Tim Pitsiulak: The Artist and the Man

Swimming with Giants
Leslie BOyd

Leslie BOyd

The following is an excerpt from “Tim Pitsiulak: Drawings and Prints from Cape Dorset” – just published by Pomegranate, Portland, Oregon. This is the first monograph on the artist’s work. Tim was an exceptional artist and a wonderful man. It was a pleasure to know him, and to write the essay and select the works to be included in the book.

The Toronto Dominion Bank Tower was completed in the city’s financial district in 1967, Canada’s centennial year. In the same year, artist Timmuuti “Tim” Pitsiulak was born in the south Baffin Island community of Kimmirut – some 1400 miles and worlds away from Canada’s mightiest city. The building was the nation’s first and tallest skyscraper – 56 floors and 731 feet of black steel and glass – designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the most renowned architects of his time. As part of the country’s centennial celebrations, the tower was hailed as a fitting monument to Toronto’s growing importance as the financial hub of the country. Almost fifty years later another tribute was paid when Tim’s masterwork, “Swimming with Giants”, was installed in the impressive marble and granite lobby. The work represents one of the most highly acclaimed artists of the day, a much-loved man who dedicated his life’s work to the expression of Inuit life and culture and sharing it with the world.

The drawing was commissioned by the building’s owner, Cadillac Fairview, and was installed in 2014. At 12 x 8 feet, it is the largest drawing Tim made, featuring a pod of bowhead whales flanked by the smaller, white beluga whales that often accompany the bowhead. The water is a striking shade of turquoise blue-green, and the effect of the aerial view is of undulating waves of whales, ascending and descending through the Arctic waters; graceful, silent and timeless.

Tim was commissioned to do the drawing in 2013 at the height of his career, which was spectacular and altogether too short, spanning only fifteen years from 2002, when he moved from Kimmirut to its neighbouring community of Cape Dorset, until his death in 2016 at the age of 49.

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