON, where we an­tic­i­pate her imag­i­na­tive works and dis­cernible style will con­tinue to sur­prise and en­chant their au­di­ences.


Ooloosie Saila (b. 1991 Kin­ngait) — Com­po­si­tion (Three Birds) 2016 Coloured pen­cil and ink 137.1 × 127 cm

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