I Found An Art: Kenojuak Ashevak Silkscreen Talking Birds
Part four of the big game hunting story.
Kenojuak Ashevak is one of my favourite artists. She is also one of the most celebrated of Canadian artists, which is why I thought that framed image of “Sun and Owl Foliage” from an Ashevak calendar was the closest thing I’ll ever come to having an original.
But last Sunday at the St. Lawrence Market, I found this unusual silkscreen. Called “Talking Birds,” it was commissioned by Alcan Aluminum in 1963to commemorate the opening of their plant in Kingston, Ontario. It is unusual in that it was screened onto an aluminum sheet. It’s also an early work of Ashevak’s — there’s an article about the commission taped to the back of the aluminum plate. At the time, she was just in her 30s and the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative senlavik (workshop) had only been in existence for four years. According to the article, Ashevak was already one of the best known of the Inuit artists.
The commission also marked one of the earliest corporate sponsorships of an Inuit artist. And the process of transferring Ashevak original drawing onto metal (by photographically reproducing the original onto a silkscreen and then “etching” the metal by removing a a layer of alloy) was also revolutionary at the time. “As far as we know,” says the article, “this is the first time [the process] as been used to reproduce a work of art.”
Here is a picture of young Ashevak that illustrates the article.