Wisdom - Woodland - Paintings


Hunting At Sea - Inuit - Paintings




First Nations art encompasses many forms - including the traditional arts, ceremonial or religious arts, utilitarian arts, art produced for the tourist market, as well as the contemporary or fine arts.


In the latter half of the twentieth century, artists such as Joseph Jacobs, Alex Janvier, Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray, Allen Sapp and Bill Reid ushered in a new contemporary art movement.


Creating work in a variety of styles and techniques, they borrowed elements from other tradition such as cubism and abstract expressionism. For inspiration, many also looked to their roots, and the legends, spiritual beliefs, traditional arts and narrative or genre art for which Canada's First Nations peoples are known. Artists such as Carl Beam, Gerald McMaster and Jane Ash Poitras often used their works to address issues of cultural identity, and to provide social and political commentary on issues of the day.


During this time, there was also a renaissance of traditional art and image making - as evidenced in the work of many artists of the Northwest Coast, and in the development of the Woodland style of painting.


Native culture is also rich with ancient legends and stories that are considered extremely valuable, and art was a way for each group to illustrate its own unique tales. Every piece of artwork has a hidden or innate meaning that was passed down through generations and filtered through creative venues in order to protect it and make it more easily understandable. Spirituality is a dominant theme in Native artwork as well, with many artists inspired by the spiritual beliefs of their ancestors. These inherent values are expressed through art, providing unique variations on traditional.


First Nations art in Canada is often divided according to region and the clans most commonly associated with each geographically specific section: the Woodlands, Prairies, Inuit and Northwest coast. These artistically distinct areas retain their own unique styles, based on traditional methods passed down by their ancestors. However, the meaning and inspiration behind each area's artwork is the same: to protect cultural traditions and keep the societal uniqueness of the Native community alive. Woodland artwork is characteristically the most contemporary form of Native art, with many of the community's most prominent artists originating from the area. Modern styles and bold colours are used to illustrate ancient legends, creating a powerful contrast between the two cultural polarities. In the Plains, a more traditional style of artwork prevails, with romanticized depictions of typical events and customs of the people. Plains art incorporates some of the most internationally recognizable images of the Native community, including portrayals of Aboriginal warfare and the classic nomadic lifestyle of the region.


Inuit art originates from the northern areas of Canada, with stone sculptures, etchings and silkscreens among the most common forms of artistic expression. Artists are primarily inspired by daily life in a harsh climate, as well as by legends and stories. Northwest coast artwork, too, relies heavily on traditional forms. Ancient traditions and cultural doctrines dictate the style and form each piece will take in an attempt to keep a unique society pure. Intricate wooden carvings on totem poles, masks and longhouses are characteristic of the region, which has an abundance of trees. Although there are slight variations in each style, there is a unifying commonality inherent in all Aboriginal artwork.