The work from the past — that inspires me.”
(Peter Qumaluk Ittukalla in an unpublished interview with Clare Porteous Safford of the Inuit Art Foundation, 2011)
Better known as Peter Boy, Peter Qumaluk Ittukalla was born on January 14, 1954, near Puvirnituq.
“My grandfather gave me a piece of stone and told me to work. He wanted to teach me how to carve because, he said, he wasn’t going to be around forever and I needed to learn how to carve in order to make a living” (IAF interview, 2009). Ittukalla recalls being four years old at that time; he sold his first carving when he was just eight years old.
As well as taking his grandfather’s advice, Ittukalla also received instruction and encouragement from his father (Asia Avilaju) and his brother (Juanisi Jack). Also influential were his extended family members Joe Talirunili and Davidialuk Alashua Amittu, although Ittukalla prefers to carve in a more realistic manner. He was especially inspired by the work of the late Thomassiapik Sivurapik. In a recent interview with IAF staff, Peter Boy states “I admired his [Sivurapik’s] great traditional knowledge of Inuit culture. He was exceptional and I learned a lot from him.” He also recalls the work of his uncle Levi Qumaluk and remembers that “he [Qumaluk] was the first carver I ever knew to make larger carvings. He carved all the time. He was a serious carver and supported many family members with the income from his work. I remember thinking: ‘How does he do that’?”
Although Ittukalla mostly carves, he has also made drawings and stonecut prints during the early-to-mid 1980s, when the community’s printmaking program was active. “When the printmaking program was on, I was encouraged to draw. It was good business at the time.” Two of his prints, Char and Arctic Tern Searching for Minnows (1983) and Travelling the Coast All Winter to Go to Church (1987), are included in the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s collection. Ittukalla says he does not miss printmaking, since he found drawing and making prints more difficult than carving. “You have to get materials from the South to draw and make prints, but for carving, the stone is just sitting there.”
During the winter of 2009–2010, he and his brother worked with Mark Coreth, a British artist, to create an ice and bronze sculpture entitled Polar Bears on Thin Ice. The piece, which addressed climate change, toured to various Canadian cities. About working in ice, Ittukalla said that it is “interesting . . . I can make far larger sculptures, and it takes less time to carve than stone.”
“Before I carve, I think of what material I have available and then form the idea in my thoughts. Sometimes I look at the material for several months.” Working mainly out of a shack near his house, Ittukalla uses a combination of hand and small power tools to carve stone procured from a nearby quarry. “For larger pieces of stone, I have to travel — sometimes with other carvers, sometimes alone — as far North as Salluit,” he says. Once the carving is finished, he oils the piece and highlights the base and detailing. Although he says he wishes he could carve more, presently he only works upon request, mostly from local organizations and businesses. Most recently, Peter Boy has been commissioned by the new airport in Puvirnituq to create several sculptures for its interior.
An avid hunter and dog sledder, Ittukalla gets ideas from his experiences on the land. He is especially well known for his carvings of polar bears, which have been exhibited internationally.
Most of Ittukalla’s sculptures are animated, offering snapshots of drama or conflict. The artist says that he loves putting motion into his work because it makes the sculptures “come alive. . . . The details I include, even small ones, are there to make the animals or humans look as real as possible.” Reading also notes that: “His carvings also have a very ‘ultra-realistic’ style and include such detailing as impressions left behind in the snow by animals or the motion of folds in clothing, which have transpired with the figure’s movement. . . . He and his brother have the ability to capture moments in time, almost like photographs in stone” (Reading 2002).
As Ittukalla continues to hone his skills over the span of roughly 30 years, his style is continually refined. In a 2002 group exhibition entitled Nunavik Today: Sculpture of Arctic Quebec, held at Spirit Wrestler Gallery, Ittukalla’s work was particularly well received. “The selection in the exhibition reflected his work with polar bears, and also the human form. The stance and the movement he captures in [his work] are quite extraordinary. Ittukalla has perfectly captured the power in the anatomy of the hunters,” said Nigel Reading, co-director of the gallery. In the catalogue for the exhibition, Reading wrote that Ittukalla’s artworks “rival those of any other artist from the Arctic” (2002: 7).
in 1980, when his work was included in the group exhibition A Taste of Arctic Quebec, which was shown at the Marion Scott Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia. Since that time, Peter Boy’s work has been featured in group and solo exhibitions throughout the country and abroad, and are included in prestigious collections such as those at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, to name a few.
2002 Nunavik Today: Sculpture from Arctic Quebec (catalogue). Vancouver: Spirit Wrestler Gallery.