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About Judith Leidl







2001 Pangnirtung Community Print Collection

Introduction by Judith Leidl, Arts Advisor



Judith Leidl with Annie Kilabuk in the Pangnirtung Print Shop, April 2002


My first experience in Pangnirtung occurred late 1999, when I was asked to conduct a printmaking program offered through Nunavut Arctic College. I lived and worked in the community for three and a half months, from early September to the middle of December. I recall vividly how the light changed as we progressed towards the deep winter months, with the days growing shorter and darker until there were only a few hours of subdued daylight each day.

A stroke of good fortune occurred during that first visit. Happily, Arctic College received permission from the Board of the Uqqurmiut Inuit Artists Association for us to use the Print Shop at the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts & Crafts to conduct our printmaking program there. The printmakers, staff and general manager were most helpful and made us feel welcome, and I was delighted and privileged to be able to witness the highly skilled artist/printmakers at work here.

Among the students enrolled in my printmaking program were Annie Kilabuk, Geela Sowdluapik and Leetia Alivaktuk. These women would become proficient in the techniques of etching and linocut, and we were fortunate to be able to observe first-hand the masterful stencil prints produced by the artists who regularly work in the Print Shop. These stencil prints have become the trademark of the Pangnirtung Printmakers and have received an international reputation for their delicate colour palette and often lyrical imagery. As a result of participating in that printmaking program, Annie and Geela were hired as printmakers for the 2000 print collection.

Near the end of that first northern stint, the previous general manager mentioned to me that the printmakers had expressed an interest in having me act as the arts advisor at some point in the future. I was deeply honoured when, a year and a half later, the new general manager approached me to serve as the 2001 printmaking arts advisor. This offer ran deep into my own creative psyche, owing to the fact that my first remembered awareness of drawing stemmed from a childhood introduction to Inuit prints. I marveled in wonder! The impact of that early experience was long lasting and has continued to have an influence on my personal artistic journey.

This time, I am coming with my two children, Isobel (age 5) and Orion (age 3). What an amazing experience this should be for all of us! Sadly, our first full day in Pangnirtung is marked by the death of a young person from the community as a result of a snowmobile accident. As always, such events are felt deeply throughout the entire community, and it is evident that everyone is dealing with a sense of loss. However, we all realize that our time together will be short, and the tempo soon begins to pick up.

For the graphic imagery for this year’s collection, I delve into the archives held at the print shop and select a body of drawings that reflect the deep, soul-embracing qualities of the Inuit imagination – ranging from images of Sedna, the mythological Inuit sea goddess, to images of traditional Inuit life, and on to more contemporary imagery. I have selected work that, overall, contains strong graphic elements and varied colour palettes. After the initial group of drawings was gathered, we move into a fully collaborative phase of further narrowing down the images into the ones we will interpret as prints. This process of collaboration is the life-blood of the printmaking process here in Pangnirtung as in co-operative print shops throughout the world. Momentum builds and the process takes on a life of its own.

It is everyone’s wish to continue with the long-standing tradition of producing the stencil prints for which the Pangnirtung Printmakers have become renowned, but there is also a desire to expand upon this strength by receiving an infusion of etching and linocut techniques. Unfortunately, the etching/aquatint workshop I had planned to conduct must be postponed because an order of inks, plates and other supplies has been held up in transit. This results in disappointment, especially on the part of Jolly Atagooyuk, who had expressed a keen desire to produce etchings. In the face of such events, we must all assume a Northern “wait-and-see” attitude, which consists of a sense of resigned optimism in the face of events beyond our control in a place where nothing ever seems to go quite as planned. Planning is always useful, though, but one must constantly bear in mind that plans, unlike the local carvings, are not made of stone. Happily, the etching materials arrive near the end of my advisory period – hopefully just in time to produce at least one piece for the collection.

The print shop has become a hub of activity and creative energy as the printmakers, both seasoned and new, work together to create and deliver the 2001 print collection. Time is against us, of course, owing to a later than usual start this year. I try to set aside my worries about delayed materials and looming deadlines, and I find myself musing about a recent artist-in-residence position I held in Bermuda, halfway around the world, in a tropical paradise, a world apart. I remember getting lost there briefly after getting on the wrong bus. A local Bermudian woman, observing my slight panic, reassured me with some sage advice: “Enjoy the ride, honey – it’s not the destination, it’s the journey that counts.” These two disparate cultures – North and South – seem to me to share a similar outlook, in spite of their different cultures. The ability to live in the present and enjoy each moment is important. Patience, flexibility, adaptation, and improvisation – these are all indispensable qualities here, qualities that I believe are evident in this year’s print collection.

With the days growing ever brighter and longer in Pangnirtung, and with the sunlight now dazzling to the eye as it reflects off the frozen snow-covered fjord, mountains and surroundings, my Arctic sojourn echoes and reverberates with memories from my previous experience here. I feel as though I have been on a long journey, one that has now come full circle from light to dark and back to light again. So, too, this year’s print collection offers to take viewers on a journey, in this case one of the imagination, with both its darker and lighter aspects. It seems to me that the spirit of Inuit people and culture imbues this imagery with humour and optimism in the face of adversity, and, in turn, it offers a veritable feast for the senses. Just as Sedna, the Inuit sea spirit, is said to pour forth a bounty of wondrous creatures to sustain the inhabitants of the North, so, too, the 2001 Pangnirtung Community Print Collection is a universal feast for both mind and soul.

Judith J. Leidl, MFA
Faculty, Art Department

Acadia University

Wolfville, NS
May 2001


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