stone, horn, antler, ivory, wood, membrane, hide and sinew, 8.75 x 7 x 7.75 in (22.2 x 17.8 x 19.7 cm)
Estimate: $12,000 —$18,000
Galerie Elca London, Montreal;
Acquired from the above by a Private Collection, Montreal.
Exhibited and Published
Galerie Elca London, Montreal, Spence Bay Artists/Les artistes de Spence Bay (Canadian Arctic Producers, 1984) cat. 14.
Judas Ullulaq had just moved to Gjoa Haven from Taloyoak (Spence Bay) when the above-mentioned catalogue was produced, and he remained there for the remainder of his life. Darlene Wight's comments in a contemporaneous solo exhibition catalogue is helpful in understanding Ullulaq's early style:
Ullulaq's sculpture is an extension of his real world…Single figures are always engaged in an action that infers a specific environment. There is a pervasive dynamism in the carved works that is revealed in body movements, gestures, and especially in the faces.
Wight goes on to compare Ullulaq's style with that of his famous nephew Karoo Ashevak's:
However, Karoo's subjects were often imaginary spirits with magico-religious significance. Ooloolah's work…is of the real world. The reality, for him, consists of people and of human emotion."
In Judas Ooloolah (Ottawa: Canadian Arctic Producers, 1983).
In later years, Ullulaq would expand his repertoire to include supernatural themes, but this exceptionally fine Drum Dancer is the perfect exemplar of an early subject and the dynamic style that made this artist famous. Ullulaq's craftsmanship here is superb, from the shaping and finish of the stone down to the smallest inlaid details. The drummer's face is highly expressive, with features that are distorted without being grotesque. His body too is charged with energy and movement. We love the way the drummer's left leg is unrealistically short compared to the bent right leg! It's an anatomical impossibility but compositionally it's perfect. And the ears! The hair! Delightful.
References: Stylistically, Drum Dancer resembles several of the sculptures from Ullulaq's first two solo exhibitions, both held in 1983. See the exhibition catalogues Ooloolah Spence Bay (Toronto: Innuit Gallery of Eskimo Art, March 1983), and Judas Ooloolah (New York: Alaska Shop Gallery of Eskimo Art, November 1983). Drum dancers by Ullulaq are not rare but not many have been published; for a 1996 example see Marion Scott Gallery, Vital North (Vancouver, 1996), cat. 30.