Ohotaq Mikkigak was born in 1936 and lived until his death in 2014 in Cape Dorset with his wife, Haunak (Qaunak), a well-known carver and traditional throat-singer.
Mikkigak began drawing in the early years of the print program in Cape Dorset, and his first print Eskimo Fox Trapper was released in 1961. As the community grew, he stepped away from creating art, working instead for various community agencies as a full-time salaried employee. After his retirement from his job as a caretaker of the Peter Pitseolak School in Cape Dorset, he responded to the calling of art-making and began working at the Kinngait Studios with young, upcoming artists. He created drawings on a wide range of themes and subjects, such as fish, birds, landscapes, seascapes, life scenes, including autobiographical.
Starting in 1999 until his death, Mikkigak’s prints and drawings appeared in every Cape Dorset Studio annual collection. Among his other works, we are pleased to offer three of the prints featured in Cape Dorset Studio’s 40th anniversary collection, released in 1999.
Mikkigak’s other notable works include three lithographs created using the chine-collé technique of print-making. The traditional technique uses delicate paper, such as Japanese paper or linen, cut to the size of the printing plate and pressed against a heavier backing sheet. The two layers are then run together through a printing press on an inked plate, resulting in a delicate, finely textured backdrop to the image. One of such lithographs, Three Ravens, was featured on the cover of 2001 West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative catalogue.
Ohotaq Mikkigak had a number of well-received group and solo exhibitions. His first solo exhibition of prints and drawings took place in 2010 at Feheley Fine Arts. In November 2012, he had an encore solo exhibition at Feheley Fine Arts called Ohotaq Mikkigak: Imagined Landscapes. In the early fall of 2012, a number of his small- and large-scale drawings were exhibited alongside works of prominent Canadian abstract painter Jack Bush at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at the University of Toronto. The highly acclaimed exhibit was called Blue Cloud – a third in a trilogy of exhibitions conceived by Nancy Campbell, Toronto-based curator.
Mikkigak’s works were chosen to be featured alongside those of Jack Bush because of their bold, vivid colours and abstract-like quality. As an artist who has never been taught abstract technique, Mikkigak used his innate capacity to see the world in the abstracted form. The remarkable quality drew parallels with modernist abstractionist works and garnered praise.
His works are also unique because his depictions of the Arctic do not focus on the barren landscapes but rather the aliveness of the world he saw around him, including landscapes, seascapes and human-made structures. He drew from looking at his world directly, from his memories and from the memories of the stories told by his grandmother. He left us a unique glimpse into the rich world of the Inuit people of the Canadian Arctic.