My talent is different than others’. I cannot copy others’ work. I admire it and sometimes wonder how they do what they do, but that is their talent. Our carvings show how we [Inuit] are.”
(Jack Ittukalla in an unpublished interview with Clare Porteous Safford of the Inuit Art Foundation, 2011)
Born in 1949, just south of Puvirnituq. His family moved into town when he was eight years old.
Encouraged by his father, Ittukalla began carving when he was nine-years-old. He sold his first carving three years later to the Hudson’s Bay Company. “That was the only place to sell then. I was paid 25 cents. I remember that I bought pop, gum, and some chocolate. I was very pleased . . . I sold my next two pieces for seven dollars and was able to buy much more.”
Ittukalla comes from an extended family of carvers that includes Asia Avialiajuk (his father), Levi Qumaluk (his uncle), and Davidialuk Alasua Amittu and Joe Talirunili (both now deceased) on his mother’s side. Although impressed with the supernatural elements often portrayed in the highly personal works of his predecessors, Ittukalla prefers to carve in a highly-realistic manner, for which he is greatly admired. His younger brother, Peter Qumaluk Ittukalla, is also an accomplished carver.
Carving mainly in stone, Ittukalla favours the soapstone harvested in and around Puvirnituq and Salluit. He has also tried his hand at various other media, although he tends to stay away from antler and ivory because of the unpleasant smell created when the material heats up during the carving process.
Ittukalla mainly used hand tools at the beginning of his career, but now also uses power tools. “When I start carving, I have an idea of what I am going to make, but, while carving, the stone changes and it takes on a different form from what I thought I would make. That makes it enjoyable — when the shape reveals itself” (Fox 1998).
Ittukalla often depicts the struggle for survival in his highly realistic carvings of hunters, animals, and their prey. His preferred subjects are killer whales and polar bears, although he has also been known to carve the occasional scene depicting family life.
Ittukalla mainly produces realistic carvings that draw upon his knowledge of arctic fauna, legends, and folklore. He is especially known for his fluid portrayals of wildlife. He takes pride in his individualistic approach to his chosen subject matter, saying: “It is important to carve what you want to carve and not what others want.”
Since Ittukalla began carving in the early 1960s, his pieces have been included in countless group and solo exhibitions throughout the world. His works are included in prestigious corporate and public collections such as those at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Art Gallery of Windsor, the Toronto–Dominion Bank Collection, the Musée du Quebec, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and the Saputik Museum in Puvirnituq.
Most recently, Ittukalla worked with his brother Peter and British artist Mark Coreth to create a large-scale ice and bronze sculpture, which travelled to Quebec City, Ottawa, and Montreal as part of the Polar Bears on Thin Ice campaign, which addressed climate change.
Like many of his contemporaries, Ittukalla first gained exposure when his pieces were included in Eskimo Art in Northern Quebec, an exhibition organized by La Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec as part of Man and His World at Expo ’67 in Montreal (INAC 1995).
1998 “Juanasie Jackusi Ittukalla: ‘The Shape Reveals Itself,’” Inuit Art Quarterly (IAQ), vol. 13, no.3 (Fall): 41.
1995 Polar Bears on Thin Ice. Gatineau: Inuit Art Section, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. http://www.ourspolaires-glacesephemeres.ca/?lang=en.
2011 “Nunavik North of 60˚,” Inuit Art Quarterly (IAQ), vol.26, no.1 (Spring): 57–60.