JOHN TIKTAK, R.C.A. (1916-1981) KANGIQLINIQ (RANKIN INLET)
Mother and Child, early 1970s
stone, 9.5 x 4 x 4 in (24.1 x 10.2 x 10.2 cm)
Estimate: $20,000— $30,000
Waddington's Auctions, June 1978, Lot 165;
Waddington's Auctions, Dec. 1982, Lot 150;
Acquired from the above by a Private Collection, Ottawa.
The pioneer Inuit art scholar and author George Swinton was an early and ardent supporter of the art of John Tiktak, and in 1970 honoured him with the first major public solo exhibition of an Inuit artist's work. As Swinton wrote in a 1966 article in Canadian Art:
Tiktak…is a primordial artist… He is primitive like Henry Moore, or Wotruba. That is to say, his sophistication of form is such that he arrives at primal shapes. And his communication is such that he requires the most elemental statements in content and form: he communicates elemental matter through primal form. Yet in this very simplicity he achieves a sophistication that comes only from struggle with thought and its distillation into form. It is precisely in this regard that he resembles Moore .
Swinton's comparison of Tiktak with Henry Moore is not a superficial observation that both sculptors created human figures that incorporated hollow spaces - intriguing as that is in itself. The comparison is important because it reveals that both artists were genius image-makers who could envision human figures as assemblages of primal forms and open spaces.
As is typical of Tiktak's classic figures and maternal subjects, Mother and Child explores the interplay between solid rock and hollow spaces, with each being equally essential to the final composition. Absent the figures' heads these rounded forms might be perceived as almost wholly abstract, but seen together, they become the attributes of a woman and her child: arms, legs, torso, bulging backside. Tiktak's pared-down aesthetic presents the two figures as a single entity; the face of an apple-cheeked child emerges from the great stone mass of the mother's amaut; the maternal-child bond is made literal.
Tiktak's carving style started out as crisp and coolly elegant in the early 1960s, but already before the end of the decade the artist was carving in a more brutal style. An old work injury plagued him and he began relying more on power tools by 1968. Tiktak made up for the lack of finesse in later works by imbuing them with greater emotional and psychological intensity. Tiktak's figures became increasingly rugged, raw even, but they retained their sophistication and their essential humanism. Mother and Child may be a study in hardship and suffering and pain, but it is also a poignant study in stoicism and determination and love.
1. George Swinton, "Artists from the Keewatin" in Canadian Art (April 1966: 32-34), p. 34.
References: For numerous earlier examples of mothers and children see George Swinton, Tiktak: Sculptor from Rankin Inlet, N.W.T. (Gallery One-One-One, Univ. of Manitoba, 1970). See also George Swinton's classic Sculpture of the Inuit (McClelland & Stewart, 1972/92), fig. 658. For other stylistically similar works see First Arts, May 2019, Lot 44, and May 2013, Lot 27.