Printmaker: EEGYVUDLUK POOTOOGOOK (1931-1999) m., KINNGAIT (CAPE DORSET)
Complex of Birds, 1960 #17
stonecut, 24 x 26 in (61 x 66 cm)
Estimate: $10,000 — $15,000
Price realized: $31,200
Provenance Private Collection, Australia.
James Houston suggests that the look of this glorious image harkens back to skin appliqué designs (such as the one that inspired Kenojuak's 1959 breakout print Rabbit Eating Seaweed):
Kenojuak's images retain the connecting patterns found in the original skin appliqués. In her work there is often an elaborate web that forms an over-all design. The extended wings and hands and legs grow into each other. One realizes that not only the figures but [also] the spaces between the figures have been consciously or unconsciously calculated. One must try to compose such a design to fully appreciate its complexity" .
In her landmark 1985 book on the artist, Jean Blodgett's astute observation of Kenojuak's style is sandwiched between the artist's own highly sophisticated descriptions of her image-making process:
For my subject matter I don't start off and pick a subject as such; that's not my way of addressing a drawing. My way of doing it is to start off without a preconceived plan of exactly what I am going to execute in full, and so I come up with a small part of it which is pleasing to me and I use that as a starting point to wander into, through the drawing. I may start off at one end of a form not even knowing what the entirety of the form is going to be; just drawing as I am thinking, thinking as I am drawing. And that's how I develop my images.
"In Kenojuak's graphics, subject and form often develop simultaneously. Her primary concern is with the overall appearance of the image, not the subject matter. In discussing the fact that she does not illustrate traditional stories, Kenojuak went on to say:"
And rather what I do is I try to make things which satisfy my eye, which satisfy my sense of form and colour. It's more an interplay of form and colour which I enjoy performing and I do it until it satisfies my eye and then I am on to something else. 
Apparently Complex of Birds is the only 1960 print by Kenojuak for which the original graphite drawing was created on a large sheet of paper; this probably explains its relative "complexity" compared to the other prints from that year. Against the background dappled in a tea blue, lyrical silhouetted figures (primarily birds and humans) combine to form an intricate web pattern. The richness of Kenojuak's dreamy invention is best understood when we let our gaze wander from figure to figure, noting how one part of the design is delicately interwoven with its counterparts. Eegyvudluk's print adaptation is lovingly faithful to the original drawing. His sensitivity was instrumental in making Complex of Birds one of Kenojuak's enduring masterpieces.
1. James Houston, Eskimo Prints, p. 36.
2. Jean Blodgett, Kenojuak (Toronto: Firefly Books, 1985) pp. 36-37.
References: This print is reproduced in James Houston, Eskimo Prints (Toronto: Longman, 1971), p. 37; Bernadette Driscoll, Uumajut: Animal Imagery in Inuit Art (WAG, 1985), cat. 50; Gerald McMaster ed., Inuit Modern (Toronto: AGO, 2010), p. 174; and elsewhere. The print is also reproduced, alongside Kenojuak's original graphite drawing, in Dorothy LaBarge, From Drawing to Print: Perception and Process in Cape Dorset Art (Calgary: Glenbow Museum, 1986), pp. 24-25.