coloured pencil drawing, 29.875 x 22.175 in (76 x 56 cm)
ESTIMATE: $6,000 — $9,000
PRICE REALIZED: $7,200
Ex Collection of Lorne Balshine, Vancouver;
Private Collection, Toronto.
This important drawing is either Oonark's original drawing for the serigraph print Challenging Wrestle (executed in 1976 and released as 1977 #24), or a very closely related second version. It is possible that Oonark was playing with the theme and created two slightly different drawings; it seems equally likely that the advisor and/or printer at the Sanavik print studio may have decided to make some changes to the original. This drawing and the print are virtually identical except for the figures on the backs of the fish-people, and the colour changes. In the print the two figures are hunting or competing with spears.
When asked about the print, Oonark described the large figures as creatures that lived in lakes or the ocean, adding that shamans had seen people like these . These two fish-people are the wrestlers, shown with powerful arms and eyes locked together. The two small figures at the top are playing a traditional Inuit pulling game. The figures dancing and standing on the backs of the fish-people seem to be cheering on the combatants. Interestingly, the four small figures resemble those in a late 1960s Oonark drawing . We love Oonark's use of vibrant colour in this drawing; all in all, it's a lively and entertaining image.
1. Marion E. Jackson, Transcripts of Interviews with Jessie Oonark and her Children (unpublished, Inuit Art Section, Indian & Northern Affairs Canada, Spring 1983) p. 37.
2. An early drawing by Oonark, Men at Games (c. 1968-69), illustrates a pulling game assisted by two helpers; see National Museum of Man, Oonark-Pangnark (Ottawa: NMM, 1970) cat. 15.
References: Because of the high degree of symmetry in Oonark's mature style, there are numerous examples of graphics and hangings that incorporate "opposing figures"; see Blodgett and Bouchard, Jessie Oonark: A Retrospective (WAG, 1986) cats. 58, 67, 74. See also Marion Jackson et al, Qamanittuaq (Guelph: Macdonald Stewart, 1995) cat. 64. For fish-people, see Marion Jackson and Judith Nasby, Contemporary Inuit Drawings (Guelph: Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, 1987) cat. 61 and front cover.