Solomonie Tigullaraq was the son of the famous sculptor and graphic artist Tudlik (1890-1966) and brother of the renowned sculptor Latcholassie Akesuk (1919-2000) of Cape Dorset. Born in 1924 on southern Baffin Island, he migrated north, first to Arctic Bay then to the Clyde River area as a young man. Tigullaraq lived on the land, hunted and raised his large family in the region before eventually settling in Clyde River (now known as Kangiqtugaapik) in the early 1960s; he began carving occasionally and worked at odd jobs to make spending money. Both Solomonie and his wife Ootoovak each made quite a large number of drawings for Terry Ryan when he travelled across northern Baffin Island on a Canada Council project grant to collect images and recollections from Inuit in 1964. Several of Solomonie’s fascinating drawings are illustrated in Jean Blodgett’s 1986 AGO exhibition catalogue North Baffin Drawings. In Blodgett’s interview with Ryan for the catalogue he remarked that Tigullaraq “was always a bit of a character” (p. 10).
In the years 1966-68 Solomonie developed severe back trouble and pain that prevented him from doing much hunting or steady work. It was during these years that he created a small but important body of sculptural works that, in their endearing quirkiness, are instantly recognizable as having been created by a singular talent. First Arts is proud to present this group of Tigullaraq's sculptures from a private collection, all purchased directly from the artist between 1966 and 1968; some of these were published in the Winter 2001 issue of Inuit Art Quarterly.
Solomonie’s wife Ootoovak carved occasionally as well, and a couple of their sons also tried their hands at carving. Tigullaraq himself carved only sporadically from the early 1970s on, and in a style that became less distinguishable from the work of his peers. Solomonie died in 2000, the same year that his brother Latcholassie passed away in Cape Dorset.
Tigullaraq is widely considered to have been the best Clyde River carver in the 1960s. In spirit Tigullaraq’s quirky, offbeat depictions of bears, humans and other animals are curiously reminiscent of the carvings of his father Tudlik and the often humorous sculptures of Latcholassie, even if his blocky carving style is completely unique. Just as the artist himself was seen as “a bit of a character,” so too are his sculptures, especially his eccentric depictions of humans and bears. It could be argued that Solomonie is one of the great “outsider” artists in the history of Inuit art; his vision was singular, idiosyncratic, and most likely the result of his eccentric personality. One anecdote is particularly revealing. A highly distinctive feature of Tigullaraq’s figures is their unusually large feet. It turns out that someone had expressed the concern that figures with small feet might tip over; the artist immediately began carving works with oversize feet, and these became a trademark of his style! In her Grasp Tight the Old Ways exhibition catalogue, Jean Blodgett quotes an opinion from an unnamed fellow Clyde River artist gleaned from Tigullaraq’s Indian and Northern Affairs artist file: “His carvings are hard to describe. They are just magnificent.” We have to agree.
Tigullaraq’s works have been shown in at least fifteen group exhibitions in Canada and the U.S. Works by the artist can be found in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum of History and other museums.
Blodgett, Jean. The Coming and Going of the Shaman: Eskimo Shamanism and Art (Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1978) cat. 63.
Blodgett, Jean. Grasp Tight the Old Ways: Selections from the Klamer Family Collection of Inuit Art (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1983) 148-149.
Blodgett, Jean. North Baffin Drawings (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1986) 94-99.
Canadian Eskimo Arts Council. Sculpture/Inuit: Masterworks of the Canadian Arctic (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971) cat. 141.
First Arts, Inuit & First Nations Art (auction catalogue, May 2019) Lot 69.
Seidelman, Harold and James Turner. The Inuit Imagination (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1993) fig. 49.
Swinton, George. Eskimo Sculpture (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1965) p. 187.
Swinton, George. Sculpture of the Inuit (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1972/92) fig. 560.
Von Finckenstein, Maria. “Salomonie Tigullaraq: One of those Unnoticed Artists” (Inuit Art Quarterly, Winter 2001) 38-42.