• Arctic Sojourn

Arctic Sojourn

Nicola Tibbetts

July 15 - September 9, 2017

Last winter I became one of the many short-term inhabitants of Nunavut. The landscapes were unexpectedly and inspiringly beautiful. I found the complexities of northern life, the cold, and the utilitarian buildings very intriguing. I began a series of paintings that sought to unapologetically showcase the beauty of Iqaluit and Cape Dorset.
Beauty, a complex subject with deep and complicated roots 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 sublimes before the sun disappears again, making way for the mercurial aurora borealis.
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, from the structures to the costly Canada Goose down jacket which has become the trademark of the southerner in downtown Iqaluit. 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. The technique I used was developed from a lack of white paint. I had brought all of my materials from Vancouver, but had underestimated the quantity of white I would need. There is nowhere to buy oil paint in Nunavut and solvent can’t be transported by air. Using thin washes of oil paint I scrubbed back into the wet paint to reveal the white of the gesso on the panel. The technique lent itself to the dry stillness of the place while the watery quality of the washes helped the paintings depart from something purely photographic and become more painterly and light-filled.

Nicola will be in attendence at the opening reception on Saturday, July 15, from 1-3pm.