Last winter I became one of the many short-term inhabitants of Iqaluit, Nunavut. I experienced a different kind of cold that is foreign to us southerners – as is the stark beauty and complexities of northern life. I found the novel landscape, utilitarian southern architecture and widespread appreciation of local arts and culture intriguing.
Iqaluit is a newly-minted city where Inuit culture collides with a large transient population of young people who come to find work and make money. Signs of neocolonialism are everywhere, for example: the architecture – utilitarian, intriguing, ugly – and the trademark of the southerner in downtown Iqaliuit – the costly Canada Goose down jacket. These symbols are in sharp contrast to the vast stillness of the signature northern landscape, which stretches with the curve of the earth once your gaze passes the edges of town. Outside the city limits, the land offers evidence of thousands of years of Inuit livelihood, one that blends more seamlessly with the land than our military outpost-turned Canadian capital.
My paintings, based on photographs taken on daily walks, document a short period in Iqaluit’s twenty-year history as a Canadian capital. As a centre of life and culture, Iqaluit and the North are often overlooked except as a hot political topic.
I sought to unapologetically showcase the beauty of the place in my paintings, an aspect of the north that was both unexpected and inspiring. Beauty, a complex subject with deep and often complicated routes in Canadian landscape painting is inescapable in the north. Winter days are short and blindingly bright, with sunrises and sunsets lasting for hours. Just beyond Tim Hortons the shore ice rises and falls 12 meters with each tide, and on warmer days it sublimes before the sun disappears again, making way for the mercurial aurora borealis.