NALENIK TEMELA (1939-2003), m., KIMMIRUT (LAKE HARBOUR)
Dancing Bear, 1989
stone, 24 x 22 x 10 in (61 x 55.9 x 25.4 cm)
signed and dated, "ᓇᓕᓂ / ᑎᒥᓚ / 89".
ESTIMATE: $20,000— $30,000
PRICE REALIZED: $21,600
Private Collection, Toronto
Nalenik began carving at the age of fifteen, in the mid 1950s, probably producing mostly small ivories for the first few years. However, by the late 1960s he was carving larger stone sculptures, mostly depictions of bears and other wildlife. Nalenik and his family lived in camps out on the land until the late seventies; only then did he move into Kimmirut permanently. In keeping with his lifestyle, his attitude to carving was decidedly old school as well, "The shape of the stone helps me to decide what will emerge. I use simple, home-made hand tools to make simple images, and therefore I see myself as an old-fashioned carver" .
"For such a tiny little man his works were massive, even his smaller pieces had this incredible power, this large feeling to it. He was shy, sweet and very, very gentle" . Nalenik is now best remembered for his monumental depictions of bears that he began carving in the late 1980s. These works are truly distinctive for their textural effects, with matte torsos and limbs contrasting strongly with highly polished heads and paws - a clever invention that makes Nalenik's bears stand out from the crowd. While Nalenik's choice of the "dancing bear" theme might have been a nod to the renowned Cape Dorset sculptor Pauta Saila, his style is markedly different. If we were to draw stylistic comparisons, Pauta's colleague Aqjangajuk Shaa might be a closer fit. In this dynamic sculpture Nalenik's radical distortion of the bear's body brings to mind some of Aqjangajuk's more contorted creations. Dancing Bear is perhaps Nalenik's magnum opus. The bear is massive yet the head and limbs form sinuous, sexy curves that flow into one another almost seamlessly. The torso is actually quite small by comparison; barely thicker than the neck and limbs, it acts more as a connecting point. Nalenik has paid attention to smaller details as well: notice how the creased snout and angry eyebrows accentuate the ferocity of the bear's roar. Sensational.
1. The artist quoted in Kyra Vladykov Fisher, Guide to Kimmirut Artists: 2005-2006 (Municipality of Kimmirut, 2005), p. 112.
2. Iqaluit art dealer Thomas Webster, quoted in Nunatsiaq News, 17 May, 2003 (online).
References: For three equally large but differently posed examples of bears by the artist see Amway Environmental Foundation, Masters of the Arctic: Art in the Service of the Earth (1990), cover and pp. 66-67. The international touring exhibition was inaugurated at the United Nations General Assembly Gallery in NYC. See also George Swinton, Sculpture of the Inuit (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1992), fig. 893. For an interesting Seated Bear by the artist from the early 1970s see Walker's Auctions, May 2013, Lot 93.