1893 - 1976
Through his work as a printmaker and sculptor, Joe Talirunili depicted the harshness of the northern climate and the survivalist lifestyle of a people dependent on a barren landscape. His sculpture The Migration made Talirunili one of the most sought after Inuit artists, as it held the world record for a price paid for an Inuit artist at auction in 2012. Although the date and location of the artistís birth is disputed, most agree that he was born in Kuujjuarapik (Great Whale River) on the shores of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec; and while many put his birth at 1893, the artist asserted it was 1906.
Talirunili grew up hunting with his father in the Kuujjuaraapik and Richmond Gulf region, and he learned the traditional Inuit lifestyle. However over time, his community interacted increasingly with white men, which brought trade and changes to their lifestyle. He learned the power of printmaking on paper from western culture, recognizing how it could be used to hold and share information. Seeing the possibilities of this medium, he, along with his cousin, Davidialuk Amittu, helped found the Puvirnituq print shop in the late 1950s. Talirunili produced many works through this studio that captured and explained his peopleís way of life before the influence of western society changed it forever.
In his later years, the subject of migration was a central and recurring theme in Taliruniliís work as he became pre-occupied with recounting this profound memory before his passing. The estimated 25 to 30 sculptural variations on this theme that he produced tell the story of an incident in which a young Talirunili and about 40 others became trapped on an ice floe on an island in Hudsonís Bay. They quickly used sealskins, rope and wood from their sleds to construct an umiak (a large boat) and squeezed into the hastily built craft before the ice melted. After several days, the group made it to land, with some members of the group perishing during the ordeal. One of his migration sculptures was reproduced on a Canadian postage stamp in 1978. His works have been shown across Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Povungnituk; disc number E9-818.