Shuvinai Ashoona

Mapping Worlds

The Power Plant presents a survey of work by Shuvinai Ashoona.


The exhibition Mapping Worlds brings together a selection of works on paper produced by Shuvinai Ashoona over the past two decades in dialogue with more recent drawings. Though many of Shuvinai Ashoona’s early drawings depict daily life in Kinngait, Nunavut, continuing an artistic tradition begun by artists such as Napachie Pootoogook (1938 – 2002) and Annie Pootoogook (1969 – 2016), she is best known for developing a personal iconography with imagery ranging from closely observed naturalistic scenes of her Arctic home to monstrous and fantastical visions.

Ashoona’s engagement with science fiction tropes in her artwork—human-animal hybrid creatures, women birthing worlds, barren landscapes that appear to be post-apocalyptic even though they are inspired by the terrain of her northern home —project the past and present into an otherworldly, speculative future. Rather than read as dystopic, Ashoona’s brightly coloured drawings teem with life; and while the Inuit community occasionally clashes with the artist’s creatures, more often than not they co-exist, going about their daily business hunting and cutting seal, creating art at the print shop and caring for their children. Unlike many settler visions of the future, which focus on violent clashes between humans and nature, humans and other humans, or humans and otherworldly ‘invaders,’ Ashoona’s earthly and extraterrestrial worlds exist within a kinder intergalactic future.

As resource extraction leaves deepening scars upon the landscape and the atmosphere rapidly warms (phenomena that are felt even more acutely by populations living within the Arctic), television shows like The Walking Dead (2010– present) stimulate our fears of the unknown, the monstrous and the ‘Other’ in a manner that risks increasing our xenophobia and provoking violence. Ashoona’s work speaks to these current anxieties, yet her artwork does not depict humans in opposition to the otherworldly. By appropriating images from horror films, comic books and television, Ashoona merges different contemporary media with everyday narratives to redraw the map of the boundaries between reality and fantasy, past and future.

Shuvinai Ashoona (born 1961, Kinngait, Nunavut, Canada) lives and works in Kinngait. Solo exhibitions of Ashoona’s work have been organized at Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, Iqaluit (2013); MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina (2012); Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa (2009); and Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton (2006). Her work has been shown in group exhibitions at venues including the Esker Foundation, Calgary (2017); Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2017); Mercer Union, Toronto (2016), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2014) and SITE Santa Fe (2014).