I want to tell the truth in my carvings and my prints.”
(Syollie Amituk in Povungnituk 1973)
Born in Puvirnituq in 1932 on the day of his father’s death, Syollie Amituk came from a family of well known carvers. His older brother, Davidialuk, was one of the communities’ most celebrated artists, as was his cousin Joe Talirunili.
As a child, Amituk was encouraged to carve and depict “the old way of life” (Mitchell 1983) by his much older and accomplished brother, Davidialuk. When the community’s print shop opened its doors in the early 1960s, Amituk was among the first artists eager to try his hand at printmaking.
Inspired by the success of his artistic family members, Amituk also sought to portray the legends and stories of his predecessors. His realistic portrayals of native animals remained a constant throughout his career.
Best known for his expressive works on paper, Syollie also produced many sculptures early in his career. He mainly worked with stonecut prints, but also tried his hand at stencils.
A wide range including: arctic wildlife (particularly birds), legends, narrative scenes, and hunting.
Described as “a forceful personality and a vigorous dispenser of inspiration in the workshop . . .” (Myers [Mitchell] 1976), Amituk’s inimitable approach to his artwork was often motivating to his fellow artists.
One of Puvirnituq’s most recognized printmakers, over 30 of Amituk’s prints were included in annual print releases between 1972 and 1986. His work is now included in notable public collections across the country including those of the Glenbow Museum, the University of Alberta Art Collection, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.
When Amituk began making prints in the 1960s, his work often featured simplistic representations of birds and other subject matter rendered in a singular perspective. By the 1970s, Amituk’s work was more accomplished and featured more active scenes, legends, and reflections on the “old way of living.” Amituk also began to incorporate descriptive syllabics and more complex groupings of animals into his work. His prints from the mid-1980s are particularly ambitious, featuring highly detailed narrative scenes, often rendered in multiple perspectives.
After the death of his wife, Amituk married Annie Tukatoo and moved to Kuujjuarapik (Great Whale River) with the idea of working in the community’s new print shop. Marybelle Myers [Mitchell] wrote in 1976 that his departure “dealt a significant blow to morale” to the Puvirnituq printmakers. Unfortunately, the print shop in his new community failed to flourish and, discouraged with printmaking, Amituk made only the occasional print when he returned to Puvirnituq.
1976 “A Brief History of Printmaking in Arctic Quebec,” in Povungnituk 1976 (catalogue). Montreal: La Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec.
1985 Povungnituk 1985 (catalogue). Montreal: La Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec.
1973 Povungnituk 1973 (catalogue). Montreal: La Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec.