Eskimo art is not just imagination; it really shows how hard the old Eskimo life was. . . . Since Eskimo artists can’t speak your language, they tell you, with their art, how their grandfathers struggled . . .”
(Pauloosie Sivuak in Inuit Artists’ Biographies, 1968)
Resided in Puvirnituq, but also lived in Kangiqsujuaq.
Sivuak learned to carve by watching his older brother, Koperqualuk. He was also inspired by James Houston and the success of his predecessors in Inukjuak, who traded their stone and ivory carvings to people aboard the supply ship Nascopie. He carved his first piece in 1948 or 1949 and shortly thereafter produced an additional sculpture of two otters pegged to a base, which he carved with a pocket knife and sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Sivuak greatly admired the carvings of his older brother and also remembers being impressed by the works of Noah Kenoua, a physically disabled carver who lived in a different camp, but also sold his work to the Hudson’s Bay Company (Mitchell 1995:55). He also recalls seeing James Houston’s instructional pamphlet Eskimo Handicrafts (published in 1951 by the Canadian Handicrafts Guild and widely circulated throughout the North), but says: “I remember that I didn’t follow the advice in there [the booklet] because I didn’t like the drawings at all” (ibid.).
At the beginning of his career, Sivuak focussed exclusively on carving, but later branched out to printmaking when the local co-op was established in the early 1960s.
“When I have to work with a stone, I follow the shape first of the stone. I try to figure out how it’s going to look, and which side should be the bottom” (Sivuak in Mitchell 1998: 54). Sivuak experimented with a variety of tools and remembered using ulus, pocket knives, files, and handmade chisels to produce his work.
Best known for his realistic portrayals of birds, otters, bears, and other arctic animals, Sivuak also occasionally included igloos and images of mothers and children in his work.
He is known for his fluid portrayals of wildlife in stone, while his works on paper tend to feature more stylized, flattened interpretations of the same subject matter.
Sivuak was involved in establishing the cooperative in Puvirnituq, and became its first manager in 1962. In 1967, he served as a director of La Fédération des Coopérative du Nouveau-Québec and, later, as president of Inuit Tungavingai Nunamimi, the movement opposed to the James Bay Agreement. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions throughout Canada and the United States and is included in important public collections including those of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Ottawa), the Dennos Museum Centre (Michigan), the Glenbow Museum (Calgary), the Musée du Quebec, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto).
A special memorial section of the annual Povungnituk Print Collection was devoted to Sivuak’s work in 1987.
One of Puvirnituq’s foremost sculptors, Sivuak carved regularly throughout the late 1940s and the early 1950s. In 1955, he left the community for two years of treatment at a southern hospital. When he returned, he discovered that Puvirnituq carvers had acquired better tools and had progressed to the point at which they could more often carve whole or complete subjects, without the use of pegs and separate bases. “I felt I had to do the same. I had to learn” (Sivuak in Mitchell 1995:54). After this point, Sivuak’s work is noticeably more accomplished, and tends toward more complex positioning of figures and the intentional incorporation of negative space.
Sivuak was not a prolific printmaker, contributing only six prints from 1962 to 1980. In the 1980s, however, he “produced a profusion of drawings, which were translated into 42 prints and featured in five catalogue collections” (Barz 1990).
1990 “Canadian Inuit Artists/Printer Biographies,” in Inuit Artists’ Biographies. Gatineau: Indian and Inuit Art Centre.
1997 Inuit Artists’ Biographies. Gatineau: Inuit Art Section, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
1998 “Making Art in Nunavik: A Brief Historical Overview,” Inuit Art Quarterly (IAQ), vol. 13, no. 3 (Fall): 4–17.
1995 “Paulosie Sivuak Talks about the Beginning of Carving in Povungnituk,” Inuit Art Quarterly (IAQ), vol. 10, no. 4 (Winter): 52–59.