Dar­cie Bern­hardt

Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS - by Emily Hen­der­son

In her evoca­tive work, Nanuk Braid­ing My Hair Be­fore Bingo (2019), Dar­cie Bern­hardt paints us a scene from her child­hood in Tuk­tu­uyaq­tuq (Tuk­toy­ak­tuk), Inu­vialuit Set­tle­ment Re­gion, NT, cross-legged at the feet of her nanuk, her grand­mother, who is work­ing her long dark hair into a braid be­fore an evening at bingo. A stack of cards al­ready lies ex­pec­tantly on the floor. The room feels quiet and re­flec­tive from the loose­ness of Bern­hardt’s sig­na­ture style that in­ten­tion­ally evokes the hazi­ness of mem­ory.

“Be­cause my paint­ings are mem­o­ries, they of ten ap­pear ‘un­fin­ished’. I’m tr ying to ex­press the way we rec­ol­lect images that we’re not com­pletely sure about. They’re of­ten fuzz y, al­most empty,” she ex­plains, “I’m [work­ing] to trans­late what I can re­mem­ber and how badly I want to re­mem­ber more.”

Bern­hardt, who draws in­spi­ra­tion from ar tists fa­mil­iar to the Inuit ar t world, such as An­nie Pootoo­gook (1969–2016), as well as those fur ther from home such as Nige­rian-Amer­i­can ar tist Njideka Akun­y­ili Crosby, fo­cuses her prac­tice on do­mes­tic spa­ces and de­pic­tions of fam­ily as well as com­plex, ab­stracted com­po­si­tions. The daugh­ter of a seam­stress, the ar tist re­calls her early years spent sur­rounded by sewing pat­terns as well as elders and ar tists that would come to her home to teach her mother as she learned and per fected her craf t— in­flu­ences that are rep­re­sented clearly across Bern­hardt’s paint­ings. “I think what is im­por tant for my work now,” she says of th­ese mo­ments’ in­flu­ence on her work, “is be­ing able to re­claim and rear tic­u­late my un­der­stand­ing of art, also through try­ing to re­con­nect with my cul­ture.”

While much of her prac­tice is in­spired by her child­hood in the Nor th, some of her re­cent pieces are guided by her ex­pe­ri­ences of re­lo­cat­ing to the South in 2016 and ad­just­ing to her cur­rent home in Hal­i­fax, NS. Af ter a week spent learn­ing to swim for the first time in the wa­ters of Ke­jimku­jik Na­tional Park and Na­tional His­toric Site in Nova Sco­tia dur­ing the sum­mer of 2018, she pro­duced I Learned How to Swim with my Fanny Pack (2018) us­ing a colour pal­ette drawn from the cool ed­dies of fresh wa­ter and the moose­hide fanny pack she wore through­out her visit. “I didn’t learn how to swim un­til that sum­mer be­cause it was the only time the wa­ter had been calm enough com­pared to the rough oceans around Tuk tu­uyaq­tuq.

It’s a spe­cial piece be­cause I was never fully com­for ta­ble around wa­ter un­til then.”

Bern­hardt’s de­but year in the Cana­dian ar t scene has been a dizzy­ing carousel of achieve­ments. In the Spring of 2019 she grad­u­ated from NSCAD Univer­sity; she opened her first solo show, Ouiyaghasi­ak, in Fe­bru­ary at the Anna Leonowens Gallery in Hal­i­fax, NS; fol­low­ing soon af­ter came her March 2019 in­stal­la­tion of a char­coal an­i­ma­tion at Mon­treal’s Nuit Blanche Fes­ti­val in the group ex­hi­bi­tion Mem­ory Keep­ers 1; and the in­clu­sion of a se­lec­tion of her pieces in Worn In­ward at the Ar t Galler y of Nova Sco­tia in Hal­i­fax from June to Oc­to­ber.

Adding to her busy year—which also in­cluded a trip to Venice, Italy, for the 58th Venice Biennale and a sub­se­quent pub­li­ca­tion in a spe­cial is­sue of the Inuit Ar t Quar

terly on her ex­pe­ri­ence—Bern­hardt was the fea­tured ar tist at the Inuit Ar t Foun­da­tion’s

booth at Ar t Toronto 2019, in­tro­duc­ing her work to the fair’s thou­sands of vis­i­tors. Her fea­tured works, Ji­juu Play­ing Bingo (2018), Nanuk and Nanogak (2018) and a larger-thanlife vinyl print of her swirling red and blue

Cut­ting Cari­bou (2018), offer a small sam­ple of her af fec­tion­ate snap­shots of her fam­ily life grow­ing up in Gwich’in and Inu­vialuit com­mu­ni­ties. In­spired by the hunt­ing and butcher­ing prac­tices of coun­try food, the pat terns of Cut­ting Cari­bou (2018) rep­re­sent shapes and se­quences in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar to the artist.

“Dur­ing the win­ter and fall we’d harvest all the cari­bou. I love to cre­ate the same ab­stract forms you’d see while you’re cut­ting up cari­bou be­cause I love the colour com­bi­na­tions of the meat, car­ti­lage, sinew and mem­branes.”

The Ar t Toronto spot­light also en­abled the ac­qui­si­tion of Bern­hardt’s paint­ings by Crown-In­dige­nous Re­la­tions and North­ern Af fairs Canada and the RBC Ar t Col­lec­tion, mark­ing the emerg­ing ar tist ’s first ma­jor in­sti­tu­tional ac­qui­si­tions, and re­new­ing Bern­hardt’s ded­i­ca­tion. “At the be­gin­ning of this year, I wasn’t re­ally sure if I wanted to con­tinue to paint,” re­mem­bers Bern­hardt. “But now that I’ve taken a breather and learned to ar tic­u­late my ideas and seen that there’s in­ter­est, I’m ex­cited to make more work.”

Through the many forms her visual story telling takes, Dar­cie Bern­hardt in­vites her au­di­ence into her deeply per­sonal process of the recla­ma­tion of her cul­tural, com­mu­nity and fa­mil­ial ties as she ex­presses them through care­fully ar­tic­u­lated pat­tern and colour while cap­tur­ing the fleet­ing na­ture of mem­ory.

ALL COUR­TESY THE ARTIST

BE­LOW Dar­cie Bern­hardt (b. 1993 Tuk tu­uyaq­tuq) anuk Braid­ing My Hair Be­fore Bingo 2019 Oil 91.4 × 61 cm

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