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Nunavik Art Alive - Artist Profiles - Josie Papialook

Josie Papialook (1918–1996)


Regarded by many in his town as an eccentric, [Papialuk] once said that his best art occurs when he writes his name in the snow because ‘it goes into the air and stays forever.’”

(Marybelle Mitchell in Inuit Art Quarterly)


Born in 1918, at Issuksiuvit Lake, near Puvirnituq.


Papialuk contributed drawings to Puvirnituq’s first print collection in 1962


Drawing, printmaking, and some sculpture.


Storytelling, animals, people, humour, and hunger. Papialuk’s artwork also included tangible and intangible elements. Marybelle Mitchell says: “He often depicted the wind in his drawings with wiggly lines; footprints would trail behind a figure ‘to show how they got there’” (Mitchell 2004:19). Mitchell also says that he showed a “great fascination with his name, sometimes utilizing it as the sole image in a drawing.”


Papialuk demonstrated a conceptual awareness. He also devised his own conventions of communicating important, yet intangible, landscape elements such as wind, the movement of people and animals, sound, rain, and temperature. Rather than carving away imperfections in stone, he often circled them, and occasionally carved stitches around them (Mitchell 1997:40).


Papialuk was one of the few Inuit artists to ever have a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada: Every picture tells a story (2003–2004).


Sculpture eventually became secondary to Papialuk’s graphic art. He was one of the first Puvirnituq artists to get involved in printmaking and to introduce the use of colour in his stonecut prints. Papialuk was a key contributor to the community’s print collection from the 1960s to the 1980s.


in Eskimo Sculpture, an exhibition at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg in 1967.


Lalonde, Christine

2004 “Every picture tells a story by Josie Papialuk at the National Gallery of Canada,” Inuit Art Quarterly (IAQ), vol. 19, no. 1 (Spring):26–28.

Mitchell, Marybelle

2004 “The life and times of Josie Papialuk,” Inuit Art Quarterly (IAQ), vol. 19, no. 1 (Spring): 18–23.
1997 “In Memoriam: Josie Papialuk 1918–1996,” Inuit Art Quarterly (IAQ), vol. 12, no. 3 (Fall): 40.

Myers [Mitchell], Marybelle

1988 “Josie Papialuk,” Inuit Art: An Anthology. Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer Publishing.