Inuit Art Quarterly
Blue spherical bodies patterned with pea-green islands. Are they papier-mâché globes plucked from a classroom? Worlds from light-years away? Perhaps they are earths, shrunken or enlarged after imbibing a potion from Alice in Wonderland. Or a rarely spotted spherical species guiding us from another realm?
These terrestrial orbs are frequent visitors in the drawings of Shuvinai Ashoona, RCA appearing consistently in her work for the past dozen years. Occasionally they make up the features of a figure–globes for eyes, a cascade of globes braided into a planetary ponytail or a globe protruding from the belly of a woman. Sometimes there are groups of globes, clustered together, holding hands, in a pile to be shovelled, or just many globes floating in space.
Composition (Holding Up the Globe) (2014) is different. Seen from an aerial perspective, three figures literally carry the weight of the world. Absent are the fantastical creatures and out-of-this-world imagery that have become synonymous with Ashoona’s work. The figures, carefully rendered by the artist, aren’t Titans from ancient Greek myth, superheroes or bodybuilders; rather they appear to be three ordinary people. One, dressed in magenta and navy, has a long braid that twists and turns before pooling on the ground. She appears smaller than the other figures, her fingertips barely touching the globe, while the larger figures grasp it tightly. This might be a family. She might be a child. She appears off-balance and anguished, vulnerable under the globe’s weight.
In the hands of this group, the world seems delicate and fragile. If it were to slip from its precarious perch and land on the pebbled landscape below, it might shatter. At a time when temperatures and sea levels are rising at alarming rates, especially in the Arctic, Ashoona subtly reminds us that we are all stewards of our planet. The figures in this drawing are both carrying and caring for the Earth and Ashoona compels us to do the same.